Infusing Oils with Herbs and Spices

Infusing Oils with Herbs and Spices

Unlocking the Secrets of Infused Oils

As I stroll through the bustling streets of Brooklyn, the alluring aromas from Camperdown Elm beckon me to step inside and explore the culinary wonders that lie within. Today, I’m on a mission to uncover the secrets behind the restaurant’s signature infused oils – those elusive, flavor-packed elixirs that elevate every dish they touch.

You see, I’ve always been fascinated by the art of infusing oils with herbs and spices. There’s something almost alchemical about the process, transforming humble ingredients into complex, multi-layered flavors that dance across the palate. And Camperdown Elm, with its commitment to using locally sourced, seasonal produce, is the perfect place to dive deeper into this flavorful craft.

So, I’ve convinced the head chef, the enigmatic and ever-so-slightly eccentric Liam, to let me behind the scenes and share the inner workings of his oil infusion process. Liam, with his infectious enthusiasm and deep well of culinary knowledge, is more than happy to oblige. After all, he sees this as an opportunity to spread the gospel of infused oils to the masses.

Selecting the Right Oils

Liam’s first piece of advice? “Don’t be afraid to experiment, my friend. The world of infused oils is a vast and diverse one, just waiting to be explored.” And he’s not wrong. When it comes to selecting the base oil, the options are seemingly endless – from the earthy richness of extra virgin olive oil to the delicate nuttiness of toasted sesame oil.

“Each oil has its own unique properties and personality,” Liam explains, as he carefully selects a bottle of deep green, peppery Tuscan olive oil. “The key is to choose an oil that will complement, rather than overpower, the flavors you’re looking to infuse.”

For Camperdown Elm’s signature dishes, Liam often turns to a blend of high-quality olive oils, meticulously chosen to create a harmonious foundation. “I like to play with different regional olive oils, each with their own subtle nuances. It allows me to build layers of flavor that simply can’t be achieved with a single oil.”

As I nod along, captivated by Liam’s passionate explanation, he pauses and flashes me a mischievous grin. “Of course, every now and then, I’ll throw in a wildcard – maybe a touch of toasted walnut oil or a hint of peppery arugula-infused rapeseed oil. Just to keep things interesting, you know?”

Selecting the Herbs and Spices

With the oil selection out of the way, Liam turns his attention to the real stars of the show: the herbs and spices. “This is where the magic really happens,” he says, his eyes sparkling with excitement. “The perfect infusion is all about finding the right balance and harmony between the oil and the aromatic ingredients.”

Liam’s herb and spice arsenal is a sight to behold – jars and bottles of every imaginable dried herb, spice, and dried chili pepper line the shelves, each one carefully labeled and meticulously organized. As he meticulously selects the components for his latest creation, Liam explains his thought process.

“Take this blend, for example,” he says, holding up a jar of dried thyme, rosemary, and cracked black pepper. “The earthy, woodsy notes of the thyme and rosemary pair beautifully with the bold, peppery punch of the black pepper. Together, they create a flavor profile that’s both comforting and complex – perfect for drizzling over roasted vegetables or grilled meats.”

But Liam doesn’t just stick to the classics. He’s constantly experimenting with unique flavor combinations, drawing inspiration from his travels and the seasonal bounty of local producers. “Last week, I infused some olive oil with a blend of toasted fennel seeds, Aleppo pepper, and a touch of orange zest. It was a revelation – the fennel’s licorice-like sweetness, the subtle heat of the Aleppo, and the bright, citrusy notes all came together in the most delightful way.”

The Infusion Process

As Liam leads me into the kitchen, I can’t help but feel a sense of anticipation. The infusion process, it seems, is a carefully choreographed dance – a delicate balance of time, temperature, and technique.

Liam begins by carefully measuring out the oil and the aromatic ingredients, ensuring that the ratio is just right. “It’s all about finding the perfect balance,” he explains, as he adds a handful of freshly cracked peppercorns to a gleaming bottle of golden olive oil. “Too much of one ingredient, and you risk overpowering the other flavors. Too little, and you won’t get the depth of flavor you’re after.”

With the components measured, Liam turns his attention to the infusion method. “There are a few different ways to go about this,” he says, “but I prefer the slow and steady approach.” He carefully places the sealed bottle into a warm water bath, maintaining a consistent temperature throughout the process.

