Herb Oils, Driftwood and Jungalow


As a young family, we were collectors. Not in the way you’re thinking. We collected old wood, worn rugs, bits and pieces from trash piles, broken pottery, old bones and just about anything handmade from a yard sale. Gifts we relished included bags of used stuff we called “IJ” (interesting junk) and brightly painted crafts from anywhere. Tables were draped with rugs, tapestries and hand-woven runners made in countries I could barely pronounce. Then dolloped with plates, driftwood, candles, carvings, old baskets with dried flowers. Everything was nestled in and around and on top… colors…textures…styles… like little shrines to our inner curiosity…everywhere you turned. It was driftwood and jungalow, but we were just trying to cover holes in the floor, cracks in the walls, stains, rips, tears, nicks and missing bits. If it broke, we layered it. I always loved that.

Both of my parents were creatives. Mom was an artist in the truest sense of the word. She struggled deeply and had a need to document her world through her art. Artwork was stacked and plastered throughout every room in the house. Driftwood and animal carcasses waited in corners or slept in and among carvings and hand-painted bowls. It was hard to run through the house simply because something interesting would catch your eye and grab your attention. You’d stop, and stare, and wonder...

"Just a few of mom's tiny collages. Some of them only a few inches wide.

Making a drawing as a kid, we had to cover every square inch of the paper. There had to be color. If it didn’t have vivid color, a story and a purpose, it simply wasn’t fridge-worthy. It wasn’t complete. Often our meals were served in the same way. If it was a simple pan-fried tofu, we talked about how it would crisp in the corners, the outer edges would be chewy and the center was soft and squooshy. Many dishes included surprise ingredients like flowers, weeds, raisins or prunes, nuts or intense fresh herbs. Flavors and textures you wouldn’t think to put together, yet created loving and delicious memories.
 
Yogurt wasn’t yogurt unless it was swirled into curry or made sweet and gritty with oats, bulgur and honey. One of my favorite memories was eating freshly made yogurt. During the summer we’d put large brown crocks of milk and starter on the roof to ferment all day in the heat of the sun. During the winter, we exchanged rooftop sun for the kitchen counter and it would sit and ferment for days. I remember the initial tang that melted into a smooth creamy froth in my mouth and ended mildly sweet. Everything was layered, everything had more than one texture, taste… memory, purpose. In my hurried adult life I don’t always have time to hand-pick flowers and herbs but I still crave layers.
 
After all, aren’t we all layered and complex?

Simple Herb Oils

The basic concept = 2-3 cups fresh herbs + 1/2 cup good quality oil + 1 TBSP acid + pinch of kosher salt. Process everything in a food processor until smooth. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
Start with two cups of fresh herbs like this dill and cilantro.
Shove it into a food processor with 1 TBSP of acid (like vinegar or lemon juice), 1/2 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil, and just a pinch of good kosher salt.
Process everything until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. You could even add a little zest from a lemon, lime or an orange! Keep your oil refrigerated in an airtight container for up to two weeks. (Oil will solidify in the fridge, just bring to room temperature and shake well before serving.)
 
Try some of these amazing combinations (but don't limit yourself...experiment!)
  • basil, mint, extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar and salt
  • cilantro, parsley, mint, grapeseed oil, fresh squeezed lime juice and zest, salt
  • tarragon, parsley, avocado oil, white wine vinegar, salt
  • sage, parsley, extra virgin olive oil, apple cider vinegar, salt
  • rosemary, dill, parsley, extra virgin olive oil, fresh squeezed lemon juice, salt
  • fennel fronds, rosemary, sage, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and zest, salt
  • dill, cilantro, white wine vinegar, lemon zest, salt
  • chives, cilantro, basil, orange juice and zest, salt
 
2-3 cups fresh herbs + 1/2 cup good quality oil + 1 TBSP acid + pinch of kosher salt

"The only thing of importance, when we depart, will be the traces of love we have left behind." - Albert Schweitzer

Start by trying some on your eggs. It doesn't matter how you like them cooked. From there the possibilities are endless! Try them:
  • drizzled on salad
  • swirled into balsamic vinegar as dressing
  • dropped onto avocado toast with ripe tomato and rich balsamic vinegar
  • swirled into soups
  • spread with mustard and mayo on your favorite sandwich or wrap
  • dolloped alongside fish, chicken or pork
  • drizzled on beans, grains or rice
Then smack your forehead cuz this stuff is amazeballs!

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