Flavored oils and vinegars are a quick and easy way to add taste and variety to your recipes. Oils can be added to salads…brushed on grilled meats, fish or poultry…drizzled over soups…and tossed with pasta. Flavored vinegars add excitement to salads, marinades, sauces, rice dishes, sautéed greens and more.
I make these recipes with canola oil because it has a clear color, which allows the natural ingredients to shine, and doesn’t turn solid in the refrigerator. You can use olive oil if you prefer.
Careful: Flavored oil made with fresh ingredients can support the growth of C. botulinum, a dangerous bacteria. To be on the safe side, store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator and use within two to three days.
Lemon Basil Oil
Use for salads or drizzle over pasta.
2 cups basil leaves
1½ cups canola oil
2 Tablespoons lemon zest
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt
1⁄8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Bring a large saucepan filled with water to a boil. Add the basil leaves. As soon as the water comes back to a boil, drain the water and place the leaves on a tray lined with a paper towel. Squeeze the basil in the paper towel to drain more water. Place the leaves in a blender with one cup of the canola oil. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, salt and pepper to the blender. Blend until it becomes a smooth purée, scraping the sides of the blender as needed. Add the remaining half cup of oil, and blend again. Drain into a sieve, and press the oil from the basil. Pour the oil into a clean jar, tightly cover and refrigerate. Store in the refrigerator, and use within two to three days.
Use over rice or to sauté fish. Drizzle over cooked chicken or stir into soup.
1 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons curry powder
Pour the oil into a clean jar, and add the curry powder. Shake the jar well, and refrigerate for 10 hours or overnight. Pour the oil into another clean jar, leaving the curry powder in the bottom of the first jar. Store the oil in the refrigerator for up to one month.
Savory Vanilla Bean Oil
This adds flavor to shellfish or poultry dishes, or drizzle it over sweet potatoes.
1½ cups canola oil
1 vanilla bean pod
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Heat the oil in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer. Do not boil. Slit the vanilla bean pod in half lengthwise, and scrape the seeds into the oil. Then add the bean pod, salt, pepper and lemon zest. Mix well. Pour into a clean container, and tightly cover. Place in the refrigerator overnight. Remove the vanilla pod (the seeds remain in the oil), and bring to room temperature before using. Store in the refrigerator, and use within two to three days.
Vinegars, because of their high acid content, can keep in the refrigerator for up to six months.
Raspberry Mint Vinegar
Drizzle over fresh fruit such as pears and melon. Mix into mayonnaise, and use as a sandwich spread or in potato salad or tuna fish salad.
2 cups raspberries
1 cup fresh mint leaves
2 cups white wine vinegar
Wash the raspberries and mint leaves. Dry thoroughly. Squeeze the mint leaves to slightly bruise them. Place the berries and mint in a clean jar. Pour the vinegar into a small saucepan, and heat to just below boiling. Do not let the vinegar boil. Pour the vinegar into the jar, leaving about one-quarter-inch headspace. Cover tightly, and store in a cool, dark place for three weeks to develop flavor. Strain the vinegar into another clean jar through a cheesecloth or coffee filter two or three times, or until the vinegar is clear. A few fresh, rinsed raspberries can be added to the vinegar for extra color. Store in the refrigerator for up to six months.
Hot, Sweet Pepper Vinegar
The heat is up to you. Choose from very hot Scotch Bonnet to milder jalapeño peppers. The method is the same. Drizzle over soup just before serving, or sprinkle over cooked vegetables.
1 Scotch Bonnet or 2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and sliced
1 cup cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon honey
Place the pepper slices in a clean jar. Pour the vinegar into a small saucepan, and heat to just below boiling. Do not let the vinegar boil. Pour the vinegar into the jar, leaving about one-quarter-inch headspace. Add the honey, and stir. Cover tightly, and store in a cool, dark place for three weeks to develop flavor. Strain the vinegar into another clean jar through cheesecloth or a coffee filter two or three times, or until the vinegar is clear. Store in the refrigerator for up to six months.
Linda Gassenheimer, an award-winning author of several cookbooks, most recently, Fast and Flavorful: Great Diabetes Meals from Market to Table (American Diabetes Association). She writes the syndicated newspaper column "Dinner in Minutes." DinnerInMinutes.comDate: January 15, 2014 Publication: Bottom Line Personal