Preserving Fresh Flavors + Rosemary Olive Oil
The sky is clear and the sun is magnificent. With the recent rains, the greens are gradually returning — yellows, pinks and whites of the azaleas not far behind. Spring!
Passionate about nature and gardening, I love incorporating the fresh, healthy flavors that grow around me. To celebrate the advent of this season of renewal and joy, I’m sharing a recipe that truly expresses my love.
Made at least a dozen times throughout the year, I consider homemade herb oils an invaluable addition to my kitchen. Variance with the supply from our beds and pots provides an opportunity to explore new herbs regularly, and preserve the flavors and aromas of fresh herbs. Among our favorites are oregano, chive, sage and rosemary.
Throughout history, pungent rosemary is linked to fidelity and love, friendship, memory and remembrance. In medieval England it was said that “Where rosemary flourishes, the woman rules.” Even earlier in ancient mythology, Minerva, Roman goddess of wisdom, and the nine Greek muses are often depicted holding rosemary. Strong herb for strong women!
Rosemary can be paired with a wide variety of flavors, particularly those that are more robust to match this pungent herb. To keep with its roots in the Mediterranean, rosemary lends itself particularly well to classic French, Spanish and Italian dishes. Think roasted lamb and game, chicken or a sturdy, potatoes with garlic and lemon, tomatoes, olives and meaty white beans. For something unexpected, pair with dishes using grapes, figs, peaches, and even dark chocolate.
We’re partial to this fresh rosemary olive oil whisked into a vinaigrette with fresh orange juice to dress vegetables, on grilled fish or shrimp, and as the final flourish to a white pizza with artichoke. It’s also terrific drizzled over roasted squash, a simple plate of pasta, or a bowl of hot popcorn.
What’s in it for me?
The main type of fat in olive oil* — healthy monounsaturated fat — can improve overall cholesterol levels (lower LDL, the “bad” + raise HDL, the “good”), thereby decreasing risk of heart disease and stroke. It may also offer benefit to insulin levels and control of blood sugars to prevent the onset or progression of type 2 diabetes. Olive oil provides antioxidant and anti-inflammatory polyphenols, with potential positive effects on digestive and bone health, cancer prevention, and brain function, with additional antioxidant benefits from alpha tocopherol — a form of vitamin E.
Rosemary is a fair source vitamin A, and also brings with it smaller amounts of vitamin C, manganese, iron, and potassium. Brimming with antioxidant phytonutrients and other anti-inflammatory compounds, rosemary can help support the immune system, promote healthy skin and eyes, and fight damaging free radicals.
Don’t feel limited to rosemary or the other few herbs mentioned above. You can easily swap in any other that you please, such as basil, thyme, dill, tarragon. I imagine a combination would be great as well! And don’t hesitate to use really fresh, nice herbs from the grocery store if that’s all you have access to. Give them a good wash and dry, then into the oil.
Even if the weather by you still feels winterly, rosemary oil is a taste of warmer days to come and will elevate your cooking.
Tell me… Which herb is your favorite?
- 1 cup firmly packed rosemary leaves, stripped from stems
- 2 cups (16 fluid ounces) olive oil
- Add the rosemary leaves and olive oil to a high-powered blender. Puree until completely smooth. Pour into a medium skillet and bring to a gentle simmer over moderate heat. Simmer for 45 seconds, then pour through the fine mesh sieve (strainer) into a bowl. Resist the temptation to press down on the mixture and speed the oil draining through the solids. You can tap the edge of the sieve with your hand if the wait is too much for you.
- Once the oil has entirely drained into the bowl, and discard the leftover herb pulp (or save to add to soups and sauces). Working quickly to keep the oil warm, tap out any remaining pulp bits into the sink, and line the sieve with a flat-bottomed paper coffee filter. Place over another bowl, preferably with a lip, or a large liquid measuring cup, and immediately pour in the oil to strain a second time. If the filter clogs, you can either change it out for a new one or pick it up and very gently squeeze it to force the oil through faster. Just be careful not to break the filter (and send oil everywhere -- very messy, trust me).
- Let the filtered oil stand 1 to 2 hours. If you see a clear liquid at the top of your darker green oil, do not worry -- it's mostly water, and can be carefully poured off. Transfer the oil to a sterilized tightly sealing jar or bottle, using a small funnel if needed. Store in a cool, dark place. Keeps at least 1 to 2 months.
A food processor doesn't cut it here. Stick with a high-powered blender to ensure your herbs are blended finely enough. I often make half batches, and use the small personal smoothie-sized jar that fits onto my blender base. Perfect size for that amount!
These herb oils are meant for finishing dishes; not cooking with. Heat kills the flavor and aroma.
+ To make an oil from soft herbs, like basil, tarragon, mint, dill, chives (young), parsley or cilantro, use 4 cups firmly packed leaves to 2 cups olive oil.
+ To make an oil from woody herbs, like sage, oregano, thyme or chives (mature), use 1 cup firmly packed leaves to 2 cups olive oil.
Recipe adapted from Michael Chiarello’s Casual Cooking.
*Note: Olive oil is, of course, a fat, and should be consumed in moderation.
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