How to make herb-infused oils

Capture the essence of your garden-fresh herbs, and drizzle it over everything from summer salads, to grilled chicken and fresh fish.

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Infused oils. (iStock Photo.)

Herb-infused oils. (iStock Photo.)

Summer brings us so many wonderful fruits and vegetables. Whether it’s the berries of early summer or tomatoes and corn harvested later in the season, week to week there are always new things to grab at the farmer’s market. By mid-summer we should take advantage of the bounty of herbs surrounding us.

Making herb oil is a great way to capture the essence of an herb and include it in your dish in a more subtle way. Herb oils are infused with flavour and colour, and can be drizzled over just about anything, from hummus to salad, cold summer soups, freshly grilled fish and chicken.

Put your herbs to work and make some herb oil with these easy steps and recipes:

1. Pick your herb: Almost any herb can be used to make herb oil. The most vibrant shades will produce an oil with the deepest colour.

2. Blanching: A quick blanch of the herb will “lock in” the colour before you process it. A rule of thumb is to blanch any herb that discolours once it’s chopped (basil, mint, tarragon etc). Tougher herbs such as rosemary and thyme will benefit from blanching as it will tenderize them slightly before puréeing. Hearty bright green herbs such as parsley and cilantro can be used raw.

3. Clarity: Decide if you want a clear oil, free of any herb particles or one where the particles float in the oil. Both are very pretty. Clear oils will need to be finely sieved and take longer to make – but tend to be better for garnishes. Chunky oils are more suitable for salads or recipes where it’s mixed in.

4. Oils: Opt for oils that are light in colour and flavour. Stronger oils will mask the flavour of the herb and oils deep in colour will take on less colour. A blend of light olive oil with grapeseed or sunflower oils works very well.

5. Colour: If you want a bright green oil, you may need to add a colour booster . . . otherwise known as spinach. Add 1/2 cup packed spinach to the recipe to achieve the extra boost. This will subtly change the flavour, but will help balance the colour tone of the oil.

6. Seasoning: Spices, salt and pepper can be added to your herb oils to flavour them. If you prefer to make them more versatile, season small amounts with salt and pepper just prior to using them.

7. Storage: Adding anything raw – such as herbs or garlic – into an oil means there is the opportunity to introduce bacteria. Therefore, it is best to store herb oils in the fridge for up to 1 week.

Cilantro oil (raw)
Makes 3/4 cup

Ingredients

  • 2 cups packed cilantro
  • 1/2 cup light (in colour) olive oil
  • 1/2 cup grapeseed or sunflower oil

Instructions

  • COMBINE cilantro with oils in a food processor or blender. Puree. Pour through a fine sieve into a medium bowl discarding the solids. Cover and let sit overnight at room temperature.
  • SPOON any solids off the top then pour through a cheesecloth or very fine sieve to remove any residual solids.

 

Basil oil (blanched)
Makes 3/4 cups

Ingredients

  • 2 cups packed basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup light (in colour) olive oil
  • 1/2 cup grapeseed or sunflower oil

Instructions

  • BRING a medium pot of water to a boil. Prepare a large bowl with ice water.
  • DROP herbs into boiling water for 15 to 30 seconds until they just begin to wilt. Immediately plunge into ice water until cold. Drain and dry herbs completely.
  • COMBINE basil with oils in a food processor or blender. Puree. Pour through a fine sieve into a medium bowl. Cover and let sit overnight at room temperature.
  • SPOON any solids off the top then pour through a cheesecloth or very fine sieve to remove any residual solids.

Parsley oil (chunky)
Makes 1 cup

Ingredients

  • 1 cup packed parsley
  • 1/2 cup light (in colour) olive oil
  • 1/2 cup grapeseed or sunflower oil

Instructions

  • COMBINE parsley with oils in a food processor or blender. Pulse until chunky but not pureed. Transfer to a mason jar and store in the fridge.

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