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THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on,
the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Oil/Vinegar/Dressing

TIP OF THE DAY: Beware Of Fake Italian Olive Oil


The odds are high that your bottle of
imported “extra virgin in olive oil” isn’t,
especially if it’s a major supermarket brand
and/or sold in bulk. Photo courtesy


“Is this for real?” a reader wrote, sending us a link to an article about fake olive oil. While we’ve covered this topic previously and also here, it’s worth revisiting. There’s a lot of fake imported oil claiming to be Italian olive oil.

In fact, fake olive oil has been a major scandal in Italy for decades. People have gone to jail for oil fraud, although that doesn’t stop the practice.

Unscrupulous Italian distributors import oil from Morocco, Spain (the largest producer of olive oil), Tunisia or elsewhere; bottle it in Italy and sell it a Italian olive oil. Sometimes, it’s a blend of a lower-quality Italian oil cut with non-Italian olive oil. Or it can be another oil entirely, such as soybean oil labeled “olive oil” on the manifest.

Totally fake olive oil can be made by mixing cheap vegetable oils with beta-carotene to disguise the flavor, and chlorophyll to provide the green color many people believe (erroneously) indicates higher-quality olive oil.

If the olive oil is bottled in Italy, it is not illegal to label it “Packed in Italy” or “Imported from Italy,” terms that easily deceive consumers. While a different country of origin is supposed to be listed on the label, often it is not. Italy is, in fact, the world’s largest importer of olive oil. Much of the oil sold as “Italian olive oil” isn’t, based on tests conducted in the U.S.

A special branch of the Italian police is trained to detect bad oil; but as in most inspections of most product categories in any country, there are too many products and too few inspectors. Even when fraud is found, producers—many of whom have connections to powerful politicians—are rarely prosecuted. [Source]


Just because the label says “extra-virgin olive oil” does not mean that’s what’s in the bottle. In fact, it may not even be 100% olive oil. It can be a blend of lower-quality vegetable oils that may include less than 20% olive oil.

The “extra virgin” label has strict IOC (International Olive Council) requirements; namely, that the acidity of the oil is less than 1%. If the acidity is between 1% and 3.3%, the oil is called virgin olive oil; and the higher the acidity, the lower the grade of oil (here are the grades of olive oil). Much olive oil sold as “extra virgin” isn’t.

A 2010 study by U.C. Davis, one of America’s top agricultural universities, found that 69% of the imported “extra virgin” olive oil sold in California supermarkets did not qualify as extra virgin (the results can be extrapolated to the rest of the country). That means your chance of buying real extra virgin is less than 1 in 3. Here’s the full report.

The Executive Summary begins:

While there are many excellent imported and domestic extra virgin olive oils available in California, our findings indicate that the quality level of the largest imported brand names is inconsistent at best, and that most of the top-selling olive oil brands we examined regularly failed to meet international standards for extra virgin olive oil.

Of the five top-selling imported “extra virgin” olive oil brands in the United States, 73% of the samples failed the IOC sensory standards for extra virgin olive oils, analyzed by two separate IOC-accredited sensory [tasting] panels.

The fraud typically comes from supermarket brands, store brands and club store brands that sell in big volume. There is nothing harmful about the olive oil, but it isn’t of the quality of the Italian olive oil you think you’re paying for. If you’re buying it for it’s heart-healthy benefits, you may not be getting them.

In 2010, a class action lawsuit in California targeted 10 major olive oil brands: Bertolli, Carapelli, Colavita, Filippo Berio, Mazola, Mezzetta, Pompeian, Rachael Ray, Safeway Select and Star. It also names 10 major supermarket chains and big box stores that allegedly sold substandard oil as “extra-virgin.” This includes olive oil mixed with cheaper types of oil, lower quality olive oil and olive oil degraded by heat or age.

Artisan oils from smaller brands are typically what they claim to be. They don’t sell in enough volume to interest the fraudsters.



Consumers have come to believe that green olive oil is better quality. So another trick fraudsters use is to color yellow olive oil green with chlorophyll.

