Even though we should be, according to historical averages, starting to see a decrease in daily high temperatures by now, it continues to be just plain hot out some days. So it’s nice to have some indoor work to do as an excuse to enjoy a few minutes, or hours, of respite from the sun and heat.
Today’s indoor chores were to process some of the excesses of the herb garden. Even though many of our veggies, and some of the herbs too, have taken a hit during the summer, mint and basil continue going strong. So strong in fact, that we “harvested” (i.e., ripped out by the roots) about half of the mint in order to give the other herbs back some space that the mint had encroached upon.
I’ve been drinking a lot of mint and lemon balm herbal tea that I make simply by steeping a few leaves of each plant in hot water. I decided to try my hand, then, at creating a dried herb mixture that I can store for a longer period, but still enjoy regularly. Air drying herbs is an option, but given our humidity, I was dubious that this would happen in a reasonable timeframe. Instead, after rinsing and drying the leaves well, I laid them out on a cookie sheet and dried them for 4 hours in a 180(ish) degree oven, with the door cracked to let moisture escape.
Next time I have extra mint to put to use however, I’m definitely going to try something I was told about at market this weekend: mint squash. Yes, squash, but not like the vegetable. A squash is a drink common in the United Kingdom (not so here, lamented the woman who told me about them). You begin making a squash by boiling sugar and water to get a concentrated syrup, then mixing in something to flavor it, usually fruit juice. To serve, the syrup concentrate is diluted with water. Besides fruit squashes, mint and lemon squash came highly recommended, and in case you are by now as intrigued as I was, here’s a recipe to get you started.
I also made pesto today while I was avoiding being outside. I no longer look up a recipe for making pesto when I have extra basil on hand. The basic ingredients are basil (as we’ll see, this is also negotiable), nuts, cheese, spices, oil, and lemon juice. By tradition, pesto should be made with pine nuts. I do adore pine nuts, and even had some on hand, but this time, I decided to substitute pistachios in instead. Any dry shredded or grated cheese will work; I chose Parmesan, but Romano is also good. Spices to choose from include garlic, onion powder, salt, pepper, etc. All of your chosen ingredients go into a food processor, in whatever ratio makes you happy, as long as you add enough oil to get it to blend well. A very forgiving, very versatile recipe. In fact, you can even replace the basil with another herb, like parsley. The flavor, of course, will be entirely different, but the idea is the same. The great thing about pesto is you can make a great big batch of it, use what you need, then freeze the remainder in ice cube trays. Once frozen, just transfer the cubes to a freezer bag and pop a couple out anytime you’d like to make a quick pesto pasta sauce, all winter long.