In summer, I am constantly using olive oil and vinegars, often in salads or with fish, and frequently over fresh cheeses like the goat and ricotta I showed you recently. I mentioned a quick drizzle of olive oil on top of several plates….. I can highly recommend using an olive oil which has been infused by you, as a conversation starter as well as an excellent taste at your table. For a base, I use a lot of Akram’s cold pressed Arbequina oil, but I also use the premium Trader Joe’s olive oil, the one that has the pour spout with it. I have tried their other brand, and it doesn’t have the flavor I want, but this one is great, especially for $8~
Infused with fresh or dried herbs, olive oil in summer takes on a different taste. As for herbs, you will find dried blends of herbes de Provence all over France, and in the U.S. It’s a rather generic name now, for any blend of herbs that are typical of Provence: usually a blend of thyme, savory, oregano, rosemary and other herbs. In France you will find various blends; in Paris I found a blend with fennel and lavender (for fish) and another “classic” blend.
But if you live in a warm climate where you can grow your own herbs, you can make your own fresh herbes de Provence blends. Next time you grill a fish or meats, try a little herb on the grill; I often throw generous branches of fresh rosemary into the barbeque or put the fresh branches under fish on the grill. Today though, I want to show you how to put this great summer flavor into olive oil, and a certain vinegar. Let’s start with the olive oil: a Provencal style olive oil that you can use to finish fish or grilled vegetables, and also as an amazing dipping sauce for breads. Here is my mis en scene~
I bought fresh winter Savory for $1 at the Corona del Mar farmers market; summer savory has a lighter flavor, but buy what you can and use slightly less winter Savory if you find it. Rub the leaves between you fingers and you will smell the fragrance of this often overlooked herb.
Savory is said to be medicinal, and perhaps heal respiratory ailments. I’m sure it can’t hurt you. It smells wonderful. In France this is called Sarriette.
I also set out fresh thyme, rosemary and three sprigs of lavender from the garden, as well as a lemon from our tree. A few fresh chilis and pink peppercorns rounded out this batch. You can vary the mix of herbs, and you can also use dried herbs, but for gifting infused oil, the fresh herbs are best. Wash the herbs and let them dry.
The fresh peppercorns from the Savory Spice Store give the finished oil a little bite and a dash of color in the bottle~
And I add a little bit of lemon zest, for the antiseptic properties of the lemon as well as the lemon tang I love~
I used the Provencal wine bottle from Trader Joe’s I showed you a few weeks ago; make sure the bottle is clean (sterilize it in boiling water) stuff the herbs into the bottle, and top off with the olive oil.
Depending on how you layer your herbs, the bottle will look something like this; pretty~
You could omit the chilis, and use black peppercorns; use what you have and what you love~
Let this mix sit for about two weeks, up to a month or more, in a dark place away from direct sunshine. You can filter this and put in a new bottle with fresh herbs if you want to gift the finished oils.
But what is olive oil without a good vinegar? Each summer for 20 years I have made this bottle of tarragon vinegar; I love it. If you don’t grow tarragon, which I find rather tender and I have never had luck growing, use a package of organic tarragon from the market for about $3. Wash it and be sure it is completely dry. As for the vinegar, I am free-styling it today, with a mix of Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar, Akram’s Champagne Vinegar, and household vinegar. Most recipes will tell you to not use household white vinegar, but I use it if I have a base of other good vinegars; otherwise use White Wine Vinegar. But to fill a bottle with white wine vinegar can be expensive, so I like a blend of what I have on hand.
You can bruise the leaves a little, and some recipes call for heating the vinegar. I find the leaves get bruised enough just putting them in the bottle, and I pour the cold vinegar on top~
Today I added just a few pink peppercorns for contrast, and a zest of lemon. Again, for the antiseptic qualities as well as the color~
Cork the bottle and set aside.
One day later, I smell the amazing aroma of tarragon. This will go into sauce Bearnaise as well as summer salads~
If you gift this, look for old pour spouts like these, with a cork~
I promise you that gifting a pair of these bottles is a sure hit with any summer hostess~
Mine would go in the French caddy~
tie a sprig or three of lavender on to these, or maybe a sunflower; you are in the summer mood straightaway. This would also look nice at a picnic or set on a lunch table, with the pour spouts so diners could pour their own oil & vinegar~
You can strain the oil or the vinegar, and add more fresh. I love this~~~
Buy two-bottle carriers whenever you can~
Set these up if you can in the next few weeks to enjoy the peak of summer flavor. Once the oil and vinegar are infused, you can strain the fresh herbs and use these until they run out.
Enjoy, and let me know how you like these~