INFUSED OILS

Infused Olive Oils can cost a pretty penny, but they’re so easy to prepare, it doesn’t make sense to spend the money.  The flavoring options are limited only by your imagination!

The only rules are related to storing your oil, which I’ve addressed in this month’s Cosmic Muffin Kitchen Tip and you must start with good quality olive oil (you get what you pay for with olive oil).  And remember, infused oils are primarily best for flavoring, not for cooking.

First, the olive oil.  Why do I say, “You get what you pay for,” when it comes to olive oil?  Because you do and there are some confusing practices out there.

As you peruse the aisle in the market and see a label with a picturesque scene of Italy, Spain or Greece on the bottle, that doesn’t guarantee that’s where the oil inside is from.  Read the label.  Often the oil has simply been bottled at that serene location depicted on the label.  It may have been produced somewhere else, not as aesthetically appealing or agriculturally rich.  Another misconception is the purity of the oil.  I’m referring to location again.  By reading the label, you will see that the while picture or font indicates one origin, the oil is actually a mixture of olives from Greece, Spain and Italy, or other locations.

Once you’ve committed to an olive oil, you can play with different herbs, spices and aromatics to infuse it with.  Rosemary, Bay (Turkish not California), thyme and sage will impart a rather robust tone to your oil.  If you use say, chives, parsley, tarragon or chervil, you’ll create oil that’s near perfect for making vinaigrette for your salads and greens.  A pinch of curry or Chinese Five Spice makes for oil that can stand up to pasta and vegetables and still be heard.  Gingerroot or star anise, you’ll create excellent oil with some kick for chicken or fish.

Don’t think you have to stick with just one ingredient to infuse your oil.  A combination of garlic cloves (peeled but whole) and rosemary is one of my favourites.  A red hot chili pepper makes for a nice “pop” when drizzled over rice.

You can also use Grapeseed oil or peanut oil and infuse with a few cinnamon sticks, cardamom seeds, juniper or a few threads of saffron.

INGREDIENTS

— 2 cups good quality olive oil
— 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
— 2 whole cloves garlic – peeled

PROCESS

— Pour olive oil into a well-cleaned bottle w/tight fitting lid or cap.
— Add rosemary and garlic to bottle, then close with lid or cap.
— Place bottle in a cool, dark place for at least 2 weeks.
This infusion is wonderful drizzled over pasta, risotto or even atop polenta.

INGREDIENTS

— 2 cups good quality olive oil
— 3-5 whole star anise
— 3 sticks whole cinnamon

PROCESS

Pour oil into a well-cleaned bottle w/tight fitting lid or cap.
Add star anise and cinnamon sticks then secure lid or cap.
Place bottle in a cool, dark place for at least 2 weeks.
This infusion is particularly tasty drizzled on seafood and shellfish dishes.

INGREDIENTS

— 2 cups good quality peanut or grapeseed oil
— 4 Tblsp chopped dried red chilies + 2-3 whole ones
— 2 tsp ground cayenne pepper
— 1-2 Tblsp sesame oil

PROCESS

— In a medium skillet over very low heat, add the peanut or grapeseed oil and chopped chilies.  Allow to steep for at least 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.
— Once oil has cooled, whisk in cayenne and sesame oil.  Cover and allow mixture to continue infusing 10-12 hours.
— Strain through a sieve into a well cleaned bottle.  Add whole chilies then cap with lid.
— Store in cool, dark place.   This oil is good drizzled on pizza, especially grilled pizza.

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