Oleaginous Abundance

So here’s the thing: shrimp is a good protein, low in calories. But shrimp is bland. On the other hand, olive oil is delicious. And when you infuse olive oil, you had an extra layer of deliciousness. Sauté your shrimp in an infused olive oil, and it comes out pretty good. And judging by the gifts that I received this Christmas, infused olive oils are apparently the thing. I now have at least half a dozen bottles of olive oils infused in peppers, garlic, lemon, and most of all, basil. Yes, basil infused olive oil is the trendiest thing going, all the way from Trader Joe’s to Sur La Table.

Now, I have a small bottle of olive oil infused with truffles. My wife claims to not like this. She says that the truffles smell funny. Pish posh. I sneak a few drops of truffle oil in quite a lot of things, and she wonders how I can tease out such rich delicious flavors from something as bland as a shrimp. The reason truffle oil has such a bad rep is because the people who use truffle oil frequently use far too much of it. Just a little goes a long way, and pulls all the umami and savory deliciousness out of a wide range of proteins and starches. My local brewpub dresses up its house-made potato chips with truffle oil an Parmesean shavings. I am quite addicted.

Tonight, I sautéed shrimp in basil infused olive oil, with some sea salt, garlic, and black pepper. I finished the shrimp with a dash of sweet white wine. Then I dressed oricchette pasta with garlic infused olive oil that had a few drops of the truffle oil mixed in. I’m pretty skeptical of mixing seafood and cheese, so this was as far as we went with the dish. I suppose you could try grating some Parmesan on it. Plenty of flavor as it was, albeit at the expense of losing the low calorie count. When I do this next, it needs both a vegetable and a bit of an acid to give it some brightness. So, I think that towards the end of the sauté, I will add in some julienned red bell pepper.

Besides, I have liters of infused olive oil to go through. I suppose there are worse problems. The problem oil is the one infused with lemon. It is simply too sweet to put on anything. You could almost eat it by the teaspoonful, it’s so sweet, although I suspect that your gall bladder would immediately shrivel up to the size of a number eight ball bearing, and after it recovered, attempt a coup d’état. So don’t try that at home.

But if any of you have suggestions for what I might do with all of this oil in my pantry, I’m all ears.

 
Burt LikkoBurt Likko is the pseudonym of an attorney in Southern California. His interests include Constitutional law with a special interest in law relating to the concept of separation of church and state, cooking, good wine, and bad science fiction movies. Follow his sporadic Tweets at @burtlikko, and his Flipboard at Burt Likko.

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33 thoughts on “Oleaginous Abundance

  1. Ohhh, tough and tasty question. I just discovered the concept of multiple infused OO’s this weekend when Wife took me to Oil and Vinegar. I know its a national chain but not exactly how widespread. Anywho they had many many tasty oils; i got some garlic EVOO which is good, but really how could it be bad. They had literally, not figuratively or even virtually, but literally thousands of combos of infused oils and vinegars. I might suggest using one of them with scallops if you like them. Just lightly grill the scallops with either the best oil or the one you want to get rid of the most. They are rich in themselves but really need some good, but not overdone flavor. Heck i’d probably make some sweet potato fries with a bit of OO and spices. Maybe the garlic OO some black pepper and cumin.

    Well i’m hungry now, how long is it until breakfast?

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  2. Another idea is to get some popcorn and pop it in pan with one of the oils. The wife suggested jalapeño flavored oil because i like jalapeños. The pepper OO would be good, then put some parmesan cheese on top.

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  3. First, I cosign onto the idea that seafood and cheese (or, more broadly, any dairy products) is strange. When I went to college, I remember seeing someone having what I would learn to be a tuna melt made on the flat top. “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?!?!? WARM TUNA FISH? CHEESE??? UGH!” I might sprinkle a bit of parmesan if I’ve got some shrimp fra diablo going, but we all know the tomato sauce provides the appropriate buffer.

    Second, can infused oils be made at home? Is it just a matter of putting whatever infusing agent you desire in a bottle with the oil and letting it sit for a period of time? Or is it more complicated? If it is as easy as I suspect, what is the minimum time needed to extract the flavors from the infusing agents?

