Now that spring has arrived, I have devoted even more time to our garden and the herbs that we have been growing. To get as much use out of the produce growing on our property, as well as ingredients I tend to keep in my pantry, I infused olive oil using four different combinations. It’s a great way to make use of a variety of herbs, as well as other ingredients such as citrus, garlic, and peppers.
To infuse the oil, I simply heated it with the herbs and aromatics, let simmer gently for about five minutes, and bottled it once cooled. The amount of herbs completely depends on how potent you want the oil to be. I typically use about four sprigs of herbs per cup of oil, resulting in a delicate but still noticeable flavor. You can use any combination of ingredients, so long as they are appropriately infused. Soft herbs should be blended with the oil separately, whereas woody herbs and aromatics can be added directly to oil when heating. Aromatic ingredients, such as garlic and onion, can be lightly roasted in the oven to extract extra flavor before adding to oil for heating.
For the first combination, I used rosemary, mint, and orange rind, all from our very own garden.
For the second oil, I used roasted garlic, thyme, scallions, and ginger. I like to add the ingredients used to the bottle for presentation, and as a reminder of what’s inside.
The third infused oil included garlic, dry chiles, and basil. I love using this combination on meats, and to drizzle on pizza.
For the final oil, I used thyme, oregano, and rosemary from our garden. These oils add extra flavor and fragrance to all meals, making them great to have for multiple uses such as drizzling on meats, adding to salads, or just for dipping bread.
The weather in Southern California has been a bit chilly and intermittently rainy the past few days, making it ideal soup weather. I was craving something flavorful and hearty, without being too heavy, and tortilla soup quickly sprung to mind. I have been using this recipe for many years, and it is at the top of my comfort soups list. I love making a big batch of it on the weekend, and having some as a small side to meals throughout the week, or as a meal itself.
Ingredients: 3 tomatillos, 3 ripe tomatoes, 1 red bell pepper, 3 guajillo chilis (seeds removed), 3 garlic cloves, 1 white onion, 1 cornish hen (or 1/2 chicken), 1 bay leaf, 3 sprigs thyme, 2.5 quarts water, 10 tortillas, 2 cups canola oil, salt and pepper to taste. Optional toppings: avocado, cilantro, shredded cheese.
Instructions: Pre-heat oven to 375F. Cut the tomatillos, tomatoes, bell pepper, chilis, and onion into quarters and place on baking sheet along with whole garlic cloves. Roast in oven for 30 minutes, until all vegetables are soft and starting to brown. While vegetables roast, cut cornish hen (or chicken) into separate pieces, and put in large pot of water with bay leaf, thyme, and a dash of salt. Bring pot to a boil, and let simmer until hen is cooked through, about 15 minutes. Remove hen from pot, let cool, and shred meat off the bones using a fork.
Cut the tortillas into thin strips. Heat canola oil in a pot, and add tortilla strips in batches, cooking until each batch is crispy. Remove each batch from hot oil and place on dish to cool.
Remove roasted vegetables from oven, and let cool. Add all of the vegetables to a blender, along with some of the water from the pot, and a handful of tortilla strips, and blend until thoroughly liquified. Add the vegetable mixture back to the pot (you can do this by running it through a fine mesh sieve to avoid having too many seeds in the soup). Add the chicken back to the pot, and about 3/4 of the remaining tortilla strips, and bring back to a boil. Add salt and pepper to taste, and let simmer for at least 5 minutes. Serve hot with crispy tortilla strips, sliced avocado, cheese, and minced cilantro.