In the restaurants I’ve worked at, “green” is a colloquial term for any herb-infused oil. As in, “Hey, my puree is dull, do you have some green to share?” If your spring onion soup looks a bit pale, “green” will save it. Have five minutes to come up with a special, and it needs a little pop? Drizzle that green, baby.
In a penny-pinching industry where product cost can affect the entire restaurant’s bottom line, there is no room to waste herbs. That's why many New American restaurants often turn them into herb oil. It’s one of the most eye-catching items one might come across in the walk-in pantry.
You can make this, too, especially when you have a few random herbs getting limp in your refrigerator. With a little neutral oil, a pinch of salt, and about 30 minutes, you’ll reap the rewards for weeks to come.
Now, I know “blanching” can send even the most seasoned home cook into a dither. Yes, it adds a whole other pot to your dinner preparation, but blanching the herbs—that is, dunking the herbs in boiling salted water and then immediately in ice water right after—is essential for color. If what you want is a GREEN thing, you must blanch and shock. You will end up with a little ball of the herbs after squeezing all the water out with a towel or paper towel or your hand. Throw it in a blender.
As for what herbs you can use, any soft, fresh herb will work (basil, parsley, chives, oregano, dill, or cilantro, for example). What maximum green with a mild taste? Use parsley, which is not as punchy as basil or cilantro. (Pro tip: Try making a combination of parsley and mint, using 60% parsley. Your ricotta-topped toasts will thank you.) Want to use up all your old herbs? Throw them all in. Experiment, tasting as you go. Get crazy. Once you’re done blending, strain the puree through cheesecloth or a strainer. This takes about 30 minutes. When you're done, save the oil in a jar or a cruet and use generously.
Put This On Toast & Add "Green"
Because you blanched, this herb oil will not lose its color after a few days, but will stay green for at least a month. However, a base rule with leafy herbs—unlike woody herbs like thyme or rosemary—is that they are used for finishing. Adding heat saps the flavor, so you want to don’t want to cook food in this oil, but simply top off foods, like roasted vegetables or crostini or pasta or vinaigrette or grilled meat (...), with your emerald green herb oil.
- 4 cups loosely packed fresh herbs (only leaves, no stems) - use any combination of soft fresh herbs (see headnote for some options)
- 1 cup canola oil or grapeseed oil
What's going in your emerald green herb oil? Let us know in the comments!