A few weeks ago, I had a situation with bolting basil, and I spent some time looking for ways to preserve the leaves without sacrificing their flavor and aroma. Herbs that are stored in the freezer are a good substitute for when nothing fresh is available. However, frozen herbs, especially the delicate basil, sage, and cilantro, have an unappealing papery-thin texture and lack potency. An easy way to preserve the flavor of freshly-picked herbs is to remove their moisture completely.
A dehydrator or an oven can dry out the leaves while maintaining their freshness and taste. Freshly-dried herbs are an easy way to harvest and preserve herbs that are bolting or growing rapidly, seeing you well into winter. Oven–dried basil can be crushed easily and delivers a fresh punch of concentrated flavor and bouquet. Basil is known as a powerful anti-bacterial and nutrient-rich herb, and I added powdered basil into salad dressing as well as mixed it with tea leaves for a jolt of healthy tonic.
I also experimented with sage and lavender gathered from my outdoor pots (soon to be indoors with the recent onset of cool weather!) The kitchen smelled much like an imagined idyllic French countryside when I amassed small mason jars of dried herbs. Carried away by the concept of drying leaves, I extended the process to make kale chips brushed with sage-scented oil.
Basil – 1 bunch
- Heat the oven to 170°F.
- Rinse the basil in cool water and shake-off excess moisture.
- Spread the cleaned leaves on parchment paper.
- Bake for about 1- 1½ hour, until the leaves have wilted and curled. They should crumble easily.
- Remove and cool.
- Store in glass containers.
Kale – a handful
Olive oil – 1 tbsp
Salt – ½ tsp
Basil – 2, dried
- Heat the oven to 350°F
- Wash and dry the kale leaves. Remove the thick stalk.
- In a bowl, mix the oil, salt, pepper, and crushed basil leaves.
- Coat the kale leaves, using your hands to coat the oil over the leaves.
- Lay them on a foil and bake for 12-15 minutes. Remove and turn the leaves over. Continue to cook for another 5-7 minutes.
- Remove and cool. The leaves should be crispy and brown at the ends.
- Eat immediately.