If you’ve ever had cilantro in your fridge before, I’d venture to guess that it’s started to look like this a time or two…
You only need a bit of cilantro for your recipe and the remainder of the bunch starts to languish at the bottom of your vegetable drawer.
When it gets too more wilted, rotted, and sad you will throw it away.
But here’s my battle cry for today: no more! No more wasted cilantro!
In the spirit of the Salvage Chef whom I saw this weekend at the Miami Book Fair, I’m ready to start reducing waste in the kitchen. It starts today with this cilantro that has been in the fridge for a few days too long.
Maybe I’m one of the few people who didn’t realize you could freeze herbs. It makes so much sense but I was oblivious to it before this summer.
If you’ve also never frozen herbs, you’re in for a treat. This will make you feel alive on so many levels: salvaging something you would have thrown away, saving money, having cilantro at your beck and call the next time you need it…It’s exhilarating, really.
First things first, pull off any of the rotting leaves. Next, strip all of the leaves that are still good from their stems.
This is the part that takes the longest. At this point, your cilantro might start heckling you a bit. Just ignore him.
Take your pile of good leaves and chop them up a little bit.
Next, pack some of the leaves into the bottom of a muffin tin – or ice cube trays – it’s up to you. I put 1 Tbsp of leaves into each muffin tin. I think it’s handy to know the measurement for future reference since I’ll pop these into soups and sauces later on.
Then I gently added 1 1/2 Tbsp of water to each muffin cup – just enough to cover up the herbs so they can freeze into an ice cube of sorts. The water really isn’t an issue later on when I use these in recipes because it quickly evaporates upon hitting a hot pan or melts into soup with no effect on the flavor.
Pop the tin into the freezer. Once they’ve turned into herbalicious ice cubes, it’s time to free them from their confines.
When I tried this with ice cube trays, they came out easily. They needed to be coaxed out a little more when they were in muffin tins, though. I just ran some warm water on the back of the tin to loosen them up, then fished them out gently with a fork.
Voila! Since they were a little glassy looking from the warm water, I put the plate in the freezer once more so they could freeze as separate cubes. (Otherwise, they would stick together in a ziploc.)
There you have it. Hello, tame cilantro ice cubes!
Goodbye, belligerent cilantro!
Have you frozen herbs before? Which ones? Tell me, I want to try them all!
That’s such a good idea! Can’t believe I’d never thought to deal with herbs that way (although, I’m still such a novice cook, I rarely have that many fresh herbs lying around).
I’ll have to let my mom know about this trick though, she’s always letting things in the fridge get out of hand! (We have a massive refrigerator-cleaning every time I go home.) Do you have any tips on keeping refrigerators and freezers under control? I’ve tried making her lists and always writing dates on things, but usually, as soon as I leave home, she’s back to her old tricks!
I keep wanting to inspire her (and myself too, admittedly) to some kind of a great organizational system, but I haven’t happened upon one yet. I used to read the Real Simple magazine, and they’d always have neat little tricks, but I don’t remember an inclusive organizational system for the kitchen as a unit.
Glad you were able to get drunken cilantro into proper form!
Happy holiday cooking!
Truth be told, Bobby and I have struggled with this quite a bit as well – it’s one of my more recent resolutions to really get a handle on it! I cringe when I find food that was perfectly good at one point but now needs to be thrown away!
Labeling the tupperware containers directly when leftovers are being put away helps us (although it sounds like you may have already tried that?). I think simple is always better if you actually want a habit to stick, so I just like using basic masking tape and a permanent marker. Nothing fancy. And as much as I like the idea of re-using old yogurt containers for leftovers, the food in those always seems to go bad because people forget what’s actually inside of them…so I think sticking to clear tupperware is ideal! Maybe those are very basic suggestions and you might have already tried them!
The biggest help I’ve found, though, lies in weekly meal planning. Does your mom do that? Lately, I’ve been taking some time every Sunday to plan out meals for the entire week. I write them down on a schedule and post it right next to the fridge so there is now way to veer away from it. I develop a grocery list based off of that and then stick to the plan all week. Sometimes we will have more leftovers than I anticipated, though, in which case we will eat those the following day for lunch or dinner – and then I may end up pushing the “planned” meal until the next day. Using this system, we’ve been able to do a pretty good job with keeping our fridge and freezer under control – and it’s made cooking more fun for me since I anticipate the meals all week that I get to cook…a nice little side bonus!
AHH love the wasted cilantro! Ugh, this happens to my spinach and arugula all the time.
YES spinach and arugula can get so belligerent, too! All those leafy things getting cheeky on us…I think the problem is exacerbated with spinach and arugula when there is moisture, wouldn’t you say? Tricky to rinse it and then make sure there aren’t water droplets just sitting on the leaves…hmmm.
yes! wonderful! mom does this with mint leaves — she might even just pop a mint cube in a cocktail drink — sooooo convenient!
Oooo mint might have to be next…Bobby will love the idea of those in cocktail drinks!
I love the idea of the mint cubes in drinks!!
And haha to the “Wasted Cilantro” . So creative, Grace. I love you!
Yeah, I think those mint ice cubes have to come next! Come back to visit Miami, Liz, and we’ll make you cocktails! xoxo
Celeste, Grace, et al: I’ve had a terrible time keeping my freezers, especially, under control until I conscripted Leah to help me this summer. Not only did we clear everything out and inventory it, but Leah -the genius!- started a system of writing on the white freezer door with wipeable markers. She labeled things into groups such as: meat, breads, veggies, desserts, etc. and then put a mark indicating the amounts. When you take something out, you simply wipe off a line with you finger. When you put something in, you add a mark with the pen. It’s revolutionized my freezer!
So you’ve kept up with that system, Mom? That’s so awesome, you might have to become a contributor to Real Simple or Martha Stewart…:) Such a good idea, go Leah!
BTW, I’ve been freezing herbs this fall: parsley, rosemary, basil. I simply wash them and spin them dry, lay them on a cookie sheet in one layer, flash freeze them and then transfer them into plastic freezer baggies. They take up very little room and they’re great!
Oh wow, that’s an even quicker way to do it than the ice cubes. I like that the herbs could stay in tact that way, too. You’re turning my world upside down, Mom!
Cilantro waste has always disturbed me! This is absolutely brilliant! Thank you, thank you!
Of course, Alisa! Glad we’re on the same wave length! I think freezing basil is going to be next…
I have frozen cilantro and basil. We also saved the white bottoms of green onions. So in N’awlins I have fresh onions and mint year round. I love the Lea/Glenda idea and have created a freezer white board (stainless steel doors). Fyi – I am buying my garden veggies and tomato plants today.
So cool, glad that you were able to adopt the freezer white board idea! There is nothing better than homegrown tomatoes. What a happy day to be able to go buy those plants!