Sunday, December 12, 2010

Garlic-Infused Olive Oil

My week of being sick has involved a very determined cat on a serious mission to paw at the television screen whenever he is not distracted by yummy unfortunate moths.  This is what we have had to do to him, in defense of the television.

On a more culinary note, I keep meaning to post this recipe, but unfortunately I had to get rid of all my infused olive oil first before I could make any more!  I have been putting a leetle too much into pasta water lately, just to make that level sink a little more.  All in the name of blogging.  ;)

What do you do when you experiment with a new brand of extra-virgin olive oil (or any other kind of oil) and find that it just isn't good enough to sprinkle over salads, and that you wished you'd spent a little more money on some extra-expensive olive oil you'd actually use?  Well!  That's when you can infuse your own oil with very tasty results!

Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 bottle for the olive oil with a drizzling stopper top
1 funnel

Extra virgin olive oil, enough to fill the bottle.
2 cloves garlic
3 small Thai chili peppers (or 1/2 tsp chopped hot peppers of your choosing)
5-6 peppercorns.  I used sweet red ones, but feel free to go with white or black.
1 tsp herbes de Provence
Optional:  stalks of rosemary, lavender, thyme, basil, dill, a few cubes of ginger, Thai basil, etc...

Clean the bottle and its stopper well; dry upside down for awhile.  No one wants watery oil.

Lay your knife over the clove of garlic, flat side up, and bring your fist down on the blade to crack the garlic out of its shell.  Remove the shell; you should be left with a moderately smashed clove of garlic.  This is good; it will let the flavors infuse more quickly.  Pop the garlic cloves into the bottle.  If they do not fit easily, break or cut them.  DO NOT force them inside; this will make too-big cloves impossible to get out later.

Toss in the chili peppers and the peppercorns.  Place the funnel over the opening and add in the herbes  de Provence; it's much less messy this way.

Then, take the extra virgin olive oil and pour into the bottle through the funnel, leaving enough room for you to put the stopper in.  The olive oil will shake up the herbs, infusing everything with an amazing aroma and an even more luxurious taste.  Voila!

Use to drizzle over bread or to dip bread in as an appetizer, for salad dressings, for pasta water, for savory soups--for anything!  Except sweet things; don't use it with those.  It's too savory for that.

The brilliant thing about this recipe is that you can literally put in just about anything.  Last summer, I picked stalks of rosemary from my porch and put it, along with its pretty blue flowers, into the olive oil. You can put in anything from thyme to basil to dill to oregano to lavender.  You could even put in ginger, Thai basil, and Thai chilies and give yourself an option for a Thai-themed salad or stir-fry.  You could cheat with the chilies and throw in crushed red pepper flakes or just ground paprika or cayenne.  I'm sure you could toss in a bay leaf, a piece of star anise, or even a cinnamon stick.  You could add some toasted or raw walnuts for a flavor reminiscent of walnut oil!

You don't even have to buy gourmet olive oil for this to taste great; that's the beauty of it.  I usually buy about 54 oz. of the most inexpensive extra virgin olive oil I can find (in this case, $5,49 from Trader Joe's) and leave whatever I don't use at the back of my cabinet.  Do leave it in a cool, dark place, so it doesn't go rancid.

The best part is that it takes so little time:  all you need is olive oil, a funnel, and the insides of your pantry.  And it adds nothing in terms of fat/calories; you're still only enjoying the flavor of everything you put in, while the actual ingredients (except for ground herbs) stay safe and sound inside the jar, to be cleaned out when the oil is gone.  So easy.

When I don't add avocado to my salads, I love drizzling this over the top of mixed greens, bell peppers, raw fennel or corn, and fresh tomatoes, topped with some cracked peppercorns. and lemon juice.

Then, when you have gourmet olive oil infusing away on your countertop, take a moment, if you have an overenergetic kitty, and introduce him to the marvels of a slippery ice cube.  He will chase it like a chipper little chipmunk, and send you into some serious giggles.

ETA:  A lovely lady just suggested that these would make great Christmas gifts--infused olive oil in bottles!  I heartily agree, and they'd be even prettier with real stalks of the herbs inside the bottles instead of just crumbled herbs.  Food for thought!