One week ago today, I had the honor of helping Joan of Angel in the Kitchen cater an in-home dinner buffet for 35 people. We had so much fun cutting, chopping, mixing and fixing… lots of love went into those dishes and we had a great time preparing together… I am very thankful that I get to do what I enjoy every day!
We were talking as we worked in the kitchen about the meals we make, and the topic of frozen veggies came up. Joan asked me about my favorite freezable sides.
My preference is always to eat my produce fresh, now that it’s gorgeous outside and the farmer’s markets are filled with herbs, vegetables and fruits direct from their field to my kitchen. Especially since I only have a side-by-side fridge/freezer which translates to not much room!
There are cases when freezing is helpful, and even necessary: if I’ve got an overabundance and either I cook and freeze the veggies or they will go bad; if I know I’m going to have a busy week and would rather choose a homemade frozen meal than going out; or if I’m making meals for someone’s week and they may need to freeze it before they eat it.
Think about walking through the freezer section of the grocery store… any of the veggies you can buy frozen, will also be great candidates for you to freeze (either plain to cook later, or as a recipe in a side.)
To freeze veggies, pre-wash them and prepare them as you would to eat them fresh (peel, trim, cut). Then quickly “blanch” (or boil) them and immediately place in an ice bath. I enjoy “al dente” veggies, so the blanch can be on the short side of recommended times:
- 2 minutes: spinach
- 3 minutes: asparagus, corn (already cut off the cob)
- 5 minutes: fresh beans, broccoli, cauliflower, okra, chard, squash
- 7 minutes: cabbage, carrots, parsnips (the white carrot), peas (shelled)
- 20 minutes: beets
I avoid freezing any dressing or topping that has dairy or mayonnaise or is egg-based (such as hollandaise), as when they are reheated they may curdle, fall apart, and generally result in a bad texture. Cheese does freeze and reheat okay, but I usually will add that after I thaw the veggies rather than before I freeze them.
I often eat my veggies very “naked”- dressed with simple vinaigrette, seasoning, and/or herbs. If you do too, you can add your flavor to the veggies and freeze them in small tupperware containers or even in ziploc baggies.
If you prefer a more rich-tasting veggie, you can roast them dressed in some olive oil, salt and pepper at 350 degrees for 30 minutes (or until they are nicely browned and at the right texture- taste to test!)
Other veggies that freeze well: diced tomatoes (end up being more sauce-like when reheated); pestos made from fresh herbs such as basil, carrot green, or spinach pesto; and roasted bell peppers.
Now that you have my tricks, go forth and FREEZE !