Herbal Ecstasy for Healthy Eating

By Ellen Swandiak / September 10, 2011

Create your own Herbal Ecstasy…this is a great method for preserving excess herbs that you’ve grown or bought allowing you healthy eating whenever you like. My dear friend, Maya, has been doing this for the past five seasons, allowing her to enjoy her garden spoils throughout the year. As a bonus, the herbs’ fresh-tasting flavors get more intense as time passes. She makes three different herbal batches: an equal mixture of oregano, thyme, and sage; a basil batch; and a rosemary batch. Use them in salad dressings and marinades, and of course, when cooking. The rosemary is heavenly spooned on steamed or roasted potatoes, the basil is a nice surprise in mashed potatoes, or tasty on a green bean salad.

Maya’s Method

Harvest herbs early or late in the day when they are cool, to avoid wilting.

  1. Herbs must be thoroughly dry before you begin, since it is water that causes spoilage. After washing, remove excess water with paper towels, then spread herbs out for an hour or until all of the water evaporates. (It may not be necessary to wash the herbs from your own garden, use your judgement.)
  2. Strip the leaves, discard stems. Mince the herbs as finely as you can. This will release the most flavor into the oil. Maya likes using a “mezza luna” knife (a curved Italian blade with a handle at each end that allows you to rock back and forth).
  3. Spoon herbs into small Mason jars leaving about 1/2 inch from the top, then fill with olive oil (use cooking, not extra-virgin). Let the jars stand for an hour or so, topping them up as the oil is absorbed. There should be a 1/4-inch layer of only oil at the top, which will act very much like a wax seal.
  4. Label and refrigerate the jars. When using, spoon out what you need, and be sure to cover any exposed herbs with additional oil. Don’t worry if you leave the jars out of the fridge and the oil liquefies, this will not cause spoilage, but do remember to put them back in the fridge when you’re finished cooking.

Herbal Cocktails

Mixologist Junior Merino, a.k.a. The Liquid Chef, is devoted to quality ingredients in his creations. His cocktails are a true balance of all the elements, never too sweet or too overpowering. He has created the most elegant and unique cocktails for restaurants and events in the U.S., Mexico, and Japan. For a refreshing change, try these two Cachaca cocktails. If this whets your whistle, check out www.theliquidchefinc.com.

Thyme for a Change

  • 4/6 of a lime
  • 1/3 of a kiwi
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs, plus one sprig for garnish
  • 3/4 oz. Simple Syrup
  • 2 ozs. Leblon Cachaca
  • 1 oz. Club soda

 Muddle the first four ingredients, then add Leblon, shake and double strain over ice and one ounce of club soda.

Kaffir Lime Cardamom Caipirinha

For the infusion:

  • 17 green cardamom pods
  • 34 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 liter bottle of Leblon Cachaça

 To a 1-liter bottle of Leblon add the green cardamom pods and kaffir lime leaves. Allow it to infuse for 24 hours.

For the drink:

  • 1 lime
  • 1 oz. simple syrup
  • 2 ozs. of the Leblon Cachaça infusion
  • kumquat flower for garnish, optional

  Muddle the lime and syrup, then add the infused Leblon, ice, shake and pour into a double rocks glass. Garnish with a kumquat flower and kaffir lime leaves.

 John Pomeroy also puts his full creativity, plus only the freshest, optimum ingredients into his cocktails. In addition to consulting and education, he tends bar at the Hideout Speakeasy in Brooklyn, New York. Next time you’re in the mood for some spicy Thai food, make this cocktail, with its great blend of island flavors. If you’d like to learn more, contact him at cocktailcollege@gmail.com.

The Manzanilla

  • 1 1/2 ozs. Mekhong
  • 1oz. coconut water
  • 1/2 oz. Castries Peanut Rum Crème
  • 1/2 oz. fresh-squeezed lemon
  • 1/4 oz. fresh-pressed ginger juice
  • 3 leaves Thai basil, plus sprig for garnish

Shake all ingredients and double strain into frozen cocktail glass. Garnish with basil sprig and a dash of cayenne pepper.

A Gin of Distinction

This gin changed my mind about drinking gin, which I have traditionally shied away from. Twenty-something Master Distiller, Robert Cassell, created the single-batch distilling method in custom copper pots after schooling with Scottish experts. Only local, certified organic botanicals are used, resulting in a different flavor profile from the British formula. Here, the citrus notes are dominant and the American juniper has a subtler, less “piney” taste. Substitute Bluecoat for rum in your next mojito, for a thrilling re-make.

Ellen Swandiak
Ellen Swandiak

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