You know that feeling you get when you read or see or hear something that makes you think “Yes! You are my people!”? I get that feeling when I read about people with a passion for cooking.Making something from scratch gives me that same sort of thrill. Putting together a little group of ingredients to make a cohesive dish, the rhythm of chopping and slicing vegetables, or the smell that sautéed garlic can send through my house are all comforts. I also really, really like eating, so it’s also instant gratification to cook. (I cook, I eat!)
While there is certainly a time and place for complicated meals with exquisite detail and lots of steps, weeknight dinners aren’t that way for me. I rarely attempt recipes that will take forever or require 36 exotic ingredients. I don’t have the time or budget for them, truth be told. It’s about all I can do to attempt roasting a chicken (SO much easier than you might think it is). Still, there are a few tips and tricks I use for waking up weeknight dinners. A well-done sauce or garnish does that for me. A bit of brightness from fresh herbs or a really versatile sauce can really make dinner pop. Simply put, these days, my happiest kitchen successes are those that involve simple ingredients put together well.
Chili oil is an exceptionally easy recipe and a great example of simplicity at its finest. Two ingredients, no difficult methods, and delicious results. Once you’ve made chili oil, you can spice up a stir-fry or elevate your morning eggs in two seconds. It adds a great subtle kick to sauces or soups, and adds a little something extra to roasted veggies. It’d be great for dipping bread into, giving as a Christmas or hostess gift, or makes a pretty garnish on a plate. You won’t have any trouble finding ways to use it!
P.S. If you love books by people who love food…some of my favorites are:
- Bread and Wine (or anything), by Shauna Niequist
- Delanceyand A Homemade Life, by Molly Wizenberg
- Dinner: The Playbook and Dinner: A Love Story, by Jenny Rosenstrach
The fresher your chili flakes are, the more flavorful your oil will be. You may also want to use a mild-flavored olive oil (some are labeled “light tasting”) to allow the flavor of the chili flakes to shine through.
- 1 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup dried red chili flakes
- Place olive oil and chili flakes in a small saucepan. Heat together over low heat. You don’t want the oil to smoke or boil at all. The surface should just begin to shimmer. Remove from the heat and let the oil steep for an hour or so. Pour everything into a clean lidded bottle or container. Oil will keep up to 2 months.
- The oil will intensify over time.