How to make herb-infused oil
Sometimes less is more.
This phrase was written by Robert Browning in his 1855 poem "The Faultless Painter", a melancholy verse of love and loss. It was repeated again by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in describing post World War II architectural style.
And it also could describe our relationship with fresh herbs.
- Some recipes cry out for huge handfuls of parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. But other times, we need something a bit less assertive. Something more subtle and nuanced.
- Then again, sometimes we find ourselves with a dearth of fresh herbs to use up (before they perish), and what to do?
Both of these dilemmas cry out for the same resolution--the creation of an herb-infused oil.
I love rosemary-infused oil—a drizzle on hot cooked pasta is absolutely heavenly. Tarragon oil is wonderful as a finishing touch on a chicken salad, and basil oil on a slice of artisanal bread is almost like being in Tuscany.
Making your own herb-infused oil is easy—just be sure to always use sterilized jars and bottles and make sure that your fresh herbs are clean, dry, and free of any chemicals.
Equipment you will need
- Slow cooker (crock pot)
- Small mixing bowl
- Fine mesh strainer
- Clean bottles or jars with air-tight lids
Ingredients (for each infusion)
- 1 cup mild olive oil
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup packed chopped fresh herbs (reduce to 1/4 cup if infusing rosemary)
Place the oil and herbs in the crock pot. Leave uncovered and cook at 'High' for one hour.
- Turn off the heat and allow the oil and herbs to cool for about 1/2 hour.
- Pour through fine-mesh strainer into bowl.
- Allow to cool completely, and then decant into bottles using the funnel to avoid drips and spills.
- Store in the refrigerator for up to one week. (Note that olive oil becomes cloudy under refrigeration but will be clear again once at room temperature).
Herbs and how to use herb infused oils
Basil, originally native to India, has been cultivated there for more than 5,000 years. Depending on the species and cultivar, the leaves of basil may taste somewhat like anise, with a strong, pungent, often sweet smell.
Sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum) is often featured in Italian cuisine. Thai basil (O. basilicum var. thysiflora) plays a major role in the cuisine of Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Taiwan.
Basil oil is wonderful as:
- A dip for crusty French or Italian bread
- Drizzled over fresh tomatoes
- The oil in which to sauté bread cubed for croutons
- The oil in which to prepare an omelet
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is an aromatic evergreen shrub with pine-like needles and white, pink blue, or purple flowers. It is native to the Mediterranean area, but hardy in most cool climates.
Rosemary oil can be used:
- Drizzled over cooked pasta
- Used to sauté shrimp
- Added to mashed potatoes
Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus) has narrow, pointed gray-green leaves with a distinctive arnise or licorice flavor and is one of the 4 fines herbes of French cooking.
Tarragon oil can be:
- Drizzled over cooked roasted asparagus or cooked carrots
- Used to garnish fresh pea soup
- Stirred into chicken salad
- Used to sauté fish fillets
Chives (allium schoenoprasum) are a member of the onion family--a perennial plant native to Europe, Asia, and North America. Unlike other "onions" you do not harvest by pulling the bulb from the ground. Simply snip off the green tops and leave the bulb in the ground. They will regrow year after year. In fact, they will multiply. The pink blossoms are also edible. My favorite way to use them is as a pretty garnish on a salad.
You can use chive oil to:
- Make an omelet
- Sauté bread cubes for croutons
- Garnish soups
- Brush on any grilled meat or fish
© 2014 Linda Lum
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