Basil-infused olive oil reminds me of Francesca's, one of my favorite restaurants in Chicago. Francesca's was the place to go for special occasions -- it was where D and I had our first official one-on-one date and where we ate the night we got engaged. Given its nearby neighborhood location (we frequented the Bryn Mawr outpost), it was also where we went to celebrate events or accomplishments with friends and family --- including three successful completions of the Chicago Marathon (I'm all for pre- and post-race carbo-loading).
Francesca's was the first place I enjoyed dipping freshly-baked bread into basil-infused olive oil, and it remains one of my favorite things. And, it turns out, it's actually quite easy to make infused olive oil at home. All you need is a good quality olive oil and a bunch of fresh herbs. From there you can add other flavors, such as garlic or red pepper flakes.
To give as a gift, simply package your infused olive oil in a pretty glass jar, and tie it with a ribbon. If you're giving it to someone nearby, I'd recommend pairing it with a freshly-baked loaf of bread. In addition to gift-giving during the holidays, this infused olive oil would also make an excellent host/hostess gift.
Basil-Infused Olive Oil (adapted from this Shutterbean recipe)
makes about 1 cup
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups (2/3 oz package) tightly packed fresh basil leaves, rinsed and dried
1 garlic clove, peeled and smashed
1. Chop the basil leaves finely.
2. Add the olive oil, chopped basil leaves, and smashed garlic clove to a medium sauce pan.
3. Heat over medium-high heat for five minutes, until small bubbles form in the oil.
4. Remove from the heat and let steep for at least one hour.
5. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a jar or other container with an airtight lid.
6. Store for up to one month (if it lasts that long!).