Pesto & Filling The Freezer
When posting recipes for you, I try to mention if that particular dish is good as leftovers, freezes well, can be made ahead, or doubles easily. These are tips that I always look for and kind of take a mental note about when I am looking through recipes. This information makes my life easier, more efficient, saves me some money, and…well…I feel all domestic and stuff…
It is at this time of year that my freezer (pic not included-its just a big white deep freeze so use your imagination) starts to burst at the seams. Summer produce is abundant and readily available so I waste no time in taking advantage! These are a few things that I stash away to enjoy during the colder months! Shredded Zucchini. I do this every year. When zucchini threatens to over take your garden (or your neighbors garden and then they try and pawn the excess off on you!) you want to make it last as long as you can, right? Zucchini can be cut into chunks and blanched for about 30 seconds, drained well and frozen. However, my preferred way to freeze it is fresh, shredded in the food processor, and frozen in a zip top freezer bag. I usually put about half of a large zucchini in every bag. Just make sure to squeeze out the extra moisture once it has thawed. It defrosts quickly on the counter and I stir it into soups, layer it in casseroles, such as Shepherd’s Pie, and of course, I make baked goods with it year round. Baked quick breads and muffins freeze really well, so right off the bat, I always make several loaves to put in the freezer. Earth Bread is our favorite (I make earth bread and cream cheese sandwiches to put in Evelyn’s lunches!) but with literally hundreds of recipes out there that use shredded fresh zucchini, you won’t be at a loss of ideas! In fact, a chocolate zucchini bread recipe is coming soon! Berries. We have talked about this before, but I just wanted to remind you again. All kinds of berries and they last for months and months! Sweet Corn! Its everywhere this time of year! And cheap! Blanch the corn-husked and de-silked of course-in boiling water for about a minute. Cut the corn off the cob and freeze. I can’t even tell you how fantastic it is to make a corn pudding for Thanksgiving with fresh corn on the cob that was frozen at its peak! The flavor is wonderful. Roasted Tomatoes. A great way to use up any small tomatoes from your garden. I do freeze and can marinara sauce when I can, but this is faster, easier, and a change of pace. I shared this recipe with you when we talked about grilled pizza, but what you may not know is that they also freeze well. Just cool on the pan to room temperature and then seal in a freezer bag. These defrost really fast so they are really easy to put on pizza all year! They also make a great pasta sauce. Just dump a few cups into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until you reach your desired consistency. It is great really chunky or pureed until smooth. Actually, this puree is also great to spread on a pizza if you prefer more of a sauce on your pie! Add an extra drizzle of olive oil if you want to loosen the mixture a bit. A spoonful of pesto added to the mix would be great too. Then just toss the whole thing with hot pasta and a healthy grate of Parmesan…drool drool drool! This makes a light sauce, not super heavy like a marinara and brings the taste of summer to your table in February!
Speaking of tomatoes…This is basically the sauce for Pasta Scuie Scuie, just minus the basil. Well, and made in a much larger quantity. The flavor is so much better than plain tomato sauce and it whips up in mere minutes, versus cooking down for hours on the stove. I freeze it in small amounts to toss with half a pound of pasta for a light lunch or side dish for dinner, and in larger amounts, to toss with a full pound of pasta and some fresh mozzarella. Outrageously good when the only tomatoes available are shipped from who knows where and are pale and mealy.Aaah. Basil. So abundant in the summer, so expensive in the winter. You see it in recipes during the warmer months all the time, but when I need it in the winter, my shoulders sag a bit. I have trouble growing it indoors and my efforts are sporadic, at best. But on my deck, basil grows like a weed, nearly doubling in size every few weeks. In order to preserve it for later (and keep the varmints from nibbling on it) once it reaches a good size and I have several cups of basil, I cut the plant down and make pesto. Within days, my little plant has recovered enough to give me basil to use in a recipe if I need it and by weeks end, my plant is abundant and flourishing again. The weather here is so mild in the fall, I should be able to get another batch of pesto in a month or two, just before I use up the last of my plant when it frosts. Pesto freezes AWESOME and can be used in appetizers, stirred into soups, and of course, tossed with hot pasta.
1 c toasted walnuts
2 cloves fresh garlic
4 oz (about 8 c, lightly packed) fresh basil leaves
healthy pinch of salt and pepper
olive oil, about 1/2-2/3 c
To toast walnuts, spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast in the oven at 350 degrees until fragrant, 5-6 minutes, tossing occasionally. Do not let them burn! Cool to room temp. Add all ingredients, except oil, to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Slowly add oil in a slow stream while the processor is running, stopping when you reach desired consistency. It should be loose, but not runny. Toss a spoonful or so with fresh pasta, or spoon into ice cube trays. Freeze overnight and pop out and store in a freezer bag. Pesto does not need to be reheated before use. It will defrost in just a few minutes and the heat of the pasta is all you need. Toss with plenty of Parmesan cheese and serve.