Usually each meal plan features fresh herbs of some kind, most commonly parsley, cilantro, or ginger, but also rosemary and thyme. Last week’s plan featured fresh dill, basil, parsley, and cilantro.
I love to use fresh herbs for two reasons:
- They have a strong, pungent flavor that’s a nice change from dried herbs.
- They allow you to work with a limited spice cabinet; you often can buy a smaller quantity and spend less money, so it’s less of an investment.
I recommend seven basic dried spices that will allow you to make all the recipes in the meal plans. This is a great way to start a spice cabinet or fill yours in. After that, there are optional (but highly recommended) spices that you can add in one at a time as they show up in the recipes, or as you want to try them.
However, even if you have dried basil, you absolutely can’t substitute it for fresh basil on a Caprese Salad. Same with parsley for a garnish or on a salad. Sometimes fresh spices are the only way to go. But if they come in large bunches or you’re only using a little, you might end up where I do sometimes—losing the remainder in the depths of the refrigerator and then having to throw them out two weeks later when you finally clean out.
So what’s the solution? Freezing.
I first started by freezing ginger. This is a huge time saver in the kitchen. I absolutely hate preparing and peeling fresh ginger, even though I love to eat it! Freezing ginger is the easiest. Here’s what you do:
1. Peel a large bulb of ginger with a spoon. Snap off any small bulbs that are difficult to peel or grate and save them from infusing flavor in homemade or store-bought broth or making ginger-honey-lemon tea.
2. Grate the main bulb. Ginger graters exist, but I’ve found a microplane grater works best for not only ginger but also citrus zest and parmesan cheese. The King Arthur Microplane Zester is worth every penny.
3. Arrange the grated ginger by the teaspoonful on a parchment-lined baking tray or rectangular casserole dish. Stick it in the freezer for several hours. Transfer the frozen bunches to a ziplock bag or sealable container and keep in the freezer. Add to stir-fry, soup, and salad dressing as needed.
Basil, Cilantro, Parsley, etc.
You have two options with these leafy herbs.
1. You can food process them with olive oil to make a pesto and freeze that.
2. You can just chop them finely and freeze them in water. I like to get a little scissor action here to make the herbs especially fine.
The key here is an ice cube tray or two. Press the finely chopped herbs into each cube and then fill with water. They pop right out. It’s a little trickier with the olive oil pesto version, but just sit the tray in a little warm water and then remove. Store in labeled ziplock bags or containers in the freezer. Thaw to use fresh or add as is to whatever you’re cooking.