KITCHEN DIVA: Try freezing best of summer with vegetables, herbs

Freezing tomatoes and peppers can become tomato soup later in the fall.

It’s August, and that means I’m busily trying to figure out a way to preserve the smells and flavors of my favorite vegetables. I enjoy stocking my freezer with vegetables I’ve grown or bought in large quantities from local farmers.

Your freezer is one of the best ways to preserve the color and flavor of summer produce all year long. Here’s some great tips for freezing the best of your favorite summer vegetables and herbs: Can I Freeze Bell and Sweet Peppers Raw? If you’ve picked a peck of peppers and have too many to eat, try freezing them. Peppers are one of those foods that can be quickly frozen raw without first blanching them.

Here are some guidelines on freezing bell and sweet peppers raw: Select crisp, tender, green or bright-red pods. Wash, cut out stems, cut in half and remove seeds. If desired, cut into 1/2-inch strips or rings. Good for use in uncooked foods because they have a crisper texture, or in cooked foods. Package raw, leaving no headspace.

Seal and freeze. NOTE: To make it easier to remove only the amount of frozen bell or sweet peppers needed at one time, freeze sliced or diced peppers in a single layer on a cookie sheet with sides. Transfer to a “freezer” bag when frozen, excluding as much air as possible from the bag.

Can Tomatoes be Frozen Raw?

Like peppers, tomatoes can be frozen raw. Frozen tomatoes are best used in cooked foods such as soups, sauces and stews as they become mushy when they’re thawed.

Select firm, ripe tomatoes with deep red color. Wash and dip in boiling water for 30 seconds to loosen skins. Core and peel. Freeze whole or in pieces. Pack into containers, leaving l-inch headspace. Seal and freeze.

TIP: Dip just a few tomatoes at a time into the boiling water or the water temperature may be lowered too much to remove the skins without overheating the tomatoes. Place hot tomatoes in a colander and rinse under cold water to make them easier to handle. A knife with a serrated edge works best for cutting tomatoes.

How About Freezing Fresh Herbs?

Wash, drain and pat the herbs dry with paper towels. Wrap a few sprigs or leaves in freezer wrap and place in a freezer bag, then seal and freeze. The frozen herbs can be chopped and used in cooked dishes. After freezing, the herbs usually are not suitable for garnish, as they become limp when thawed.

TIP: To extend the time frozen fruits and vegetables maintain good quality, package foods in material intended for freezing and keep the temperature of the freezer at 0 F or below. It is generally recommended that frozen vegetables and fruits be eaten within eight months for best quality.

GAZPACHO

This wonderful recipe for gazpacho is a great way to use a variety of your favorite herbs and summer vegetables.

6 large tomatoes

1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and finely diced

1 large green bell pepper, finely chopped

1 medium-sized red onion, minced

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons olive oil

Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped

1/2 teaspoon hot sauce

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 medium avocado, peeled and diced, for garnish

1 cup herbed croutons, for garnish

1. To peel the tomatoes, submerge them a few tomatoes at a time in boiling water for 15 seconds. Place in a colander and rinse under cold water. The skins should slip right off. Core the tomatoes and gently squeeze out the seeds. Chop half of the tomatoes coarsely and puree the other half in a food processor. Combine the puree and chopped tomatoes in a large mixing bowl.

2. Add the cucumber, bell pepper, onion, vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice and zest, parsley, basil, hot sauce, salt, pepper, sugar and nutmeg to the tomatoes. Mix gently to blend the ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for several hours before serving. 3. Serve chilled. Garnish with the avocado and herbed croutons, if desired. Makes 6 servings.

Angela Shelf Medearis is an award-winning children’s author, culinary historian and the author of seven cookbooks. Her website is www.divapro.com. © 2020 King Features Synd., Inc.

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