Cooking a nice meal is so easy once you know how to do it, but the biggest thing that discourages learning how to is not having the right tools available. These first couple of columns are going to concentrate on cooking essentials – things that if you are interested in cooking something more than eggs and ramen that you need to have in your kitchen.
Cooking Essential #1: Olive oil
Olive oil is a cheap, easy cooking tool that makes a lame dinner into a delicious one. Sad Wednesday night potatoes can turn into a tasty, crispy side dish, a quick pasta can turn into a light meal, and anything you want to pan fry becomes 10 times more healthy. But because of a recent culinary fad, getting a good olive oil can be expensive. Infused olive oils are like the new truffle oil. Luckily, making your own fancy olive oil is easier and cheaper than subjecting yourself to a olive oil boutique or going to a high-end grocery store where the price tags make you want to cry.
There are two ways to infuse your own olive oil – boiling a large amount of oil with fresh herbs or letting whatever herbs you like soak in olive oil for a couple of weeks. Let’s face it, boiling olive oil is super scary and leads to little oil sparks flying onto your arm. No one wants to stand at their stove and endure that. The latter option is easy, low maintenance, and has zero risk of burns.
Things You’ll Need:
An olive oil bottle (this will only set you back about $12) or a mason jar
Fresh herbs – here you can kind of do whatever you want. I suggest rosemary, basil, oregano, garlic cloves, or sage. Any of these are readily available at your local grocery chain or produce market.
– Wash your olive oil bottle or jar and herbs with warm water and let them air dry for 24 hours. This part is SUPER IMPORTANT and honestly, the hardest part of this process. If you don’t dry both out thoroughly the water will float on the oil inside your bottle and go stagnant, making it easier for you to get nasty stuff like botulism. Yuck. You can dry off your herbs with a paper towel before laying them out to dry to ensure extra dryness.
– Put whatever herbs you want into your bottle/jar. For my personal batch I used rosemary. Pour or funnel the olive oil into the receptacle.
– YOU ARE BASICALLY DONE! Congratulations! Now let your fancy olive oil sit in a cool, dark place (like your kitchen cupboard) for about 2 weeks. If you want the flavor to be stronger, leave it in for longer.
– Take or strain our your herbs and you are DONE. See how easy that was? Now you have your own infused olive oil and it probably only set you back $15. Use it to sauté vegetables, roast potatoes, fry fish, dip bread in, or put on your salad.