Sure, I might be biased, but it’s my personal belief that Indian people are the best cooks in the world. Nothing compares to the depth of flavors, variety of spices, and range of cooking styles that you can get across the dozens of states in the country.
My mom, aunts, and grandparents always made the dishes coming out of the kitchen look seamless and easy, which is why I was in for a rude awakening when I started learning how to cook myself. What I learned very quickly (and through careful observation of the talented women in my family) was that cooking a really flavorful dish is a true art, achieved with a careful balance and wide variety of spices.
While my Indian roots pull me toward evenings trying to perfect my mom’s masala recipes, the millennial in me lacks the patience required for being that particular type of artist. Unfortunately when it comes to food, shortcuts often make it hard to also be healthy, which is why I love coming across high-quality brands like Brightland.
Founder Aishwarya Iyer launched her range of California-farmed olive oils and vinegars in homage to South Indian farming ancestry and the desire to bring honesty back to food production. In particular, her chili olive oil, Ardor ($40, Brightland) has become a pantry staple for me.
It’s extremely flavorful, versatile, and changes every dish I add it to. Here’s everything you need to know about how I use it and why I put it on everything in my kitchen:
It goes with everything—literally.
Ok, so I wouldn’t recommend replacing chocolate syrup with this on your ice cream sundae, but I’ve used this chili oil on everything from salads to avocado toast, curries, and pasta. The easiest way to use it is to simply let it replace any oil you might use in your daily cooking, like to fry up some onions and garlic as a base for your dishes.
If you want to have a bit more fun, I think the flavor stands out most when I top my dishes with a bit of the chili oil. When I’m done making some pasta, for example, I’ll top each individual plate off with a quick drizzle of this.
My favorite way to use this is to transform my basic avocado toast. I’ll simply top my bread with avocado and some sliced tomato, then drizzle this on top. I’ve eaten this for breakfast almost every single day for months. I haven’t yet gotten sick of it, and I don’t see myself tiring of it any time soon.
It has the perfect amount of spice.
You know how sometimes food will be so spicy that you can’t taste any flavor beyond the chili? This isn’t like that at all. While I do have a pretty high tolerance for spicy food (thank you, genetics), I don’t enjoy overwhelmingly spicy foods that don’t allow you to really taste the other flavors in what I’m eating.
Of course, you have to be careful about how much you add, because a little goes a long way with just a tablespoon. But when I add a teaspoon to my toast or a tablespoon to a full pan of pasta, the peppery flavor really shines.
It has a depth of flavors.
You could argue that with some chili oils on the market, you could easily recreate them yourself at home. That would not be the case with this particular oil. The perfect blend of jalapeño, red chili, and chipotle peppers with olive oil and paprika is nothing like adding some red chili flakes to your pizza.
The flavors come out in a way in which you can actually taste every distinct pepper, adding a burst of spice variety to any dish. It’s great way to fake chef-like abilities whether you’re a newbie in the kitchen or have no plans of ever owning a spice rack.
The packaging is both beautiful and functional.
Call me superficial, but I’m a huge sucker for beautiful packaging. When it comes to my small New York city apartment, I love being able to put beautiful things on display to distract from how tiny the kitchen is. Designed in collaboration with New York-based artist Marleigh Culver, the minimalist designs are total eye candy.
My only worry with trying Brightland’s oils out was that they might spill or get damaged in heat during the delivery process, since I had only ever purchased my oils directly from a grocery store. But what I realized is that I actually know exactly where these bottles are coming from and how they’re being shipped to me in UV-coated bottles straight from California, whereas I have no idea where most of the other mass market oils I’ve been buying from the grocery store are really coming from.
I recommend this to anyone, whether they’re the chefs in my family or just adopted cooking as their lockdown hobby.
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