Basil Anchovy Caper Vinaigrette you will want to put on everything
I am loving the fresh herbs right now.
So let’s just get to the burning question before we move on. What is the difference between herbs and spices? Simply, herbs are the leaves of the plant which are used either fresh or dry where spices are from other parts of the plant ( seeds, bark, roots). Next time you won’t mistakenly call thyme a spice…how embarassing.
Herbs provide two very health-promoting constituents that are an added bonus to their color and flavor: flavonoids and volatile oils. Touted for their antioxidant properties flavonoids are pigments found in fruits and vegetables, which give them their distinct colors. Volatile oils give herbs their remarkable fragrance ( this is why you see those little old Italian women rubbing the basil between their fingers to release the smell). The flavonoids and volatile oils make these herbs “chemoprotective” foods, and in particular foods that can help neutralize some types of carcinogens (like the benzopyrenes that are part of cigarette smoke and charcoal grill smoke). These flavonoids and volatile oils work together with the vital nutrients -vitamin C, vitamin A, and folic acid- in the prevention of many diseases. All the nerdy stuff aside, cooking with fresh herbs give dimension to about anything you can think of. I have even been known to sneak them into deserts and drinks. A few thyme sprigs in your apple crumble and your friends will think you are a genius.
When choosing your herbs at the supermarket, select plants that are full, green, and vibrant with minimal discoloration. As for packaged herbs, color should be bright, even when dried. Store fresh herbs whole in the freezer (I use a paper bag inside a ziplock bag) for lasting freshness, running under warm water to thaw out the leaves before use in your favorite recipes. Even better, you can chop fresh herbs to fill up ice cube trays and cover with olive oil before freezing. Freezing herbs in oil will keep their color, infuse the oil with amazing flavor, and stock you will little flavor bursts to start your next dish.
If you don’t freeze your herbs you should use them quickly ( 3-4 days), especially the more delicate leaves like mint or basil. We came home with a gorgeous bunch of basil from the market last week and I remembered a favorite recipe for a dressing that I mixed with roasted root veggies. Blending the basil into a dressing at its peak preserved all of that amazing fresh basil taste.
Basil Anchovy Caper Vinaigrette
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves
- 5 tablespoons honey vinegar or balsamic
- 1 garlic clove-peeled
- 2 teaspoons capers- rinsed and dried
- 3 anchovy fillets ( for a veg option you can throw 4-5 dry black olives)
- 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- ground black pepper
Blend vinegar, garlic, capers, anchovy, and basil in a blender or food processor until smooth.
Pour oil in a steady stream while blending.
Season with salt and pepper, if needed.
This is amazing over fish and pairs well with a sweet contrast like roasted carrots or beets.