A recipe for an herb oil doesn’t have to be a complicated thing. It can be! It can be difficult and nuanced and incredibly gratifying, but it certainly doesn’t have to be that way. The recipe I’m giving you here is for a simple and fresh oil with tons of color.
Feel free to substitute however you want! If you want something like tarragon and arugula to drizzle over grilled peaches, go for it! Cilantro and mizuna oil for shrimp? Do it! Scallion and tatsoi oil over fried tofu is awesome! Just change around the herbs and green until you get something that just sings in your mouth!
I like to use greens as well as herbs because the color becomes so richly intense. It’s also for the color that I blanch and refresh my greens. I talk about this a lot, but even with a great blender, pureeing the crap out of anything bright and fresh and vibrantly green darkens and dulls it until it gets to an unattractive brown goop. For a green oil, you want to release as much of the chlorophyll as you can, so you want to buy yourself whatever sort of safety net you can. By blanching and refreshing the greens, they become more stable to work with.
Another way to preserve the green color of any puree is to keep it as cool as you can. It’s a little tricky with oils, because they will get cloudy if they get too cold and they need to be room temperature to strain, but just paying attention to how hot your blender and working area are can go a long way.
- 1 # fresh basil, picked.
- 1 bunch fresh spinach, washed and trimmed. (Or about 1/2 of one of those small bags of washed spinach you find in the grocery store.)
- 1 qt oil (olive oil is great for basil oil, but for a lot of oils like cilantro or scallion, I prefer to use an oil with a more neutral flavor, like rice bran oil or grapeseed)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Have an ice bath ready (cold water with lots of ice in it). Briefly submerge your herbs and greens in the boiling water (about 5-10 seconds) until they are bright green in color. It’s better if you do the herbs separately from the greens. Immediately submerge them completely in ice water, stirring to make sure every leaf cools as quickly as it can. When cold, drain. Squeeze out excess water.
Grab some paper towels or a clean towel that doesn’t shed and squeeze out even more water from your greens and herbs. Get them as dry as you can! Chop them into smaller pieces.
Put 2-3 layers of cheese cloth or a coffee filter into a strainer and suspend over a container. If you don’t have either, paper towels work for this.
Put herbs and greens into the blender with your oil, salt, and pepper and blend well. You want to go as far as you can blending these together, being sure to stop before there is even a hint of brown. Watch the color!
Gently pour the mixture into the cheesecloth/coffee filter. Allow to drain. The basil oil should be draining very slowly through your filter, so don’t be surprised if this takes a long time. If it is draining slowly, you know that you will have a clearer oil with fewer sediments and deposits!
Keep your basil oil in a cool and dark place and use it on everything!