Flavored Oils, 50 Recipes for Cooking with Infused Oils is the first cookbook I wrote and the first of three I did for Michael Chiarello.
At the time, he was chef of Tra Vigne restaurant in St. Helena, Napa Valley, CA. He had started his food company, Consorzio, to produce Tra Vigne’s own extra-virgin olive oil, a roasted garlic oil, and a basil oil. I still remember his enthusiasm as he showed me the powerfully aromatic basil he had found that would give the basil oil the intensity of aroma he wanted.
Michael and I had known eachother for several years already and, through him, I had started to develop recipes and write materials for Conzorzio’s sister company, the Napa Valley Mustard Company. Soon enough, I found myself writing a cookbook proposal for cooking with olive oil and infused oils. At one point I remember saying to Michael, “Prevent bloodshed. Let me write the book.”
Michael and I established our working method which I continue to use now: We’d talk a recipe through; I would write a rough draft; and he would cook the recipe in his, then small, home kitchen. I would do the timing, and continually stop his flow by asking for measurements, weights, and yields. After that, the whole recipe usually needed to be reworked, and then it would be tested again before it was finalized.
The recipes in the book still sound delicious to me and awaken distinct memories of cooking and eating them–pasta with a roasted eggplant sauce, swordfish with a mediterranean tomato sauce cooked in parchment, a spiedini of prawns with pancetta and oregano dressing. As well as recipes for making infused oils at home, one of my favorite recipes, the Rosemary and Roasted Lemon Marinade is in this book. Roasting the lemons caramelizes them and gives them a sweet/tart flavor as well as mellowing their acidity, a great trick when creating a dish to go with wine.
This book and its companion volume, Flavored Vinegars, are also available as a single volume: Flavored Oils and Vinegars, 100 Recipes for Cooking with Infusied Oils and Vinegars (Chronicle Books).