Freshen Up: A Chef on How to Store Herbs
I’m totally reliant on herbs in the kitchen. A lot of the time, I feel like a dish isn’t really finished until there are some fresh herbs in or on it. They elevate food in a really special way, but I know that a lot of people are hesitant to buy them at home because they are used to them wilting before they’ve been used up, and throwing food away is a terrible feeling.
Here are a few tips to hopefully prevent that from happening:
- First is storage — proper storage of “soft” herbs (parsley, cilantro, etc.) can significantly lengthen the time they stay fresh.
- Put them in the fridge as soon as you can after buying; this will help prevent deterioration. The leaves are delicate and when they start wilting or discoloring, it can be hard to bring them back. (If you do need to bring them back from minor wilting, put them in some cold water for 5 minutes.)
- To make them last, put the herbs in a jar or glass filled with water and cover their heads with a plastic bag, then place that in the fridge. A bag from the produce aisle works, but I often use a Ziploc so I can reuse it again and again.
- Before you put them in the jar, give herbs a wash in cold water and trim the stems a bit.
- Make sure the leaves are dry again before you put them under the bags and in the fridge. You can let them air dry in the fridge or pat them dry with paper towel.
- Every couple of days, refresh the water and pick out any leaves that look like they are turning.
- If you don’t end up using them all, or just want to make sure you always have some handy, you can freeze herbs! This is a great way to get long term use out of them. You won’t be able to use leaves as a beautiful looking garnish, but you will be able to finish dishes with them, or use them as a dressing, or use them in the beginning of cooking in order to take advantage of their flavor profiles. A few ways to do this:
- Finely chop whatever herbs you’d like to keep and place them in an ice cube tray, add some softened/melted butter or oil in cubes and place the tray in the freezer.
- You can use these herb ice cubes at the start of a dish – heat a couple of cubes up in a pan and add some onions and garlic to use some flavored oil for cooking
- You can use them at the end of a dish to finish off a sauce or things like mashed potatoes, risotto, or even scrambled eggs.
- You can use them as a dressing if they are oil based – just pop as many cubes as you’d like out into a bowl, let it come to room temperature. Give it a whisk and add some lemon juice and seasoning, and you have a simple dressing.
Interested in growing your own herbs? London-based organic food grower Claire Ratinon shows us how here.
Jane Coxwell is a chef, author and consultant, and has earned her reputation as one of the most sought-after private chefs with a style that’s as elegant as it is unpretentious.
Equally comfortable working over open fires on the beaches of Papua New Guinea as she is in the kitchens of the biggest names in fashion, media and entertainment, Jane has cooked her way around the world, cultivating an approach to food and travel that is uniquely her own.
Born in Zimbabwe and raised in South Africa, Jane was one of the youngest chefs ever appointed to run the kitchen of a Camper & Nicholsons yacht. At just 23, she joined Hall Wines in California’s Napa Valley as Executive Chef and Culinary Manager, where she cooked for prominent guests including Hillary Clinton. For the last near-decade, Jane has served as Diane von Furstenberg’s chef, both on Eos, the 305-foot sailing yacht she and Barry Diller own, and in New York and Connecticut.
Her experiences on and off Eos — ranging from meals in the villages of Southeast Asia to the vibrant open-air markets of the Italian Riviera — inspired her first book, Fresh, Happy, Tasty: An Adventure in 100 Recipes. Now based in New York City, Jane continues to develop food-and travel-centric content while working on her second book. She also consults for large events, including the creation of the first sustainable meal for the 2017 CFDA Awards.