    Third, Greg’s idea about old school popcorn made in the pan is a great one. With the lemon, have you considered making a vinaigrette? At the restaurant I used to work at, they had a lemon-olive oil vinaigrette that really livened up the salads. I think it combined olive oil and lemon rather than an infused oil, but I imagine it is still possible. I, for one, love the taste and aroma of citrus, so I’d probably enjoy the lemony one more than you might (though too much can indeed be too sweet). I use a ton of olive oil, largely with my veggies. I try to get “back to basics” with veggies, giving them some prep work to make them more palatable than in their raw form (especially for Zazzy) but not to overdo it to the point of losing their natural tastiness OR their health benefits. A quick saute in olive oil and garlic typically suffices.

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  4. And while we are on the topic of infusions, allow me to sing the praises of homemade infused vodkas. They are super simple to make and quite delectable. I usually opt for a jalapeno infused one to put in my Bloody Mary; as far as I see it, a BM can never be spicy enough. Slice up the pepper, drop it in the bottle, shake a few time, and let it sit for a few days. A week is ideal but it doesn’t take long to pull the heat out of their. You can control the heat but adding more or fewer seeds. But since the flavor is infused throughout the beverage, you get a far more even distribution of heat than you might by loading up on horseradish or black pepper (not that I don’t still load up on both).

    You can also do fruit infusions which make for nice summery drinks when poured over ice and/or mixed with a bit of soda water. I’ve seen people do chocolate and coffee, though I’ve never tried myself. The infusion period varies a bit, both because of the infusing agent and the desired amount of infusion, so you’ll need to experiment. Pineapples are so flavorful and juicy that they work quickly like the jalapenos; strawberries take more time.

    The bottles also look very cool if you display them for a party. With the exception of a black pepper (use whole peppercorns) infusion. Very tasty — a different sort of heat than the jalapeno — but it turns the booze a murky brown that some people find off putting to look at.

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  5. I’m a big fan of using rosemary twigs as skewers to grill shrimp with. Quite tasty. But I really prefer my shrimp either boiled like crawfish or in my shrimp and grits. :)

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  6. I’d try using the lemon oil in salads. Medium bulgur wheat, cooked and drained, and tossed with the oil, some finely-chopped onion or shallot, raisins, kalamata olives, and chopped mint.

    Perhaps swirled into so freshly-made humus.

    As a marinade for anything where lemon would be desired.

    And if it’s too strong/sweet to use straight up, I wouldn’t hesitate to cut it with unflavored oil.

    Infused oils are tricky; some can have too much flavor, some not enough. In my experience, they also have a shorter shelf-life (particularly if the flavoring agents are left in them), so if you can’t use it all before it starts becoming rancid, don’t mourn, just find a friend with a bio-diesel car.

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    • Whole heartedly agree with the lemon oil on salad idea. I’ve paired lemon oil with an apple infused balsamic vinegar over spinach, pear, gorgonzola, and walnuts, but I imagine a tabbouleh would be pretty good too.

      Also, the infused oils go well in desserts. Pick up a chocolate infused balsamic, shake it up the lemon oil and pour over ice cream or cheesecake. Yum.

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  7. Two possible thoughts, though they would be guesses rather than advice from experience.

    1. For putting a dent in the infused oils, what about baking? I know that a lot of recipes call for oil, and maybe using basil infused oil for, say, scones would give them a hint of something unique. Plus, you could get rid of it a quarter/half/full cup at a time that way.

    2. Here’s something I make almost every day these days, and it might translate well with your lemon oil:

    I take a batch of raw, tender kale, chop it up and throw it in a bowl. I drizzle a bit of olive oil over it, give it a good dose of freshly ground black pepper, and add a very small amount of grated parmesan. (Like, *very* little. I don’t want the calories, and I don’t want the salad to taste cheesy. I’m using it the same way I use sea salt — so that there is an occasional salty taste burst on my tongue when I’m eating the kale.) Then I squeeze half a fresh lemon over the lot, and toss. You can make it in about 2 minutes, it’s both healthy and filling, and it’s a good way to prepare kale for those that find its taste a little too powerful, and/or hate always having to sauté or braise to get people to eat them.

    Anyway, it occurs to me simply using your lemon olive oil *might* work really well with that dish. Maybe you could even use less lemon juice, or maybe even not use a lemon at all.

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  8. Truffle oil? Only if it’s the real stuff, not the manufacured stuff.

    I stole this from wikipedia:
    Gordon Ramsay has referred to natural truffle oil as “a chef’s dream,”but has referred to engineered white truffle oil as “one of the most pungent, ridiculous ingredients ever known to chef.”

    Anthony Bourdain said, “Let it be stated here, unto forever and eternity, truffle oil is not food.”

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