LEMON, THYME AND BASIL VINEGAR

  • Updated: August 12, 2009 - 11:35 AM

LEMON, THYME AND BASIL VINEGAR

Makes 1 quart.

Vary this simple recipe with the combination of herbs listed below. Use orange in lieu of lemon; lime works well, too.

• 4 c. white wine vinegar

• 2 c. thyme sprigs

• 2 c. fresh basil leaves

• 1 long, continuous lemon peel (without the white pith)

Directions

Sterilize a 6-cup bottle (see directions at right).

Warm the vinegar in a saucepan to just below the boiling point. Rinse and thoroughly dry the fresh herbs and lemon peel. Put the herbs and lemon peel into the bottle and pour in the warmed vinegar.

Seal with a sterilized nonmetallic cap and allow it to cool. Place in a cool dark spot for about 2 weeks. Decant into smaller, sterilized bottles and add freshly washed, dried sprigs of fresh herbs to each bottle. Seal and store in a cool dark place.

Herb combinations

• Opal basil and peppercorns (these turn white vinegar a lovely shade of lavender)

• Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme

• Dill with lemon peel

• Chive flowers, chive and parsley (the flowers turn white vinegar pale pink)

• Basil, marjoram and garlic

• Tarragon in champagne vinegar (a French classic)

Vinegar choices

Use white wine or champagne vinegar with delicate herbs such as basil, thyme, and marjoram. Use stronger vinegars such as red wine or rice wine vinegars with sage, chives, rosemary, tarragon, and oregano.

BASIL OIL

Makes about 2 cups.

This lush emerald oil brings summer flavors to a late fall salad. It's wonderful drizzled on white beans, over poached chicken breasts, and tossed with pasta. You need not use the most expensive oil because the flavor of basil is dominant. It's important to blanch the leaves first to kill any bugs and bacteria before introducing the leaves to the oil. If strained into sterilized bottles, basil oil will keep for a month in the refrigerator.

• 2 c. basil leaves

• Medium bowl of ice water

• 2 c. mild olive oil

Directions

Sterilize bottles. (See directions at right.)

Blanch the basil leaves by submerging them in a pot of rapidly boiling water, then removing them quickly to dunk in the ice water. Dry the leaves thoroughly, then put both the leaves and oil into a food processor and purée for about 3 minutes.

Transfer to a sterilized jar and leave in the refrigerator for a week. Remove and allow the oil to come to room temperature so that it's more fluid. Strain through cheesecloth and then pour into sterilized bottles and seal.

Keep these in the refrigerator for up to two months. (Allow them to come to room temperature before using; then return to the refrigerator when done.)

CLASSIC BASIL PESTO

Makes about 2 cups.

This traditional pesto is just the thing for freshly sliced tomatoes, pasta salads, grilled chicken or fish. It freezes beautifully and makes nice gifts.

• 3 garlic cloves

• 1/4 c. pine nuts

• 2 c. fresh basil leaves

• 1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil

• 1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese

• Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions

Pound the garlic with the nuts in a mortar to make a paste. Add the basil leaves in small handfuls, continuing to pound and grind along with the oil, a little at a time, to make a rough paste. Stir in the cheese and season to taste with salt and pepper.

The pesto will keep in the refrigerator for a few days with a thin layer of olive oil on top, tightly covered. Or, put the pesto into small containers and freeze.

CILANTRO, MINT AND BASIL PESTO

Makes about 2 cups

Try this bright, flavored pesto on grilled fish and chicken, stir it into rice, and toss it with tomatoes and corn for a light, bright salad. Keep it a day or so in the refrigerator, or freeze.

• 3 garlic cloves

• 1/4 c. blanched almonds

• 1 c. basil leaves

• 1 c. cilantro leaves

• 1/2 c. mint leaves

• 1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil

• 1 to 2 tsp. lime juice, to taste

• Pinch red pepper flakes

• Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions

Pound the garlic with the nuts in a mortar to make a paste, adding the herbs by small handfuls and working in the oil, a little at a time, until you have a rough paste. Season with red pepper, salt and ground pepper. Put into a container, cover with a little more oil, then cover tightly and refrigerate. It will keep a few days, or freeze.

More pesto combinations

• Mint, parsley and walnut

• Parsley, thyme and pecans

HERB BUTTERS

Makes 1/2 cup.

Herb butters are easy and immensely versatile. Store them in the refrigerator or freeze in small blocks. Slather parsley garlic butter on warm rolls or bread, finish a steak with rosemary butter as it comes from the grill, stir cilantro mint butter into rice, toss basil butter with pasta. These are the hurried cook's best friend.

• 1/2 c. soft butter

• 2 tbsp. to 1/4 c. chopped fresh herbs

Directions

Allow the butter to come to room temperature. Work the herbs into the butter using the back of a spoon or your fingers. Shape into a log and wrap in waxed paper, then refrigerate until firm. To freeze, wrap the log in plastic first.

Herb butter combinations

• Dill and 1/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest

• Thyme and parsley

• Mint and cilantro

• Rosemary and orange zest

SEASONED SALT

Makes 1 cup.

Jars of salt, seasoned with your own dried herbs, make wonderful gifts and are handy to have around to perk up flavors of just about any dish. Here's the ratio, but vary it to your own tastes. Use coarse or kosher salt so that the herb flakes are about the same size as the salt crystals.

• 2 to 3 tbsp. dried herbs

• 1 c. coarse salt

Directions

Mix the herbs with the salt and store in clean, airtight containers.

Salt combinations

• Rosemary and marjoram

• Tarragon and peppercorns

• Sage and pink peppercorns

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