The beginning of fall brings an end to my herb garden. The oregano will last till the first frost along with the rosemary and sage. The basil has been gone for a few weeks now. And oh, how I miss the fresh basil. I found a way to keep parsley fresh in the fridge for about 3 weeks at a time but basil is much more delicate. My mother showed me a simple way to keep basil fresh for months. Yes months! Freeze it. Fresh basil is still abundant in the supermarkets now. Buy a large bunch, take it home and wash it. Dry the leaves well and pull them off their stems and pack them in a zip lock freezer bag loosely. They freeze into perfect little leaves. Take out what you need when you are ready to use them and place them frozen into your recipe. Don’t thaw them out. Works like a dream. For the parsley, I wash and dry them well. Keep them on the stems. Take the parsley and wrap them in a couple of paper towels and place in a zip lock bag. Store the bag in your vegetable draw and they will keep fresh like that for at least three weeks.
It’s real easy to dry your oregano, rosemary, basil and sage. Just cut each plant as close to the bottom as you can. Take the individual twigs and pull off about an inch of leaves from the bottom.Discard any moldy or diseased leaves. Gather up each herb and tie at the bottom together. Hang them in a warm dry place for a couple of weeks until they fully dry out. You can store them in zip lock bags or clean mason jars. Leave them whole and crush them as you use them. They will keep better that way. You can store them up to a year this way, until next year’s growing season.
My mother freezes everything. Even bags of potato chips and corn chips. They never last long enough in my house to have to freeze them, but if you are left with more than you can consume just place a chip clip on top to seal the bag and store in your freezer. Stays fresh for months. My father likes to freeze milk for some reason. I don’t recommend that. When I lived at home it used to drive me nuts. It never thawed out fast enough when you needed it. My father recently found a new way to keep milk fresh. On time when I was visiting my Dad I opened his freezer and found about six half gallon containers of what looked like frozen milk. I asked him what was he doing with all that milk in the freezer. He told me that they were frozen containers of water. He would surround the container of milk in the refrigerator with these frozen half gallons. He said it kept his milk fresher. God love him!
Freezing bread was another favorite past time for my dad. He ate it frozen. Said it was good for his teeth. My father did a lot of weird things like that. Like putting an egg in the coffee basket when he brewed his coffee in the morning. That way he would get brewed coffee and a soft boiled egg all in one shot. Not sure if it also increased his dose of calcium for the day from the egg shell. One of my father’s favorite snacks was a raw egg and frozen bread. He would poke a small hole into the top of the egg with a pin and just suck it out and eat that along with the frozen bread. That was during the time when eating raw eggs was not a health hazard. I could remember my grandfather making egg nog for me in the morning. He used to call it “egga-nog”. We used to have the old fashioned malted milk mixers, this was before the invention of blenders, like the ones they had in the soda shops to make milk shakes. You find them for sale today as “retro drink mixers”. He would place one or two raw eggs in the mixer container along with milk and some sugar and blend it up till it was thick and frothy. I used to love it. I would drink it down till there was nothing left but a milk mustache on my upper lip.
As the weather gets colder it puts you more in the mood for heartier dishes. In the summer time you enjoy eating light with summer salads and grilled food. But in the fall and winter there is something very comforting in eating soups and substantial pasta dishes. This is one of those pasta dishes. I had a dish very similar to this at my friend Joe Duck’s house a few years ago. I never got the recipe so this is my version of what I had that day. I love to eat something different and then pull apart the ingredients in my mouth and try to make that dish myself, adding my own touches and bringing in the flavors that I enjoy.
Ziti and Sausage Portobello
- 4 Italian sweet sausage
- 4 portobello mushroom caps, cubed
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 pound prosciutto, chopped
- 1/2 stick butter
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup cognac or white wine
- 1 cup beef broth or 1 beef bouillon cube dissolved in 1 cup of boiling water
- 1 – 28 oz can peeled tomatoes, pureed
- 6 fresh basil leaves, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 pound ziti
- 1/4 cup grated Romano cheese
Brown 4 sausage links in frying pan. Cook sausage till done, about 10 minutes. Slice the sausages into bite sized pieces and set aside.
In a large saute pan on medium high heat, melt butter and add olive oil. Add the mushrooms and onions and stir together. Allow the mushrooms to cook without stirring for about 5 minutes. The mushrooms will start to release their moisture.
Stir the mushrooms and cook 5 minutes longer without stirring to allowing them to caramelize.
Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Add prosciutto and cook another minute. Put the heat on low and deglaze the pan with cognac.
Add the beef broth and turn the heat back to medium high. Cook down for about 3 minutes. Add the pureed tomatoes, basil, hot pepper flakes and cook down till thickens, about 20 minutes.
Add the 1/2 cup of heavy cream and stir 1 minute . Add the sausage and stir to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste (it might not need any). Cover the pan and turn off the heat.
Cook the ziti in 5 quarts of salted water. Once the ziti is cooked, drain and add to the sauce. Add grated Romano cheese and toss to combine.