DIY Oils for a Quick Flavor Boost

Flavored oils are the perfect meal accessory: They can dress up nearly any dish, transforming it from ordinary to extraordinary. Instead of shelling out up to $20 on one of those pretty bottles in the grocery or specialty store, consider making them yourself. They’re easy to whip up, and they make a wonderful gift when adorned with a handmade tag.

To make flavored oil, you infuse a vegetable oil with fresh or dried herbs or savory spices. There are two methods: You can heat up dried herbs in the oil, or simply place fresh herbs in cool oil (called cold processed). If you use a strong flavored oil, like curry, try a lighter-tasting olive or vegetable oil; extra-virgin olive oil tends to have a strong taste that can compete with herbs and spices.

Experiment with your own combinations, or make one of the following tried-and-true recipes. You can use these oils as a sauce for poached fish or chicken, or a sauté. Blend them into a vinaigrette or as a base for an infused mayonnaise. Or simply set it out as a dip for artisan bread -- your options are endless!

CURRIED OIL

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 teaspoons curry powder

1 teaspoon honey

Salt to taste

In a sauté pan over low heat, combine the oil, curry powder and honey until just warm. (Take care not to let it get hot or the curry could become bitter.) Let sit for 10 to 20 minutes; strain through a fine-mesh sieve and store in a lidded glass jar in the refrigerator.

Serving suggestion: Use as a sauce for poached salmon or sauté shrimp or chicken in it for a full flavored dish.

BASIL-GARLIC OIL

1 cup fresh basil leaves, firmly packed

2 cloves garlic

1 cup olive oil

Salt to taste

In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine all the ingredients and puree until smooth. Let steep for 10 minutes, and then strain through a fine- mesh sieve.

Serving suggestion: Use as a base for a homemade pesto sauce or as the oil in a vinaigrette dressing.

HOT PEPPER LEMON & THYME OIL

1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme

Grated peel from one lemon

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Combine ingredients and let steep for 30 minutes. Store the remainder in a lidded glass jar in the refrigerator. Before using, allow the oil to reach room temperature.

Serving suggestion: Use as a dip for your favorite bread.

CINNAMON-NUTMEG OIL

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 cup vegetable oil

Salt and sugar, to taste

Combine ingredients in small saucepan and heat until just warm. Allow to steep for 10 to 20 minutes, and then strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Store in a lidded glass jar in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Serving suggestion: For a sweet popcorn, use 2 tablespoons oil and 1/3 cup popcorn kernels. Pop corn according to directions. Sprinkle with salt and sugar if desired.

ROASTED RED PEPPER OIL

One 8-ounce jar of roasted red peppers, drained

1 cup vegetable or light olive oil

Salt to taste

In a food processor, combine all ingredients and process until finely pureed. Let sit for 10 to 20 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve and store in a lidded glass jar.

Safety note: Oils flavored with herbs and spices can become breeding grounds for bacteria when left at room temperature for long periods. Make sure to store your flavored oils in the refrigerator and toss after two weeks.