Oh, I mean Portland, Oregon! Yes, that is a rosemary plant in full bloom that’s close to 4×4; that’s feet, not inches! Here these Mediterranean herbs are long lived perennials which become shrubs, unlike the puny annuals I try to grow in a single short season back home in Colorado. This week and next, I’m in Portland playing grandma to my first grandson! My timing was good as we’re enjoying lots of sunshine and warmth. For those of you familiar with the Pacific Northwest, early spring weather tends towards cool, cloudy, damp, drizzly or worse, so I’m feeling lucky (leftovers from St. Patrick’s day?)
The Cook the Book Fridays Club made a flavorful artichoke tapenade with rosemary oil from the appetizers chapter of David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen book. Making the rosemary oil was the most interesting part of the recipe for me, although I had my own ideas of how to infuse and color the oil. The recipe called for two fresh herbs, rosemary of course for aroma and flavor, but parsley to impart a green hue to the olive oil. I followed the instruction to briefly blanch and shock a handful of parsley, which breaks the cell walls by a quick dip in boiling water, followed by one in iced cold water to stop the cooking. But rosemary is one of those sturdy resinous herbs I like to call “piney” (like pine trees). So I decided to strip off the leaves (they remind me of pine needles) and mince them up with a chef’s knife, and the heady smell of rosemary reinforced my decision.
The minced rosemary went into the still cold olive oil in a small pot, which I then slowly heated until I could hear the slight sizzle of the fresh herbs in the hot oil, probably just below the boiling point of 212℉ and immediately turned off the heat. Meanwhile I had patted the parsley leaves dry in a clean towel and minced them up as well. I added them to the hot oil, gave everything a quick stir and then let the mixture rest overnight. This way I maximize the extraction of color and flavor using gentle heat, longer time and a large surface area (mincing the herbs). Science lesson over! 😉
The next morning I strained the oil and made the artichoke, green olive and caper spread. The olives were not pitted, but a hard smack with the chef’s knife (like for crushing garlic cloves) makes it easy to get their seeds out. And we had both vinegar brined and capers in salt, so I used a little of both (flavor-wise, I think I prefer salt-cured capers, but they can be harder to find).
For Saturday brunch we made a savory version of waffles very reminiscent of socca as a vehicle for the tapenade (per Wikipedia, farinata, socca, torta di ceci or cecina is a sort of thin, unleavened pancake or crêpe of chickpea flour typical of the Ligurian sea coast of Italy). Perfect!