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The Easiest Ways to Make a Fancy Dipping Oil

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The combination of fat and bread is an easy, low-cost crowd-pleaser. You can either spread the fat on the bread or dip the bread into the fat. Both are good options. Dipping bread into a high-quality olive oil is, by itself, a pleasant experience. A good olive oil can taste herbal, fruity, or peppery, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enhance the experience with a few add-ins.

Here’s how to craft your own fancy dipping oil, using ingredients you probably already have.

Clean out your spice rack

It’s quite possible, probable even, that you have a one or more little jars of dried herbs and spices of uncertain origin and purchase date sitting on your spice rack. Even if they’re no longer at their most potent, the oil will draw out whatever flavor they have lingering inside themselves. Most dipping oil recipes focus on the Italian herbs—oregano, parsley, basil, red pepper flake, etc.—but don’t ignore Middle Eastern herbs and spices, especially sumac, which goes beautifully with coriander, cumin, paprika, and (again) parsley.

You don’t really need a recipe

Though there are a ton of dipping oil recipes out there, you don’t have to follow one. Start with a cup of good olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Pick a couple of dried herbs you want to feature prominently, and add a teaspoon of each. Add any other complimentary herbs in 1/4-teaspoon increments, and any dried and ground spices in 1/8-teaspoon increments. Let everything hang out for 30 minutes to let the herbs infuse into the oil, then taste and adjust as needed.

Make it garlicky

You could add garlic powder to your oil, but this is one case where supplementing your otherwise shelf-stable ingredients list makes sense. A couple of mashed or minced cloves to a cup of dipping oil should be plenty, but if you want a sweeter, more mellow experience, try mashing four roasted cloves into the mix. (You can also add a pinch of garlic powder if you wish, to layer a toasty element on top of the fresh or roasted stuff.)

Make it savory

Salt is good, but monosodium glutamate is better, at least when it comes to bringing the umami. Glutamates give your oil a rounder, richer savory flavor, and using pure MSG means you only need a pinch to achieve that effect.

Parmesan cheese is another good glutamate source, but you’ll want a lot more of it. A tablespoon or two per cup of dipping oil is plenty; get the good stuff with the little crunchy crystals for extra nutty savoriness.

Add a little acid

A dollop of balsamic can add balance to an herby bowl of oil, and it looks kind of pretty floating around it neat little blobs. Swirling your bread in the bowl lets you get a bit of both in each bite, and the combination of acid and fat will keep you coming back for multiple dips. For a more subtle effect, you can whisk in a squeeze of fresh lemon, or express the oils from strip of zest for a heady, floral note. (You can also grate zest in with the herbs, if you’re a real lemonhead.)

   

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