Working with aromatics and essential oils is my business as a Maker. I love creating new combinations for the aromatherapy benefits, and for the allure of the scents that are possible as well. I am also an avid home cook and gardener, with a large herb labrynth garden, several perennial flower gardens and seasonal vegetable garden. I use these in my home kitchen as well as in my professional kitchen to create my signature bath and body products.
Combining aromatics with the bounty of the gardens to create some wonderful recipes is another passion I have discovered thanks to some inspiration from Mandy Aftel and Daniel Patterson, authors of “AROMA” published by Artisan. It is a lovely book exploring “The Magic of Essential Oils in Food & Fragrance”.
We are all familiar with the phrase, mmm that smells good enough to eat. Well let me just say that working with aromatics, herbs and edible flowers in the kitchen is the epitome of those words. Having essential oils as a part of your pantry is like having an herb garden in full bloom 365 days of the year!
Because of the strength of essential oils, they must be used sparingly and wisely and always diluted before applying to the skin or being using in the kitchen. The best way to do that in cooking is by using fat, which will also fix the flavor. You can make flavor-infused oils by adding a few drops to a fruity olive oil, safflower oil, peanut oil or any favorite cooking oil. Never use them “neat”, or straight from the bottle, on your skin or in your food.
I have made infused oils for my bath and body products using both fresh herbs as well as essential oils. When you don’t have fresh spearmint, rosemary or basil at hand in the kitchen, the pure essential oil comes to the rescue. Or, if you want an extra burst of flavor for vinaigrette, adding a few drops of lime, orange or lemon essential oil to your carrier oil and fresh squeezed juices gives it a phenomenal kick!
One of my favorites is a Fennel and Avocado Salad with a herb citrus vinaigrette. 4 cups of shaved fennel, 1 ½ cups of blood orange segments (6 oranges), 6 cups of a spring greens mix and 4 sliced avocados. For the vinaigrette you need ¼ cup fresh squeezed blood orange juice, 2 tsp of a white wine vinegar, and ¼ cup of infused rosemary/blood orange olive oil. Use about 3 drops each of Essential oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Tarragon and Lavender are at home in my kitchen too. A classic poached chicken gets a lift from a few drops of Tarragon essential oil in addition to the fresh herb. Roasted chicken perfumed with fresh lavender and basted with Lavender infused butter is divine. Tuna Tomato Tartare gets a lift from a bright Lime and Dill dressing and a simple cream of asparagus soup is infused with Mint and Basil .
My love of roses finds a place in a simple dessert of strawberries marinated in Rosewater. Two Tablespoons of Rosewater to Ten cups of strawberries, a sprinkle of sugar and a sprig of mint – Wow! Here I only use fresh rose petals to create the rosewater, not the essential oil. I choose only edible roses – Rosa damascena, Rosa centifolia and Rosa gallica. 1 cup of petals to 2 cups distilled water. Simmer this for 20 minutes, let it cool and then strain into a glass jar. Adding 1 tsp vodka will preserve the rosewater longer.
Whatever your favorite herbs are to use in the kitchen, you can always find more in the garden. Lemon Verbena Lemonade anyone?