PRESERVING SUMMER WITH SHEETS OF FROZEN VEGAN PESTO

 All my summer basil dreams come true (on a walk in SE Portland)

All my summer basil dreams come true (on a walk in SE Portland)

I’ve been a community gardener the past few years, and let me tell you something from the very bottom of my heart: the end of summer harvest is bittersweet.

On the one hand, I adore the hearty winter greens and cabbage to come. My wife and I already have a large patch of radicchio making its debut for the colder, drizzlin’ months ahead.

But, the Italian American in me is having a big ol’ love/hate-fest with the harsh reality of taking down the tomato plants. They’ve done their thing, and I’ve been encouraged by a longtime community garden neighbor to give them another week or two before the frosts hit, but I know that as much fun as slow-roasting tray after tray of cherry tomatoes for the freezer and peeling heirlooms for sauce with all that precious basil, that I’ll only want so many green tomatoes for sauce, frying and pickling. Tick, tock.

 Mid-September garden haul. Two, if not three, varieties of basil stuck in there (Italian, Sweet Thai, Holy Basil)

Mid-September garden haul. Two, if not three, varieties of basil stuck in there (Italian, Sweet Thai, Holy Basil)

Soon enough, I’ll start buying cans of tomato paste again and springing for certified Italian San Marzanos, and put aside the memories of squeezing cored, peeled tomatoes with my hands, channeling my heritage, with Tony Bennett crooning in the background. It keeps me calmer, Tony, Frank, and knowing there will oven-roasted, dehydrated (!!), and perhaps – even a round of stove-top smoked tomatoes if I get around to it and dig out the smoker – in the freezer for winter soups and pastas.


Wax on, wax off, I do want to share my method and thoughts on fresh tomato sauce, slow-roasting (and we’re talking sloooooow, courtesy of my apartment’s electric oven) and stovetop smoking – and do get me started about refrigerator pickles one of these days – but here’s a new-to-me method for preserving just a bit more of summer that I’ve made not once, not twice, but three times this past week: freezing a sheet of pesto.

Yeah, I’ve done the ice cube thing in the past, but I’m guilty of never really remembering to use them, and then they get thrown into some seitan sausages or a sauce without the full love they deserve (uh, because they’re probably 2 years old, abandoned and likely freezer burnt at this point). This frozen pesto sheet thing has changed everything! I’m into it.

 Garden haul, early September 2018

Garden haul, early September 2018

 The more realistic basil situation, I mean, harvest, a few days later

The more realistic basil situation, I mean, harvest, a few days later

This frozen pesto method is dang easy. It’s a tip I learned while perusing pesto storage on The Kitchn, always a swell place to check out, ads aside.

How to freeze pesto for later:

  1. Make your favorite pesto recipe. I used Isa’s Bestest Pesto as a base, because, #ppkforever.

  2. Spread it out over parchment paper onto a cookie sheet.

  3. Freeze overnight, or a minimum of 8 hours (being careful not to ‘schmear pesto all over your freezer’s ceiling or that collection of just-in-case Gardein).

  4. Remove from freezer, fold into three, keeping the parchment in place, and place in a freezer bag, releasing as much air as possible.

  5. Label and date the bag before or after using, and smell ya later.

If you’re in the Northwest, it’s not too late to get your summer-is-going pesto party on! You have a week, maybe too, maybe more. So, get to freezing some, before the Earth beats you and your garden to it.

Both of these batches had a toasted pepita base (boo, treenut allergy; I miss you, pine nuts), along with basil, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, olive oil, fresh cherry tomatoes, sea salt, both fresh and charred garlic, black pepper and variations of fresh thyme oregano, and celery leaf.

Tip - if you’re looking to use less oil, which I do, not because I’m seeking lower fact, but because good olive oil is NOT cheap, throw in some cherry tomatoes and a couple of generous splashes of water to move things along in the food processor.

 I see pesto grissini in my future this winter…

I see pesto grissini in my future this winter…

 Okay, not pesto, but a recent dish of fusilli lunghi with roasted red pepper and tomato sauce, with a heap of shredded basil. Because, BASIL <3

Okay, not pesto, but a recent dish of fusilli lunghi with roasted red pepper and tomato sauce, with a heap of shredded basil. Because, BASIL <3

 pesto for the freezer 9/18 – basil, thyme, oregano, nastertium flower, greens and sun-dried tomatoes

pesto for the freezer 9/18 – basil, thyme, oregano, nastertium flower, greens and sun-dried tomatoes