Back on the blog after more than three weeks, after a summer where I managed to pop up here just for a few posts and recipes. It has been a long, hot summer. Apparently warm summer days are not bound to end anytime soon, even though I am already craving for chill Autumn days, butternut squash soups and evenings spent under the blankets with a book.
Even if my posting schedule was lazy and random, I haven’t had the chance to get bored during this endless summer, which was instead dense with events.
In June we drove up west, first to attend an inspiring food styling and photography workshop held by Annette Joseph in Alassio, then to visit Giuseppina in her cookery school in Provence. Basil and lavender are still colouring the memories of those first summer days.
July opened up the dance with the big heath wave. I flew to Oxford for the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery, but eventually came back home to face the high season of cooking classes and the hottest summer in 157 years. Mint was my go-to remedy: every day I would pick a mint sprig in the garden and crush it in a jug of icy water to cool down even the most scorching day spent in a kitchen set to fire by the never stopping oven and the stove.
August was supposed to be different, not as hot as July, but all my expectations were disappointed. In an almost empty Milan we visited the Expo and I cooked a few recipes for the Tuscan Region, we were caught by a summer thunderstorm which left the city as sultry as South Asia during the Monsoon season and we had some mind blowing Korean, Thai and Vietnamese street food at the Expo.
Once back home, we escaped to the Apennines to forage wild blueberries, and there we finally spent two days in a cooler climate which cleared up my mind and gifted me with two long sleeping nights.
September is here to stay with its shorter days and cooler nights, but it has already been interesting so far. We cooked up a wedding picnic in Chianti and just after the ceremony we drove South, for something more than 10 hours, for our so longed week of holidays in Puglia. There I began my six intense free days with a cold coffee with almond milk, something which shouts Salento, holiday and sea side life for me.
Now we’re back. Back to the cooking classes. Back to teaching Interpersonal Communication at the Florence University of the Arts. Back to the blog.
And even if this summer has been long, tiring and unbearable at times, I want to preserve its memories. This has been our first summer together in hour house, a summer of lessons learnt and new experiences. I will keep the summer of 2015 in my heart forever, and I will preserve fresh herbs for the upcoming cold season.
5 WAYS TO PRESERVE SUMMER HERBS
1. BASIL AND SALT
This year all the fresh herbs grew luxuriant, regardless of the hot weather, lovingly cared for by my grandmother. The easiest way to preserve the basil is to stash it in a jar of fine sea salt. Alternate layers of salt and layers of basil leaves, carefully washed and pat dry.
It will be your go-to herb for chicken stock, minestroni and soups in winter: just add a basil leave and a pinch of salt to your pot and breath in the balsamic summer air.
2 BASIL AND NUT PESTO
Pesto, the classic, traditional, respectful pesto made with Genoese basil leaves, pine nuts, pecorino and olive oil, has always been my favourite seasoning for pasta. For me it would easily beat any meat ragout, cheese or fresh tomato sauce, it’s addictive and the best expression of summer. Then I discovered my lactose intolerance, and the whole world crumbled to my feet.
This year I substituted the cheese with almonds and walnuts and skipped the garlic, too. Even if this could not be defined legally pesto, I froze a few lille jars of it for winter and I already generously scooped it onto come rice and spelt. Just as good, just as good.
- 250 g of fresh basil leaves
- 80 g of shelled almonds
- 120 g of shelled walnuts
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- about 200 ml of your best extra virgin olive oil.
Soak almonds and walnuts in water for a few hours.
Wash basil leaves and pat them dry.
Drain the nuts and add them into a blender jug. Add basil leaves, salt and blend until smooth. Add the olive oil little by little until it has been incorporated.
Spoon into small jars, cover with olive oil and keep in the fridge for a week or in the freezer for longer.
(up left catmint, up right lemon verbena – bottom left lemon balm, bottom right mint)
3. DRYING HERBS
In August we also read The life-changing magic of tidying up: our apartment changed considerably, our wardrobe looks now like a serial killer wardrobe and the attic is not almost empty. I took the chance of a clean and airy attic to hung up some of my favourite herbs to dry for a few days.
Mint, lemon verbena and lemon balm will become a soothing and relaxing infusion for winter, or maybe also Christmas DIY gifts, nicely packed in a glass jar. Catmint, one of my favourite herbs for mushrooms, artichokes and eggplants, will sit on my shelf for long, until next Spring will bring new fresh leaves.
Chives and parsley freeze up easily. Wash them, pat them dry and cut them with a sharp knife, then collect the chopped herbs in two airtight containers and freeze up. When you need parsley for your potato salad or chive for your fried eggs, just take the box out of the freeze and scrape out your favourite herb with a fork. They preserve their fabulous aroma.
5. RUB SALT
This is Tuscany in a jar, my mum’s rub salt for roast meet, roasted potatoes or vegetables: it is fool proof and so impressive. Just open up a jar and you cannot help yourself but breathing with your eyes closed. Rosemary, sage, garlic, black pepper and salt team up to season perfectly pork, beef, potatoes, a schiacciata or even a toasted slice of bread with the new olive oil.
- This is probably one of the most inspiring post I’ve read on preserving fresh herbs in olive oil, from The Kitchn.
- On Rodale’s Organic Life, 4 easy ways to preserve herbs.
- This is the link to Annette’s workshop rewind 2015 and here you can find all the information for the upcoming workshop in Marrakesh.
- Thank you Fiskars for the happy orange scissors I am now addicted to.