May 8, 2012
Game-changer, Tip #5: Infuse Your Own Oil
I have never spent money on a bottle of flavored oil. Each time I am tempted and catch myself grabbing the neck of a bottle to lift off the shelf, I am inevitably plowed over with sticker-shock. I'm left standing in the aisle, holding the bottle, jaw agape, thinking, I have oil and garlic at home - why should I pay $8 for this?
Chances are that you already have at least one type of oil in your pantry. And, if you're anything like me, a mind-bending collection of spices waiting in the wings, ready for their big shot in the spotlight. So, you're already prepared. Making your own flavored oil is a doddle. Ready in no time - they'll bring flavor to your life in a big time way. Taking five minutes to infuse your own oil is a game-changer. Your taste-buds will thank you for this one.
Warning: once you start making your own flavored oils, you might end up with a fridge full of them. It only takes one time. It's a highly-addictive habit.
Here's the scoop for the hot infusion technique, using fresh rosemary:
Pour 1/2 cup of olive oil into a pot - throw in a couple stalks of cleaned and well-dried rosemary. Let it steep over moderate heat. Strain and decant into a tightly sealed jar. Put it in the fridge for rosemary-flavored delights all week.
Instead of whole herbs, you can also experiment with aromatics such as garlic, lemongrass, shallots and fresh chilies. Or, try your hand at infusing peanut oil or more neutral grapeseed oil with whole spices like star anise, cardamom or coriander seeds. Looking for a little more citrus in your life?
I made a quick chili oil by infusing 1 Tbsp. of crushed red chili flakes with 1/2 cup olive oil - I intend to use it to make eggs this morning and on top of homemade pizza later this week.
Garlic oil is an obvious choice - call on it for a quick pasta sauce, as a dipping oil for bread, as the oil in which you saute veggies when staring your next soup, or to coat a roast chicken before placing it in the oven.
My last suggestion is a versatile lemon oil. Infuse oil with the zest of a lemon and top risottos, cous cous, fish or chicken for an extra layer of citrus essence.
Look at your spice cabinet. Look at your herb garden. Think of the possibilities.
A word to the wise: Anytime you add fresh herbs or veggies to oil you run the risk of accidentally also adding some unwanted bacteria to the mix. This is mainly due to their water content. Make sure all of the organic matter is strained from the oil before storing it & use it within a week, keeping it tightly sealed in the fridge.
The risks of bacteria are far less when using completely dried spices and herbs - although they don't last forever either. So your best bet, even with the dried spices, is to make a little bit at a time - enough to use within two weeks or so.