Implementing cooking big, up until now has been mostly about preparing a large batch of the main entree. And that is going pretty well.
This week, I'm adding emphasis to preparing side dishes with ease, but still providing some variety. In particular, I'm working on the starchy side dishes, the breads, pasta, potatoes, and whole grains.
Earlier this week, I began planning an herb and garlic-crusted pork loin. I knew that I'd be cutting fresh herbs for this, including rosemary, thyme, oregano and sage.
When I set out to cut the herbs, yesterday morning, I had a thought to cut more than I would need for the pork loin, but enough for some potatoes to go with the roast, for herb and garlic roasted potato wedges. And while I was at it, I might as well cut a whole bunch of the herbs, and then later in the week, I could add some of the herb-garlic medley to the cooking liquid for brown rice, and some to cooked pasta, along with olive oil, and finally, on the last day, I could blend the remaining minced herbs/garlic with butter, and make an herb-garlic bread to use as a side dish that night.
As long as I was cutting all of these herbs, and peeling all of this garlic, I thought, I might as well use the food processor for the mincing. Brilliant! I make-ahead a large batch of mixed herbs, and I don't have to chop anything! (one of my least fave kitchen activities) After roasting the pork loin and some potato wedges, I still have enough fresh herb and garlic blend for another 2 or 3 nights of seasoned side dishes, just waiting in the fridge.
Here's what I used:
- about a quart of loose-packed fresh herbs, still on stems (primarily rosemary and thyme, but also some oregano and a handful of sage leaves)
- 6 cloves of garlic (also from the garden)
- scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- a couple of tablespoons of garlic granules, at the end (I didn't get enough of a garlic flavor in my blend)
After pulling all of the herbs off the stems, I processed them with the garlic and seasonings until finely minced. The resulting herb-garlic blend needed more garlic, so I used garlic granules. The yield was about a heaping cup of finely minced seasoning.
This idea of pre-blending herbs for various side dishes will translate well, in winter when all I have to work with is dried and frozen herbs. I can still mix these ahead of time, yet vary the flavor with each batch for some variety. Any of the following could be used: minced onions, garlic, dried or frozen herbs, spices, salt, pepper, dried chile peppers, sugar or honey. Basically, what I'll be making is a fresh and custom version of a seasoning packet, but for literally pennies per week's batch.
I see great promise for using these on roasts, poultry, mixed in with ground meat for meat loaf, blended with a bit of butter and topping hamburger patties, mixed into bean burgers, cooked in rice and quinoa, tossed with carrots, onion quarters, or potatoes for roasting, or with cooked pasta just before serving, added to homemade soups and stews, mixed into mashed potatoes, or added to egg dishes like frittatas, omelets and scrambled eggs.
Anyways, I had to share, because I found a great way for me to use my fresh herbs a little longer this season, but with less overall work.