When you're throwing together dinner, peeling, chopping, and mincing aromatics and herbs can take up precious time. So why not get ahead of the game by prepping ingredients in advance and storing them in the freezer so they’re ready to go when it’s time to cook? Add the potent cubes straight to pan sauces, soups, stews, sautés, and stir-fries or thaw them and stir them into batters and doughs for baked goods. Not only is this a time-saving habit, but it’s also an economical one if you buy in bulk.
Our top big-flavor items to preserve in the freezer are herbs, citrus zest, garlic, ginger, and turmeric root. In cooked and baked applications, you’d be hard pressed to distinguish the frozen versions of these items from fresh.
Remove lemon, lime, and orange zest from the fruit with a rasp-style grater. Spoon heaping teaspoons of zest onto a small baking sheet or into the wells of an ice cube tray. When the zest is firm, transfer portions to a zipper-lock freezer bag or container and store in the freezer. Thawed zest is suitable for cooking and baking but, since its color fades, not as a garnish.
Peel garlic cloves, mince or press them through a garlic press, and place the mince in a bowl. Add enough neutral-flavored oil (not extra-virgin olive oil, in case the dish you need it for calls for something else) to coat (about 1/2 teaspoon per clove), then spoon heaping teaspoons of the mixture onto a small baking sheet or into the wells of an ice cube tray. When the garlic is firm, transfer frozen portions to a zipper-lock freezer bag or container and store in the freezer.
Ginger and Turmeric
Peel these roots (or not—it’s up to you), cut them into large chunks, and finely chop them in a food processor. Spoon heaping teaspoons of the mixture onto a small baking sheet or into the wells of an ice cube tray. When the ginger or turmeric is firm, transfer frozen portions to a zipper-lock freezer bag or container and store in the freezer.
Place 2 tablespoons of chopped rosemary, sage, or thyme in each well of an ice cube tray, barely cover each well with water or oil, and freeze. Once the cubes are frozen, transfer them to a zipper-lock bag or container and store them in the freezer.
Whether you use water or oil depends on how you plan to use the cubes. Water is best for cubes that you plan to add straight to pan sauces, soups, and stews. If you’re going to use them as the first step in sautés or stir-fries, use oil.
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