Annatto seeds, known as achiote in Spanish, are small irregularly shaped, deep reddish colored seeds about the size of a lentil. They grow in pods but are sold loose in jars in the spice aisle. (Or see the “Sources” section above.) Steeping annatto (achiote) seeds in hot olive oil for a few minutes will do more than give the oil a brilliant orange-gold color; it will infuse it with a nutty, delicate aroma and add a quick kick to whatever you use it in. This incredibly simple technique will become part of your repertoire, not just for the many dishes that call for it in this book, but any time you want a splash of color and a hint of annatto flavor.
Makes about 1 cup
- 1 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons achiote (annatto) seeds
Heat the oil and annatto seeds in a small skillet over medium heat just until the seeds give off a lively, steady sizzle. Don’t overheat the mixture or the seeds will turn black and the oil a nasty green. Once they’re sizzling away, pull the pan from the heat and let stand until the sizzling stops. Strain as much of the oil as you are going to use right away into the pan; store the rest for up to 4 days at room temperature in a jar with a tight fitting lid. In addition to using achiote oil to sauté onions, garlic and such, you can use it straight, painted onto fish and poultry headed for the grill or broiler.