Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Herb-Infused Butter and Oil

Wow!! It sure has been a long time since my last blog post! I would like to sincerely apologize to all of my readers for my absence. For quite a while after I started my new job, I was working 60 hours a week, it went back to normal for a couple of weeks, and then I was right back to working 60 hours again. Not only did my blogging suffer, I no longer had the time or energy to go to the gym and I gained back 20 of the pounds that I had worked so hard to lose.  :-(  But, I left that job, as a result of several issues I had with the level of cleanliness in the kitchen (or lack thereof) and the way the owner and management treated the other employees, so am taking some time to recoup from the long work weeks and get back into doing everything I was doing before!
Funny enough, I actually had this blog post typed up and ready to go last week, was just waiting until I took some more pictures, but Microsoft Word crashed and lost the entire document. Strangely, the two documents I typed up AFTER that were saved just fine, but I didn't have a single word of what I had typed up for this. I looked in all of my temporary files and Recovery files, to no avail. Since then, I've been kind of busy, so it took me a little bit to remember everything I had said so that I could type it up again. Stinkin’ technology, it always fails when you need it most!
This blog post is really special to me. Not because of the recipe included, but because it’s the first one I've done in a long time and I've learned a lot about one of the local businesses in the Green Bay area, and I am excited to share it with all of you!

Ledgeview Gardens has been around for several years, and they have some of the best, freshest produce I've eaten. In the summer months, they have plenty of garden space outside and grow a plethora of fruits, vegetables, and herbs in addition to the farm fresh eggs and free-range chicken they sell. I can even buy my squash blossoms from them, instead of scouring the entire market only to come up empty-handed! But, the very best part about Ledgeview Gardens (for me anyways) is that they also have a fair amount of fresh produce even in the wintertime!! After the regular growing season, until around Christmas, you can buy red and yellow beefsteak tomatoes, red and yellow cherry tomatoes, pole beans, a couple varieties of lettuce, garlic, basil, parsley, English cucumbers, winter squash, three different kinds of sweet potatoes, the farm-fresh eggs, and the free-range chicken. After Christmas, they close down to clean out the greenhouse and getting everything ready for the next growing season, and then you’re able to start buying fresh produce again in the middle of May. I don’t know about anyone else, but I am always thoroughly disgusted with the “fake tomatoes” they sell in the supermarkets, so this place is a godsend for me!

As if it wasn't enough that they have this stuff available, their customer service is stellar! The first day I actually drove out to their farm, Darren was kind enough to show me around their facility and explain to me how everything works. Then, I brought my neighbors later that day, and he also gave them a tour and talked to them about everything he had talked to me about earlier. This was especially great, because my neighbors and I had just been talking about cleaning out my spare bedroom and making it into a greenhouse, so that we could have all kinds of fresh vegetables all year long. We had thought we were going to go with a soil method, but after talking to Darren and his dad, Joe, we’re looking at alternative methods – hydroponics and aquaponics. They use the hydroponic method in their greenhouse for the off-season months, and so they were extremely knowledgeable about what we could do in our homes in, but they also know about aquaponics and have been very helpful in helping us to understand what we need to do to get ready for all of it. I have since been there a few times, and they are always happy to answer any new questions I have about setting up a system in my own home and pointing me in the right direction to go about finding the supplies I’ll need.
If you are in the Green Bay area, I definitely recommend looking up Ledgeview Gardens! However, in the summer months, they are much more easily accessible, as they also sell their produce at a couple of the farmer’s markets. But, they are also happy to have you come out to their farm. The only thing I can think of that would make them better… If they started making and/or selling real bacon!  ;-)

What better way to showcase the fresh basil I bought at Ledgeview Gardens than to infuse it in some butter and oil to use later?! I love infusing herbs into oil, because they last a little bit longer and you can drizzle them on top of many kinds of dishes to complement their flavors. This would be great for another recipe I was going to be making...

¼ lb. (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
½ c. olive or canola oil
Fresh basil, cilantro, parsley, etc.

For the butter: Place the softened butter in a small bowl. If using basil, stack all of the leaves together, roll them up, and cut them into a chiffonade; for other herbs, roughly chop them. Add the herb/herbs to the butter and mix to thoroughly combine; add more herbs, to taste, if you would like more of the flavor. The butter can be used right away or stored in the refrigerator to maintain freshness.
For the oil: Place the leaves of whichever herb/herbs you’re using in the jar of a blender, pour the oil over the leaves, and pulse the mixture until the leaves are chopped into small pieces. If you want more herb flavor, add more leaves to achieve the desired flavor.