Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Review: Infuse

Time for another Blogging For Books review.  This time its for a very attractive cookbook called Infuse.  Infusing is something I've been interested in for a number of years.  I've dabbled here or there, but thought this book might offer some ideas for new directions to take my dabbling.

Infuse consists of three sections: water, oil, and spirits.  It is a full-color book where each recipe has an accompanying photo with the ingredients laid out in a very aesthetically pleasing fashion.  I thought it was a really, really pretty book.  I think all cookbooks should be loaded with photos.  It was really artistic and yet simple.  I was quite attracted by the layout.  A very inviting, pretty book.
The first recipe we tried was an odd one--something we'd have never come up with in a million years on our own.  It was a water infusion called the Salted Lime Soda made with fresh limes, agave, and salt.  With the addition of some rum it becomes Spiked Salted Lime Soda.  We called around town looking for the variety of rum recommended by the book, but we're not New Yorkers so it was a bust.  The lady at the Thai restaurant I called told me they really consider it a whisky, which was interesting, but that in any case she didn't know where it could be located in town.  We had to settle for a less authentic rum variety.

Our culinarily adventurous friends, Alli and J.D., just happened to be visiting at the time and were happy to try strange cocktails with us.  We ordered in Thai take-out from our favorite restaurant to build on the Thai motif.

I believe everyone's first reaction was:  "That's weird."  Or "That is strange."  I am not sure that is a great response, really.  We all agreed it was nicer when paired with the spicy Thai food.  It was sweet and tangy at the same time in a way that seemed to balance the heat of the food.  Still, I don't know that I'd make it again.  I'm told that sour sodas are "a thing" in Thailand and other parts of Asia, but it was a little lost on our (overly sweetened) American palates, I guess.
Thai night--with cocktails!
The water infusions were much more diverse than my idea of them had been previously.  Though there was a typical--and tasty--cucumber mint water.    There is a recipe for a berry-infused cold brewed tea that I am keen to try, but it was past season for our berry patch.  Next year.  Its so pretty that I cannot imagine it doesn't just taste phenomenal, too.
The recipe that seems most applicable to my daily life is a garlic and herb infused olive oil called Garlic Confit Oil.  It was super easy and super yummy.  I've used it any time I had a recipe that called for olive oil and it added a scrumptious roast garlic element that was quite lovely.   It is totally something to use in every day cooking.
Herbed garlic confit oil.
I also made a modified version of their Olio Santo that I'm quite pleased with.  If I had one bone of contention with Infuse is that it must be targeting a more urban demographic.  As was the case with the Thai rum mentioned above there were ingredients scattered throughout the book that were difficult or impossible to find where I live.  They might be super easy to locate at your friendly neighborhood Asian market....but we don't really have one of those here.  But, I love to improvise when cooking and am hard pressed to follow a recipe in any case.  So, all is well.  My cayenne infused olive oil is magnificent either way.    I added a dollop to our stir-fry a couple nights ago and oh my!   I quite liked it.
The oil chapter also taught me something really useful--flash-infusing.  This is the practice of muddling herbs in coarse salt until the herbs are all well crushed, adding oil, and then shaking the heck out of it for a minute.  I'd never heard of this technique before and was pleased to find another way to incorporate fresh herbs from the garden into our cooking.

I made a modified version of their sriracha infused butter for popcorn--subbing in my homemade hot sauce for the sriracha and Earth Balance spread for the butter.  It was pretty great, I thought.  I mean, I am a huge popcorn fan.  I am a huge spicy fan.  As such, I found this marriage of salt, honey, and heat to be tremendously good.  Very, very yummy and reminiscent of kettle corn, albeit a spicier version.  I would note though that if made according to the directions in the book the result would be a pretty darn decadent popcorn treat.  I made a half-batch of the infused butter while simultaneously doubling the amount of popcorn called for in the recipe.  Don't get me wrong, I bet its absolutely incredible with the butter-to-popcorn ration as high as suggested in the book, but it seemed excessive to me.  I didn't think our version was lacking in flavor or buttery-ness for being half as rich.  I will put in more hot sauce in the future though as I don't think my hot sauce is as concentrated in heat as the sriracha.
We didn't try any of the recipes for infused spirits.  Some sound quite good to me--fruit infused rum and vodka, an overnight lemoncello--but frankly, we just don't drink much hard alcohol.  We did infuse some liquor last Christmas for Matt's brothers--and they were dang good--and we've made a batch of Adam's homemade Kahlua, but, in general, drinking liquor just not something we really do.  We're beer people.  That said, a berry vodka is a million times better than a plain one, if you ask me.  Apparently the infused spirits is what really got the authors interested in infusions, but for me the oils are where its at.
In addition to the recipes, Infuse also offers suggestions for themed gatherings centering around the infused end products.  There is a Rooftop Italian, Sunday Brunch, and Weeknight Delivery.  They have food parings and recipes to accompany the infusions.  I like theme parties and we basically had our own version of the Weeknight Delivery--though I think it was on the weekend in our case.  Sharing food with people is such a good bonding experience.  I appreciated that ways to do so were built right into the book.

I don't know that I'll end up trying half of the recipes, but the infused oils are definitely going to become part of my repertoire.   That makes the book worthwhile in and of itself.  That oil chapter is great.

Full Disclosure:  I received a free copy of this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for my review.

2 comments:

  1. I can see the appeal of this cookbook. Do you know if Blogging for Books program works in UK, You know how much of a hoarder of cookbooks I am and I'd be happy to review cookbooks - I hope you don't mind me asking this.Thank you in advance.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, as long as you're interested in "digital hoarding" you can participate.

      Q: I live outside the USA. Can I still participate?
      A: Yes. If you live outside the U.S., you can sign up. You will be able to choose to read and review eBooks as we do not ship printed copies outside the United States.

      I just made some more of the chili oil from this book this week!

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