Herb Infusions

Salt and sugar get a bad rap for their effects on our bodies when consumed in large quantities, but their ability to act as a preservative is often underappreciated. Salt and sugar prevent spoilage and make it difficult or impossible for undesirable bacteria to grow. The rule of thumb for salt curing is that 20% salt keeps most undesirable bacteria at bay.

Although dehydrating and freezing are the most common ways to preserve herbs, the rising popularity of artesian salts and infusions has brought attention to herbs preserved in salt or sugar. The preservative pulls moisture from the herbs while keeping their flavor intact. Leaves plucked from the jar can be used as though they were fresh. The remaining herbed salt works best as the finishing touch, but infused sugar can also work within a recipe. A little of the flavored salt or sugar goes a long way, and the herbs keep a long time.
Learn to make Salt-Preserved Herbs and Herb-Infused Sugar

Freezing Herbs

If I could have only one garden, it would teem with herbs. Many of these easy-to-grow plants survive any climate or soil and are among the first shoots to appear each spring. Most are either perennials that return without fail or annuals that self-seed so readily one seed packet produces a perpetual crop. Herbs thrive on usage; the more you snip and pluck, the happier they become. Although the plants are rarely showy, a garden that contains herbs and edible flowers such as nasturtium, calendula, and viola is as delicious to look at as it is to harvest from.

Although fresh is best, herbs are easily saved for meals year-round. A little goes a long way, so even a couple of balcony pots will likely produce enough for use throughout the season. Many herb savers dehydrate their harvest, but some herbs, like chives, taste better when frozen.
Learn how to freeze chives and make Herb Butter

Risotto

Why do we consider pasta to be easy and versatile but risotto to be challenging? Italians, the masters of both, don’t see it this way. “Every conceivable vegetable, seafood, and meat can go into risotto,” says my sumptuously illustrated copy of Venetian Taste. “The frugal Venetian does not hesitate to stretch a bit of leftover into half a meal by amplifying it with rice.”

I have often eaten delicious risotto, but my first memorable one was in Venice, turned deep violet-black by cuttlefish ink. Although replicating this particular pairing is nearly impossible stateside, the pale, creamy rice dishes colored by local vegetables and various spices are well within reach. All you need is to start with the right rice and then adjust your standard technique for cooking it. The rest, as the Venetians would say, is due volte più gustoso.
Learn to make Fresh Improv Risotto and Sunshine Risotto

Stocks

I can’t recall when I started making soup stocks. All I know for sure is that vegetable stock and shrimp stock have long been staples in my freezer. The pair meets most needs, but I keep a lighter Corncob Stock and heavier mushroom stock on hand when growing season and freezer space allow.

Like salad dressings, stocks are easy to make and adapt. They’re also powerful: Replace water with stock when preparing soup, a sauce, or even plain rice, and you instantly elevate your dish to the next level. But stocks can be too powerful: Store-bought stocks are often too intensely flavored and too highly salted. By making your own, you can control everything from content to salt ratio to storage size. They can be made with whole vegetables, but they’re equally tasty from the trimmings off another meal. You don’t really need a recipe, but a few techniques can help. Learn to make Vegetable Stock and Shrimp Stock