Something green + cheese + nuts + garlic + oil + salt (maybe some acid). It’s hard to imagine an easier flavor booster than pesto. And yet, in her newest book about all the green stuff, author Olwen Woodier has streamlined the formula even further.
“Besides making pestos and pastes year-round from my backyard herbs and greens, I also puree herbs with oil, salt, and pepper to make a basic seasoning,” Woodier writes. “These oil purees are often my lifesavers at the end of a busy day.”
Her usual ratio is two cups of herbs to one cup of olive oil with 20 to 30 twists from the sea salt and black pepper mills. For a thinner version, increase the oil by 1 /2 cup.
“I may use a single herb, or I’ll combine compatible flavors, such as cilantro and basil; mint and parsley; mint and basil; cilantro and parsley; or sage and thyme,” she says. “Use your harvests and taste buds as your guide.”
However, Woodier doesn’t add garlic.
“According to researchers at the University of California at Davis, adding only oil to garlic can trigger the growth of botulism spores if they were present in the soil in which the garlic bulbs were grown,” she writes. “The addition of acidity, in the form of vinegar or citric acid, kills off any threat of botulism, so storing pureed garlic in a pesto, paste, or vinaigrette is okay, especially if refrigerated. It’s simple enough to add minced or sliced garlic to whatever dish you’re making with one of these oils.”
Woodier uses her herby oils as the base for stir-frys, dip for bread, or simple marinades for meat and vegetables. In the refrigerator, the purees become solid, but soon liquefy at room temperature. Rather than “thawing” one big jar, Woodier stores small batches in separate containers.
Inspired to try your own? Here are some dishes that lend themselves to an herby boost:
Would you use herby oils or just make pesto? Share your thoughts in the comments below!