Garlic and Sage Infused Oil

It’s sage season, and our community herb garden has a patch of it that has overgrown its boundaries. Sage is no longer a polite little section of the garden. It’s grown to the point where it’s looming over other herbs, overtaking the space and is threatening to choke the oregano, parsley and thyme. It’s a rude herb that is a ‘close-talker:’ even our resident garden gnome now feels threatened.

Herb garden, now 90% pure sage. (Can you spot the nervous gnome?)

Herb garden, now 90% pure sage. (Can you spot the nervous gnome?)

There are the obvious options of using sage: Drying the leaves and keeping them until winter. Using the fresh leaves in the cavities of poultry, or crumbling the dried herb in stuffing. But infusing your oil is one of the best ways to keep the fresh summery taste of the herb.

Only two things frighten Herb The Garden Gnome: Having his natural habitat overun with sage, and botulism.

Only two things frighten Herb The Garden Gnome: Having his natural habitat invaded by sage, and botulism.

Botulism bacteria can grow in this type of environment, even in a sealed bottle.

Flavoured olive oils and dressings make great gifts, but botulism is a potential danger.  One potential danger involves putting anything in the oil that contains any trace of existing juices. That would include garlic, lemon peel, fresh peppers, and fresh herbs like sage.  The oil will not support bacterial growth but the moisture found in fresh herbs or vegetables will. Botulism bacteria can grow in this type of environment, even in a sealed bottle. There are three ways to avoid botulism.

  •  Mix all the ingredients, refrigerate them and use them within a week:
    This is the best way if you are using fresh ingredients such as fresh basil, fresh rosemary or garlic. Garlic is ideal for adding to pasta dishes, that you can then top with a little grated dry cheese. Fill a decorative 1-litre bottle with extra virgin olive oil. Add a clean head of garlic (whole if desired), and leave to marinade for a few days. You can also use lemon peel, fresh or dried peppers, ginger, rosemary sprigs, etc.
  • Use only dried version of the herbs and spices. Dry your citrus peel before infusing it olive oil, make sure your herbs are dry and crumbly before adding them to your cold olive oil. Strain out the herbs after a few days.
  • Fry your garlic and sage and use them with the olive oil that day – strain the solids out, and use the cooled version of olive oil within the week as well. It’s great on salads, and adds another subtle flavour to stir-fries.

It was garlic season, and having attended the annual Garlic Festival at Wychwood Barns in Toronto this weekend, I had quite the collection to play with. I’d eat garlic with garlic if it didn’t mean alienating everyone around me within a five kilometre radius.

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  1. Use your choice of garlic, and some fresh sprigs of sage. Generally, two tablespoons of herbs per cup of oil is a suggested measure.
  2. Toss your garlic and fresh sage into a sauce pan, and cover with enough olive oil to cover everything.
  3. Set your burner to medium-low heat (you’re not trying to cook the oil,) bring the heat up to 180°, let the oil cool, then strain out the sage and garlic.   This makes the oil infuse more quickly and reduces some of the risk of bacteria growth, but it can also leave the oil with a slightly “cooked” flavour.
  4. Use the cooked sage and garlic in a stir-fry or smear it across a slice of baguette.
  5. Pour the cooled oil into an attractive bottle and refrigerate. Remember, olive oil solidifies when refrigerated, so you may need an wide mouthed jar or bottle if you want some of the stuff fast.
  6. Enjoy!

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Laziest, Easiest and Most Elegant Dessert Ever

A bunch of friends dropped in unexpectedly, just as I was cleaning out the fridge. You know how it is: Offer them something appealing and in this heat, a frozen treat seemed sensible.

Problem? No ice cream – in fact, no sweets at all in the fridge or freezer.

My solution? I added some honey to plain Greek yogurt, and grated in a bit of lemon rind. Then, I smeared the works across a cookie sheet as evenly as possible. Dotted with fresh raspberries it looked pretty, so I put it in the freezer. The berries and the yogurt froze into a single sheet frozen yogurt bar.

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Breaking them off into organic chunks somehow makes this look more interesting. It also prevents “perfectionist stress:” No fuss about chipping a perfect rectangle, here.

Instead of slicing them into perfect squares or rectangles, I just broke them off into irregularly shaped shards, and placed them in a bowl. They looked like a crystalline formation, or Superman’s northern Fortress of Solitude.

Try it yourself with flavoured yogurt (no honey necessary) and any variety of seasonal fruit. I think this could be a fast solution for vegan friends who want another option to try with nut-based yogurt.

It can be as healthy or as sinful as you’d like to make it. Try experimenting with your favourite flavours or candy as add-ins.

Current price for Del Monte’s Frozen Yogurt Bars: (Price seen on GroceryGateway.com) $7.29 for 12 150ml bars.

Homemade: $1.99 plus a few cents more for honey,  and $2.00 for seasonal raspberries.

Try it yourself!

 

Affordable and Tasty Pink Salt – Tomato Skin Seasoning

My husband and I tried our hand at canning this weekend. You know, it being “Labour Day” weekend, and all, we actually thought it would be funny if we laboured. It was only when the temperature climbed past 30 degrees Celsius that we began to question our sanity. Who stands in front of a boiling stove in the heat of summer? Why?

The idea of putting fresh summer produce away for winter swayed us, that’s why. The romance of popping open a jar of summer-ripened tomatoes to recall the fragrance of sunshine on hot vines in the bleak cold of January seemed alluring. I fear the two of us are more likely to remember bickering over the hot water bath over the length of time boiling should take place to prevent botulism.

The canning ordeal finished, we were left with an abundance of tomato skins. I recalled an article that suggested drying the skins and crumbling them for flavour or colour in soups and such. I wondered if crumbling the tomato skins with sea salt, and herbs would yield a pink, tomato salt?

So many tomato skins...what to do with them?

So many tomato skins…what to do with them?

Flavoured salt isn’t new, but it’s a great way to put the skin to use. We laid out a parchment on a cookie sheet and baked them at 350 Celsius for 20 minutes to get them dry. Keep in mind, my oven is a slow one – anyone else’s may take as little as 15 minutes to get them toasty and dry.

Two standard cookie sheets yields less than 20 grams of dried tomato skins.

Two standard cookie sheets yields less than 10 grams of dried tomato skins.

The trick was to make sure the tomato skins were dry and crumbly, not the consistency of fruit leather. It took fiddling with the temperature and the time until the skins came out with the feel of crisp, papery parchment.

Once the dry skins were measured, we used an equal amount of coarse Kosher sea salt. Once they would be whizzed around in a food processor, the crystals would be ground down.

A view inside the food processor: Look how pretty the sea salt looks with the crystals.

A view inside the food processor: Look how pretty the sea salt looks with the crystals.

Once everything gets blended together, don’t worry if the mix looks a bit lumpy. Add some dried herbs of choice (I’d recommend oregano or rosemary) and put it in a cute glass container. It will make a heck of a seasoning in the dead of winter, or an impressive looking hostess gift in the colder months ahead.