Thursday, November 18, 2010

OLIVE OIL IN THE CHEAP KITCHEN

Times are tough for a lot of people these days, including us.  My big contribution is to cook.  We used to go out to eat a lot.  We've stopped.  Instead I make good, almost always vegetarian meals every day.  This takes time, but involves so much color and creativity I can't think of anything else I enjoy as much.  And it's made us healthier!   We are saving on doctor's visits and medications.  I now have few headaches and my daughter's tendencies to pick up viruses is way down.  Still, one big expense I was allowing myself was cooking with extra virgin olive. Until today.
  
Thanks to Harold McGee's article today in the NYTimes:  Is It Time for and Oil Change in the Kitchen?  I can stop the insanity of cooking with olive oil.  It did seem counter-intuitive to make the healthiest, cheap dish in the world, Muhjadarrah (consisting of lentils, rice, and an onion) with 4 T. of olive oil, but until I read this article I would've been afraid not to. 

Not that I'm going to stop using olive oil altogether.  I love the flavor, and the health benefits are very well documented, but from now on I'll only be using it raw.  Two places where it makes taste and money sense to me is in dressing salads (I never buy salad dressing anymore) and dipping bread -- it's healthier than butter and butter isn't cheap either. 

The whole Times article is well worth a read for just how extensive the taste testing went, and as a heads up on that store brand olive oil that always seems so price appealing...  but here is the key excerpt:  
 

I investigated the flavor question by heating 15 oils — 4 olive and 11 seed oils — with nothing else in the pan, so I could taste what heat alone does to them. And I served some of them to trained oil judges.

We were surprised at how thoroughly heat obliterated the flavors in cooking oil until they all tasted more or less the same. Even prize-winning, and costly, extra-virgin olive oils lost much of what makes them special, though they retain their apparently healthful pungency. To get food with the green and fruity flavor of good olive oil, it seems more economical and effective to  fry with an inexpensive refined oil and drizzle on a little fresh olive oil after cooking.

My cooking oil of choice for now will be canola.

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