Storing Herbs in the Fridge


Ok, one more thing related to our super haul from the last farmers’ market last week.  It’s also related to a big bag of assorted herbs that some visiting relatives left at our house this summer.  They were from the garden, and I made it my “herb challenge” to use every one, and in some cases to figure out what they were.  After having fresh oregano in pasta sauce, rosemary potatoes, lemongrass syrup for soda, and tarragon butter – the finale – I decided this was way too much fun to stop just because we got to the bottom of the bag, and I’ve been buying more fresh herbs ever since.  They just add such a punch of round, fresh flavor.

This tip for storing them is something we figured out last fall while visiting friends in Bend, OR.  You know how basil wilts in the fridge pretty much immediately?  Well, the farmer at one stall told us to try putting the stems in a jar with water in the refrigerator, which we did – and it wilted immediately, maybe even faster than in a bag.  I was telling this story to another farmer the next week and he said, “But, did you put a plastic bag over the top?”

Aha!  This works amazingly well, like some kind of magical super-cold greenhouse.  Put the bag loosely over the herbs, and then use a rubber band to keep it tight to the base of the jar.  For basil, I also trim the stems just a bit like I would cut flowers.  The basil in this picture is already a few days old, it will stay fresh for about a solid week.  The other herbs have so far all been eaten before they show signs of wilting.

Hope this inspires you to add some fresh herbs to your fridge!

Update: If your basil stems aren’t long enough for a jar of water, I’ve had good success keeping them sealed tight in a plastic bag in the fridge, with just a little moisture inside.  If it seems dry in the bag, I sprinkle in a little water and distribute it by gently mixing the leaves around, then seal the bag again.  This works in a cooler too, as long as the leaves don’t touch the ice.

A Good Way to Open a Pomegranate



Sunday was the last farmers’ market of the year here.  Bryan and I went together, and pretty much went nuts (pun intended?) on all the fruit and veggies we could buy.  “Hon,” I said, “That’s a lot of tomatoes.”

“Well,” he said, “I don’t think we’ll have a problem eating extra tomatoes!”  You know the produce is beautiful when it’s not just me taking pictures of it, the professional photographer in my house is getting into the act as well, and buying extra tomatoes for the purpose.

Anyway, our fridge and pantry are pretty much stuffed, and we have a whole tray of pomegranates.  I love pomegranates.  I like the whole idea of them, like hidden treasure.  And, of course the taste!  Luckily, they grow in the valley not too far from here.

Especially with this method, the lovely seeds are not too hard to get at.  The idea of soaking them in water came from The Joy of Cooking, source of much good kitchen knowledge.



Step 1: slice off just the tops.  If you hit a few seeds don’t worry.  Score around the sides to the bottom in sections.  You’ll cut fewer seeds if you use the naturally more indented places as a guide for where to score.  Go all the way through the peel.



Step 2: drop the scored pomegranates into a bowl of water.  Leave them alone for about 15 minutes, or longer if they have been sitting around for a while and the skins are dried out.



Step 3: pull one out of the water, and gently break it open.  When you come back, the skins should have softened, and the whole thing will feel more elastic when you attempt to pull it open.  It may help to use a knife or your fingernail to break the connection at the top center.  Then, just tug on a section until it breaks loose.  Pomegranates respond better to a steady pull than to a hard yank.



Once the fruit cracks open, whole flanks of seeds are exposed.  Rock and push them gently with your thumb, sections of seeds will loosen and break off at once.  Any that are shriveled or cloudy are not as good, just leave them on the peel.



The red seeds (from the pinkish fruit) are the classic pomegranate tart with a little sweetness.  The pink seeds (from the yellow fruit) are much milder and sweeter if you can find them.  For eating out of hand, I think a mix of about half and half is ideal.

They also make a lovely treat with desserts, or on my morning fruit and yogurt.  If you need another excuse to get one, try this salad, really unusual flavors, but we and our friends quickly grew to love it.  Equally good with butter lettuce, and either honey mustard as suggested, or good quality balsamic and olive oil.  And, we subbed a small kabocha squash the first time we made it, with good results.

Really, have you ever seen anything so lovely as a plate of pomegranate seeds?  I could have easily spent the whole day photographing fruit . . .



Chile Freezing Time


This topic is a bit specific to my home place, the Southwestern USA,  at least I think it is – let me know if you live elsewhere and you can get fresh roasted chiles!  Around here, roasters set up outside at the farmers’ market or in a parking lot this time of year, and fill the air with the most incredible smell, a smoky autumn aroma that draws me like a magnet and reminds me of all the best things about crisp fall days and warm New Mexico comfort food.

This is what’s called “green” chile, fresh rather than dried, and usually green colored too, although as you can see I like to wait until they start turning red and ripe to buy mine.  My absolute, all-time favorite are these “sugar” chiles from Whipstone Farm.  Sweet and hot at the same time, they have just the most amazing flavor, especially the red ones.

Whatever kind you can find, I like to freeze them whole, spaced out on a cookie sheet or broiler pan.  When they’re solid, I get them out and pop them off with a spatula (it helps to wait just a minute out of the freezer), and put them in plastic bags.  Back into the freezer they go, to last me all year.  I got this idea from freezing blueberries on a sheet, so that you can get out just as many as you need.  I love pulling out a chile or three, and this way once they thaw, they are still intact enough for stuffing with cheese or other goodies.  And, I don’t have to worry about pulling out all the tops and seeds before freezing, I just process them as I thaw and use them.

This is the first and probably easiest, possibly most rewarding, food stocking up/saving/preserving I have done so far!  I highly recommend it.

What Are We Doing Here Again Exactly?

Suddenly, after our Lancaster, PA art show, we had time off. That was weird in itself, since we spent all of August at home running around like mad chickens trying to get things done in time, then flew to Detroit, picked up the truck, drove to Pennsylvania, set up the show, etc.

So now, we are in part of the country I’ve only been to once before & know almost nothing about. After doing the laundry, filling up on water, etc., we set off to find something to do with ourselves, get some food & explore the surrounding towns.


They still had peaches at Brook Lawn Farm Market – and apples, tiny pattypan squash and fresh lima beans! Oh for a stove! This time last year we were in the Pacific NW, doing 3 shows, hanging out with some of our dearest friends, and cooking up fresh delicious food together. Hard to beat that!

Despite the lack of close friends and cooking equipment, we pressed on, doing some more exploring.


Are you sure we’re still in America?

We bought Bryan a guitar-lele for playing & composing songs on the road. He’s afraid I’ll be annoyed, but so far, staying up singing adds a fun & homey touch, especially when we’re camping out in the Wal Mart parking lot.


We visited the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania – really interesting with helpful volunteers. Breaking slightly with our usual pattern of not leaving a museum until they kick us out, we left just before closing so we could make it to the Bird in Hand Farmer’s Market, where we settled on crackers and cheese to go with our tomatoes from the day before. Crusty bread was not available, but goofy T shirts were . . .


We sat outside and ate and watched the buggies and tourists go by. As we were getting ready to leave, this hot air balloon took off from the next field and went right over our heads.


At this point in the year, I’m ready to get off the ride, go home where I can see people I know and play in my studio when I have free time!

But our travel time is not quite up for this fall, there are still a few adventures for us before we head home. We set up for another show this afternoon, so that ought to keep us busy for a few days.

In the meantime, if you hear some tinny guitar music coming from a little white box truck, come over and say hi!