In Garde Manger we had a session on flavored oils and vinegars, many of which were simple to make, such as this chili oil - just chili flakes in olive oil. However, it was very spicy and would be very effective if drizzled over, let's say, dumplings (as opposed to just dumping some chili flakes on dumplings - not as effective).
The thing about flavored oils is that you can't keep them very long, especially if you are immersing fresh ingredients (like garlic) in it. There is the danger of botulism, that gnarly toxin that grows under anaerobic (oxygen-less) conditions. I would say a week tops. Good thing is that you don't need to marinate ingredients for a long time for the flavored to come out in the oil, as long as you mince/puree them and heat the oil a bit.
Flavored vinaigrettes though, you can keep for a long long time because the acidic environment isn't conducive to bacterial growth. Have to make sure what you're marinating doesn't stick out the top like the tarragon in this champagne vinegar though:
Some of my favorites that Chef made was the basil oil (with the basil chopped superfine and blanched/patted dry so it would stay green) and the fig balsamic puree (that over some goat cheese, or a salad... mmm!).
After that we tackled making some of our own condiments. I wanted to try making hoisin and sriracha, two Asian condiments that I tend to take for granted.
This recipe came out a bit like hoisin peanut sauce.
After that I tackled sriracha... except there weren't red fresno chiles or red jalapenos in house, so I substituted thai chilies instead. I roughly followed the fresh (not fermented) recipe here, though I pureed the ingredients before I boiled them.
Here's the puree. When I uncapped the food processor and breathed in I almost died. If you ever puree chilies... be careful.
The sauce that I eventually got was green and watery, but probably the spiciest green watery thing you'll ever find. Julius and I paired these sauces with Vietnamese meatballs. I love the crunchy meatballs found in pho, but unfortunately the recipe I found yielded the soft regular kind of meatball. (Upon Googling now, however, I've found this alternate recipe, which contains potato starch and sounds closer to the real deal.)
To make up for the lackluster sauces and meatballs I plated the meatballs nicely with special dishware, toothpicks and cilantro stalks.
Here are some of my classmates presenting what they made. To see some of the dishes, click on the meatball photo above and then the "<- Newer" button above the photo on Flickr.
My favorite was the strawberry basil jam. Strawberry + basil = a match made in heaven.