A Flavorful Foundation

Olive oil is the key ingredient in all kinds of Mediterranean sauces and condiments, from chunky relishes made with chopped nuts, herbs, and aromatic vegetables to creamy, egg-enriched aiolis. All of the following classic preparations can be made with relatively inexpensive all-purpose extra-virgin olive oils.

By Hunter Lewis

Published on April 6, 2010

For centuries, French and Italian cooks have infused oil with herbs and chiles by gently heating them together. Use infused oils to baste roasted meats, make vinaigrettes, and drizzle over grilled fish.

This garlicky puree of olive oil, almonds, and potatoes hails from Greece, where it's paired with roasted lamb or slathered on toasted country bread.

This chunky Moroccan relish of coarsely chopped pistachios and herbs pairs wonderfully with roasted quail or other game birds and with whole grilled fish.

The oil in this simple preparation is used both to cook and to preserve sliced lemons. Smash or chop the preserved lemons to brighten up other relishes and dressings, or serve them as a tart condiment on their own.

These mellow, oil-poached cloves can be pureed and added to mashed potatoes or to other sauces, and the garlic-infused oil works well in vinaigrettes and as a basting sauce.

Pictured here in its rustic style, this aromatic, paprika-spiced sauce can also be pureed into a paste. North African cooks use it to marinate fish, finish tagines, or dress cooked vegetables.

Tossed in pasta, spread over crostini, or stirred into soup, this versatile sauce, with origins in both France and Italy, takes its fresh flavor from basil and its earthy bite from olive oil and garlic.

Use mild-flavored olives to make this briny, rough-textured olive-and-anchovy sauce, favored by cooks in France. Smear it on roasted potatoes, use it as a dip for vegetables, or stir in more oil to make a thinner sauce for drizzling over fish.

A pale-golden oil works best to make this silky, garlic-spiked mayonnaise. Serve it with fried seafood or as a dipping sauce for vegetables, bread, or hard-boiled eggs.

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