04 March 2010

Infused Oils and Spicy Nuts ...

I've been on a Mediterranean kick for the past week or so. It all started with a new 'old' cookbook that I found in a used bookstore a while ago. Matthew Kenney's mediterranean cooking is a pretty little book that has some nice 'nice and easy' recipes. To boot, he tends to use ingredients that I have readily available in my pantry. That's a good sign when you're looking at cookbooks, I think. Kinda like seeing a cute guy in the same aisle of the bookstore you frequent and just knowing that you'd be compatible ... but I digress.

I got said book home and have found several recipes that I'm eager to try. However, before I do, I must prepare some of the specialty ingredients. Pepper-infused olive oil and spiced almonds are a good beginning. Today's project came out wonderfully! Now, I just have to wait a few days for the oil to cure. Then, I can dive into some of those new recipes.

It's amazing to me how such simple ingredients can produce such nice flavor bursts. The olive oil is simply warmed for about twenty minutes with red pepper flakes over very low heat. As it steeps, the oil's color changes from that rich green of  EVOO to an orange-gold that is just gorgeous. Then, it is strained twice  - once with a fine mesh sieve and again through cheesecloth or a white papertowel-lined sieve. I've been saving this bottle that was a cast off that I got from my sister-in-law. Amazingly enough, it's 2-cup capacity was just what was needed for this infusion recipe. What a nice recycled life it has now! A dab of this oil on the tongue produces a warm peppery glow - I can just imagine adding some to dipping oil when I make the next flatbread recipe, or adding it to meat marinades, or making salad dressing for a Thai noodle salad and giving it some heat with this oil! So many possibilities!

The almonds are also really easy to make. Roasted first, tossed with a sugary spice mix and drizzled and tossed with a bit of honey, they are roasted again to carmelize the sugars with the honey and spices. When removed from the oven, they cool until the sugar is hardened. You break them up and store them in jelly jars until needed. These nuts can be used in salads, to dress up couscous and rice pilafs, even chopped and added to savory sauces for roasts. They are also excellent snacking nuts, as long as you can limit yourself - they're really high calorie treats.


  1. Susan, these nuts look amazing. I love spiced nuts. I hesitate to keep them around, because I'll just stand at the kitchen counter and eat them before anyone else has a chance...

    I have a question: why did you strain the pepper oil? We just leave the peppers in ours and keep topping up the oil. It's always a guess how hot it is, but that's part of the fun. Usually.

    I've just discovered your blog. I'll be back!

  2. Reply @ Kate4/3/10 2:50 PM

    Hi Kate! Welcome! I strained the oil because there was such a lot of gritty-looking powder that came off the seeds ... and this being the first real time that I've done infused oils, I was concerned about the organic matter making the oil 'turn' if left in place. I did, however, roast three little ancho chilis and threw them into the oil once I'd bottled it up.

    I'm so glad you found me here in the Garden! Do come back ... and I'll be visiting you at Serendipity also!


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