“You see, the key is to allow the flavors to gently infuse over time, rather than trying to rush it. That way, you end up with a more nuanced, well-rounded flavor profile.” Liam pauses, a mischievous glint in his eye. “Of course, that means you have to be a little patient. But trust me, the wait is worth it.”

As the minutes tick by, I can’t help but be captivated by the transformation happening right before my eyes. The once-plain olive oil slowly takes on the vibrant hues and enticing aromas of the herbs and spices, like a culinary alchemy in action.

Tasting and Adjusting

Once the infusion time has elapsed, Liam carefully removes the bottle from the water bath and sets it aside to cool. “Now comes the fun part,” he says, a grin spreading across his face. “The tasting and adjusting.”

With a steady hand, Liam pours a small amount of the infused oil into a small tasting dish. He takes a moment to inhale the fragrant aroma, his eyes closing as he savors the complex layers of flavor. “Hmm, yes, the fennel and Aleppo are really shining through,” he murmurs, lost in thought.

Then, with a decisive nod, he dips a piece of crusty bread into the oil and takes a bite, his expression one of pure delight. “Ah, yes, absolutely perfect!” he exclaims. “The balance is spot on – the fennel provides a lovely sweetness that’s perfectly balanced by the subtle heat of the Aleppo.”

But Liam doesn’t stop there. He meticulously tastes and adjusts the infusion, adding a pinch of salt here, a dash of lemon zest there, until he’s satisfied that the flavors are harmonious and well-rounded.

“You see, infusing oils is an art, not a science,” he explains, as he carefully bottles the precious elixir. “It’s all about paying attention to the nuances, trusting your palate, and being willing to make adjustments along the way. That’s how you end up with something truly special – something that can elevate a simple dish into a culinary masterpiece.”

Putting the Infused Oils to Use

With the infusion process complete, Liam invites me to explore the ways in which Camperdown Elm incorporates these flavor-packed oils into their dishes. And let me tell you, the possibilities are endless.

“Take our roasted beet salad, for example,” he says, leading me to the pass. “We start with earthy, just-pulled beets, then toss them with a bright and citrusy orange-fennel infused oil. The sweet-tart flavors play off each other beautifully, creating a dish that’s both refreshing and satisfying.”

As I savor a bite of the salad, the interplay of flavors is nothing short of revelatory. The fennel and orange notes in the oil dance across my palate, perfectly complementing the natural sweetness of the beets.

But Liam doesn’t stop there. He eagerly shares other examples of how Camperdown Elm harnesses the power of infused oils, from drizzling a rosemary-garlic oil over grilled lamb chops to tossing roasted Brussels sprouts in a spicy chili-lime concoction.

“The great thing about these infused oils is that they’re so versatile,” he explains, his eyes alight with excitement. “You can use them to add depth and complexity to practically any dish – whether it’s a simple salad, a hearty main course, or even just a crusty loaf of bread.”

As I listen, my mind races with all the tantalizing possibilities. Suddenly, the idea of infusing my own oils at home seems like the most logical next step. And I have a sneaking suspicion that Liam is more than happy to share a few more of his secrets before I leave.


As I bid farewell to Camperdown Elm and Liam, my head is swirling with a newfound appreciation for the art of infusing oils. What I once saw as a simple kitchen task has now been elevated to a true culinary craft, one that requires skill, patience, and a discerning palate.

But more than that, I’ve been inspired by Liam’s boundless creativity and his unwavering dedication to using the freshest, most flavorful ingredients. It’s a philosophy that permeates every aspect of Camperdown Elm’s menu, from the vibrant, seasonal produce to the carefully curated selection of infused oils.

So, the next time I find myself in the kitchen, reaching for a bottle of olive oil, you can bet I’ll be taking a page out of Liam’s playbook. I’ll be experimenting with new herbs and spices, tinkering with ratios, and patiently waiting for those flavors to meld and transform. Because when it comes to infused oils, the possibilities are truly endless – and the rewards are oh, so delicious.

And who knows, maybe I’ll even make a pilgrimage back to Camperdown Elm, just to see what new flavor combinations Liam has up his sleeve. After all, a culinary adventure like this is one I wouldn’t dream of missing.