Sunday, September 21, 2008

Basil, Lemon and Tomato Oil

Many flavored oils are available in grocery stores, but I've never tried them. I've always suspected that much like the pre-mixes of Olive Oil and & Balsamic vinegar in the pretty jars that they are mostly for novelty, and not day to day cooking. This recipe came out of this book, which has begun to change my mind about things I've always considered too fussy and involved to try.

1/2 pound ripe tomatoes
1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cups packed fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
two 2 x 1-inch strips lemon zest

  • First step: Go buy new olive oil. I can almost guarantee that yours is rancid. People keep this stuff around for years, but you should really try to use it up in under six months. Store it in a cool, dark place. If olive oil is stored in sunlight it will go rancid very quickly.
  • Prep the tomatoes: Slice the tomatoes in half crosswise (through the equator) and squeeze out the seeds. Over a large bowl rub the cut sides of the tomatoes across a metal grater so that the flesh is coarsely grated but the skin remains intact. Discard Skin

  • Heat the oil and the flavorings together: Combine the tomatoes, oil, basil, garlic, and pepper flakes in a medium pan. Heat over low heat until tiny bubbles form around the herbs. Reduce heat to very low and cook 3 to 4 minutes longer. Stir in lemon zest.

  • Infuse, then strain: Remove from the heat and let infuse for at least 2 hours, or preferably overnight before using. Strain and spoon off any juices into a clean, dry jar.
That's all there is to it. No final picture unfortunately, but it basically just looks like slightly darker olive oil, though it has a much stronger smell. I've used this olive oil for shrimp, pasta, chicken, and even plain with bread, and it's very nice. It has a slightly different taste from regular olive oil, but none of the individual ingredients come through especially strongly - tomato comes through the most of all of them.

I want to try this again sometime, but maybe use more aromatic herbs. The books suggests Parsley, Thyme, Rosemary, Bay leaf oil - so that may be a start. This is the kind of thing that you can really experiment a lot with.