Lush herbs and ripening "fruit"

The basil at the farm is so lush and prolific, you almost want 
to dive in and bury your face in it. 
Besides the beautiful leaves, the scent is certainly intoxicating enough to do that. 
Happy times at the restaurant as this and the other herbs 
from the farm begin to proliferate. 
Our chefs rely on fresh herbs so much that in addition to 
what we grow at the farm, we of course have planted herbs at all the restaurants,
 including our new culinary event space, Suite D

basil in herb beds at Suite D
It is so great in summer to go outside and pick fresh herbs 
or easily get them at the farmer's markets. 
We wait all year for this time and then we want to "bottle it," 
so we can have that experience year round. 
There are a lot of great tips for freezing fresh herbs so you have them 
later to enliven your cooking. 
And making herb-infused oils is another idea we recommend. 
There are tips on creating herb-infused oil in Sondra's book, 
or here's a recipe courtesy of Once Upon a Plate

The ratio of olive oil to flavoring ingredient is one cup of oil to two cups of tightly packed soft leaved green herb. Since herb infused oil should be used within a week, don't make too much— maybe use 1/2 cup of oil and one cup of herbs.

Fill a large bowl with ice water, set aside.

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add the herbs, blanch for 5 seconds (make sure the leaves are submerged.) Drain into a strainer and immediately plunge the herbs into the bowl of ice water until cold. Drain the herbs well and squeeze out all liquid.
Puree in a blender with olive oil (blender works better than a food processor here.) Strain puree immediately through a fine-mesh strainer. Strain again through three or four layers of cheesecloth (rinsed in clear water and squeezed dry before straining the herbs.) Put the oil in a sterilized glass bottle, cover tightly and refrigerate. For best flavor, use within one week
This technique can be used for making infused oil whether the ingredient is basil, rosemary, oregano, garlic, chiles, chervil, chives, cilantro, mint, mushrooms or citrus fruit. 
And an important tip: It is imperative that no fresh herbs (or any other flavoring ingredient you are using) are added back into the oil before bottling because this could introduce the risk of the food borne illness, botulism.

Now that we are seeing the tomatoes starting to tease us at the farm, 
it will soon be challenging to think about doing anything with the basil 
other than tossing it with these heirlooms once they are ready, 
but we still have a little time until we are in "tomato heaven..."

heirloom tomatoes at the farm
tomato starts at the greenhouse in April
tomatoes at planting party in May

So while you wait for the tomatoes to ripen, go ahead and 
try making some herb oil this summer with herbs from your garden.
And then, in a few weeks you can drizzle the luscious oil 
over the tomatoes and basil!

Also, soon to appear on our restaurant menus is eggplant. 
We are growing several at the farm including 
Listada de Gandia, Rosa Bianca, Black Beauty and Aswad
photo by Steven Krause
first of the Black Beauty eggplants at the farm
Aswad is the Arabic word for eggplant. 
We are especially excited about planting this one.
Available from Iraq, this season is the first time 
these are available in the United States
A very heat tolerant fruit, we expect this eggplant variety to fare very well in Sonoma 
(like tomatoes, an eggplant is really a fruitin fact many vegetables 
are considered fruitscheck this out).
Aswads are dark and satiny, almost black and can weigh up to 3 pounds! 
They are perfect for grilling or baking. We wonder what the chefs will do with them?

 This Aswad eggplant will soon be over 3 lbs!
Aswad eggplants growing behind ESTATE
And, talking about proliferationin last week's post, we talked about 
preparing for Fall with our planting of winter squash in the lower beds. 
Beginning of Autumn plants side by side with our Summer bounty. 
Well, the chefs may be incorporating those squash into menus sooner than we thought: 
Look how much growth occurred in just a week!

Check back at this blog to see what is growing next week 
and what the chefs have created with the gems 
they found at the farm this week.

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