Photo by Maria Robledo
This is a great method for making small amounts of flavored oils for use at the last minute as embellishments for soups, vegetables, and simple fish dishes. It works best with soft, fresh, fragrant ingredients like tender herbs, garlic, or grated citrus zest.
Extra-virgin olive oil, subtly infused with lemon zest, is one of my favorites. There is no set formula for making these oils. The ratio of flavoring to oil will depend on the intensity of the ingredients you choose. Since they flavor the oil quickly, you can taste and add more flavorings, if you wish. These oils are splendid on many foods -- practically anything you would dress with olive oil.
You can make flavorings from ingredients such as:
• Fresh herbs (leaves only) such as basil, cilantro, chives, tarragon, thyme, sage, rosemary or savory
• Thin strips of lemon or orange zest removed with a vegetable peeler
• Part of a fresh garlic clove (green sprout, if any, removed)
You'll also need kosher salt and extra-virgin olive oil.
Coarsely chop herbs, zest and/or garlic, and place in mortar or an unbreakable bowl with a with a pinch of salt; pound to a coarse mash with a pestle or a rounded rock.
Stir and mash the flavorings with the pestle as you slowly drizzle in the oil. Set aside to infuse one hour before using; if too strong, add more oil to taste.
It is not necessary to strain these quickly-made oils. Serve right out of the mortar bowl, spooning the oil from the flavorings.
Strain out and discard the flavorings; refrigerate the oil for up to two days.