Oil you lonesome, tonight…?

In food, one of the simplest concepts is breaking bread. Not only in Jewish traditions, but in all faiths. Breaking bread signifies new beginnings, sharing a meal with friends, and many more hidden secrets. To me, my favorite joy in being Jewish is saying the blessings before tearing the first piece from the challah and sharing it. There is no greater joy, as it’s such a personal act that brings people together. Even in fancier restaurants, breaking bread is considered a gourmet delight, and the bread is usually dipped in a spiced olive oil. Its this spiced olive oil that I look at this week, as we near shabbos. Often, I see bottles of herb-laced olive oil on sale for up to $100 a bottle! No, no, no! You do not have to spend this much money! No, never! So, tonight, I shall share with you how you can make herb-laced olive oil.

The first thing to remember, in making herb-laced olive oil, is the 8:0.5 ratio. In essence, for every 8 ounces of olive oil, you add in 0.5 ounces of herbs. This mix, when shaken, adds the right flavor to the olive oil without there being too many herbs to clutter the oil when poured into a bowl. As for the herbs themselves, we shall start with a basic mix of rosemary, oregano, and basil. This mix, in equal parts, added to a bottle of olive oil will be perfect for most breads. The best part is that you can either store it for later, or enjoy it right away! But, we don’t have to stop there!

There’s also the fun art of INFUSING olive oil! For this, I like to use extra virgin olive oil, myself, just because of the added purity. Now, in my home, we love garlic. So, for a nice garlic-infused olive oil, I’ll peel a whole bulb of garlic and pop all the bulbs into the olive oil. Then, using the same herb ratio as above (8 oz.:0.5 oz.), we add in the herbs and let it sit in the frige for 3-4 days before removing the garlic cloves and serving. (WARNING! Leaving the cloves in is fine, but if you leave the bottle out of the frige for too long if you opt for leaving the cloves in, THROW IT OUT!!! You could get Botulism! Also, the longer the cloves are in the oil, the more they’ll be infused.)

Of course, there’s other variations, both with herbs and with other vegetables and fruit, that can be added to the oil. In fact, you can even opt out of using olive oil and use another oil all together! For example, on the herbs, the sky is the limit. For example, let’s walk thro a dessert dipping oil:

Peach Cobbler in a Bottle

16 oz. Peanut oil
5-6 dried peach wedges
2 sticks cinnamon
1 oz. Freshly shaved Nutmeg

Taking the peach wedges, add them, the nutmeg, and the cinnamon sticks into a salable bottle.

VERY carefully pour the peanut oil into the bottle OVER the peach wedges and spices and cap the bottle.

Keep refrigerated for a week and serve with a dessert bread.

This oil goes great with some muffins, and the peanut oil adds just the right taste to have the same crust taste you find in peach cobbler itself. I even have a friend who likes to pour it lightly over pancakes and waffles! Go figure! But, there’s other ways to handle this, as well! Let’s say you have a big football party coming up, and want a little added kick for when you cook up some meat, or want to put some FIRE into your Asian cooking? Well, your friends and family may hate me for this, but it’s time to unveil my ‘special’ oil for spicy cooking:

Fire-Infused Oil
(Or My mouth’s on fire! Oy, Gevalt! WATER!!!)

16 oz. safflower oil
1 dried Habanero pepper (I use a dried red Savina, when I can get/grow them)
2 dried red Thai peppers
1 oz. Dried Cayenne Pepper seeds
1/2 oz. Crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 oz. Crushed green Jalapeno flakes (Optional)

First off, work in a WELL-ventilated room, ’cause its going to get hot in here!

Taking your oil bottle, pop in the whole peppers & pepper seeds/flakes. (If you wish to, you can opt out of using the green Jalapeno and instead cover the difference with the red pepper flakes.)

VERY carefully pour the oil into the bottle before sealing.

As this isn’t a monounsaturated oil like the olive oil or peanut oil were., you can actually keep this on a shelf until using it. I let it sit for about a MONTH to fully infuse the oil to the proper tear-bringing levels before using it for cooking a spicy stir-fry or any other dish that needs fire. The important thing I’m instilling here is to EXPERIMENT! Now, we’ve done a cooking oil, a dessert oil, but what about one that works equally well for dipping bread, tossing into salads, or even over pasta! Let’s finish off with a bang!

Artichoke-Infused Olive Oil
16 oz. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 cup diced artichoke hearts
1/4 oz. Oregano, dried
1/4 oz. Thyme, dried
1/4 oz. Basil, dried
1/8 oz. Rosemary, dried
1/8 oz. cilantro, dried

Taking ANOTHER oil bottle, add in the artichoke and herbs.

Add the oil carefully before capping.

Give the bottle a good shake to mix it up before tossing it into the fridge for 2 days (minimum).

This oil is wonderful for whatever your heart desires! Add it to salad with vinegar for a healthy dressing! Toss it into pasta and top with a your favorite cheese for a nice main dish in a dairy meal! Use it in cooking for a nice added flavor of artichokes and herbs! Pour it into a small bowl and dip bread into it! In closing, let’s look over the best herbs and spices to use in said experiments. Your best bet is to find herbs and spices that are dried, and that blend well together. Though, if you wish, you CAN use fresh sprigs of your favorite herb to infuse the oil with and supplement with dried spice mixes. Also, it’s best to use dried fruits, and vegetables with as little moisture as possible. This way, the flavor of the vegetables & fruits can best infuse the oil.

Also, as stated before, olive and peanut oils need to be refrigerated, but oils that are not monounsaturated (Like Saffron, sunflower, or other vegetable oils), they can be kept out in the open. The only exception to this, as I said before, is when using garlic or any other fruit/vegetable that has to be kept refrigerated. We don’t want sick families and friends! Until next time, Shalom and Good Cooking!

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May 19, 2006. canning, recipes.

2 Comments

  1. Zalika replied:

    OK, that peach cobbler one sounds just divine! And infusing oil with garlic? Definitely need to try that.

  2. Rebecca replied:

    wow. I kind of skimmed it because I am exausted but it looks so interesting!

    I made up an awesome dressing tonight- oriental vinegrette if you are interested.

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