I cook simple food. No heavy sauces, just good fresh flavors. My food complexity comes from all the garden to kitchen preserving I do when produce is in season. I can tomatoes, make jams and jellies, ferment anything and the easiest of all chores is drying fresh herbs. Sure, you can buy a small bottle of dried basil at the grocery store, but home dried herbs are just better. There are many ways to dry herbs - my choice is to do small batches in the oven. It is quick, easy and requires no special equipment.
Can you find dried lemon basil or purple basil at the store? No!!! I grow more than one type of each herb and the dried versions all have slight flavor variations that I like to capture.
Drying basil in the oven is a method not an exact recipe. The same method will work on any other leafy herbs you happen to have. Good candidates are thyme, oregano, chives and dill. I am considering trying chervil - have you ever seen dried chervil for sale?
I have a few recipes on regular rotation that I always choose dried herbs over fresh. My favorite is a Jack Daniel's marinade that is heavy in dried basil. The marinade makes a mean steak but also works on portobello mushrooms. Add a big spoon of mustard to the mix and it works on chicken.
Oven Dried Basil
- Basil leaves
- Parchment paper
- Head to the garden and gather fresh basil. Give it a good wash and shake off extra water. Leave to air dry a bit.
- Preheat oven to the lowest possible temperature. It might be just the warm setting. My oven goes to 160 - most common is 180. If 180 is your lowest setting consider doing this with the door slightly open.
- Spread basil out on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
- Here is the tricky part. Drying times will vary depending on the moisture content of your basil and oven temperature. So the first time you do this stick close and check on the process often - it will go quickly.
- Once the basil is dry and the color has changed remove from the oven. Be careful not to burn the herb. Use your hand to crush the dried leaves. You might find some areas that are still slightly moist. Once the leaves are crushed, I will just pop the pan back in the still warm - but turned off - oven or leave the tray out on the counter for a while.
- At this point you can walk away and forget it.
- When you are sure all parts are completely dry - store on your shelf in a lidded jar. It is ready to use.
Jack Daniel's Marinade
- 1/4 cup Jack Daniel's
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon dried basil
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- Mix together all the ingredients in a dish you will use for marinating.
- Add your meat or mushrooms and let rest in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.
- Remove from marinade and grill!