You probably already know that toasting spices or sizzling them in oil or butter helps their flavor bloom—and the same principle applies for baking, too. For recipes that call for melted butter, just heat that butter with whole or crushed spices, like a split vanilla bean, a broken cinnamon stick, or a few crushed whole cloves or cardamom pods. With heat, the essential oils from the spices make their way into the browned butter and the two swirl around and become one tasty mess. Besides spice, this method creates toasty depth in the butter, a guaranteed flavor booster.
Step into any specialty food shop and you’ll encounter shelves of fancy vinegars and flavored oils. While the sleek packaging (such pretty bottles!) and infinite flavor combinations make them tempting purchases, it’s far less expensive to make your own—and almost as easy as plunking down a credit card. Not only do they make excellent host/hostess gifts, we’re seeing them in fine dining settings, too—AL’s Place in San Francisco infuses oil with kuri squash peels and kale stems, and at a recent pop-up dinner in anticipation of his new restaurant, chef Bo Bech served an oil infused with pine needles taken from a tree in the lobby of the NoMad Hotel—that’s right, Christmas tree oil. Here’s how to make your own.