While some green oils are top quality, the color of the oil is determined by:

  • The ripeness of the olives at harvest; for example, unripe, green olives yield green-hued oil and ripe, purple-black olives produce golden-toned oil.
  • Some olive varieties produce greener oil, just as some varieties of grapes produce deeper or lighter hues.
  • The International Olive Oil Council does not consider color as a factor in its blind grading of olive oils. In fact, oil is tasted from blue glasses to obscure the color.
    The fake can be discerned through lab analysis, although the retailers themselves don’t conduct these analyses. Read more at

  • Look for a label from a certifying agency, for example, the International Olive Council (IOC) for imported oils and the California Olive Oil Council (COOC) for California oils. Oils with these labels of authenticity generally undergo strict quality control testing.


    What started out as an exposé in The New York Times is now an even more informative book. Photo courtesy W. W. Norton & Company.

  • Buy American-grown and -made olive oil. U.S. growers and manufacturers are generally held to stricter standards than companies that export to the U.S. California and Texas are the top two producing states. Olive oil is also made in Florida, Georgia, Hawaii and Oregon.
  • Look for the Non-GMO Project seal. The Non-GMO Project rigorously evaluates products before bestowing their seal.
    And by all means:

  • Buy directly from olive oil producers when you’re in an oil-producing region.
    Here are two “tricks” that are not 100% foolproof:

  • Avoid the “fridge test.” Dr. Oz perpetuated the myth that authentic olive oil will thicken and become cloudy in the refrigerator. Although some will, many varieties of oil will react that way. Here are details.
  • Avoid thw “flame test.” Real olive oil is flammable because of its low smoke point. But numerous other oils also have low smoke points. Here’s a chart. Thus, advice to light the oil with a match to see if it burns is no more accurate than the fridge test.
    Want to learn more? Get Tom Mueller’s book, Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil.
    And for free, you can read through our informative Olive Oil Glossary.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Homemade Infused Oils

    You may see a proliferation of infused olive oils at the market. But you might want to infuse your own:

  • When you don’t have the space to store multiple bottles of oil.
  • When you don’t use infused oils often enough and the they go stale.
  • When you’d prefer an infused oil other than olive oil.
  • When you’d like to save money.
    Here’s a tip from Sunbasket, a West Coast service that delivers the best foods from the best farms along with personalized, easy recipes.

    Speaking of easy: Infused oils are easy to make. The technique we describe below takes only minutes, not weeks of infusing.


    Infused oils can add a rich, complex boost of flavor and aroma to nearly anything you prepare. We use them to:

  • Make more flavorful salad dressings.
  • Drizzle over pasta, meat and seafood.
  • Dip bread.
  • Cook eggs.
  • Grill vegetables.
  • Add flavor to baked goods.


    Drizzle flavored olive oil on pasta, meat or fish. Photo courtesy

  • Replace the pat of butter (cholesterol) on potatoes, rice and veggies.
  • Sauté and stir-fry (but don’t deep fry—remember the smoke point).
  • And just about any occasion when you use cooking oil.


    Most of the oils in the market are infused with herbs, citrus or garlic. Basil and rosemary are the most popular herbs, but also consider using cilantro, dill, oregano, parsley or thyme.

    For citrus: blood orange, grapefruit, lemon, lime, mandarin or exotics (calamondin, kaffir lime).

    For spices, just look on the spice shelf and find what piques your interest. How about chile, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, dill, fennel, nutmeg or star anise?

    For aromatics: garlic, ginger, lemongrass or scallions.

    How about nuts: almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios or walnuts?



    Add flavor to grilled vegetables. Photo courtesy



    While many infused oils are made by soaking herbs in oil for anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, a quick and easy infused oil can be make on the stove top in minutes.

    Since you’re adding flavor, there’s no need to splurge on an expensive oil. If you’re infusing olive oil, use one that has mild flavor—not too peppery or fruity (unless you want those flavors in the final product). Or, pick a neutral cooking oil like canola (the different types of cooking oils).


    1. HEAT 1 cup of your favorite oil over very low heat in a sauté pan, skillet or nonstick pan.

    2a. FOR HERBS: Add three sprigs of fresh herbs and a lightly smashed clove of garlic. Let the herbs cook in the pan until they’re just starting to brown, but not burn.

    2b. FOR SPICES: Cook until the oil just starts to bubble.

    2c. FOR NUTS: Use nuts that are raw and unsalted. Cook until they’re just starting to brown.

    Cooking any of these on the lowest heat possible will give the oil time to pull out the flavors while not burning.

    3. COOL and strain the oil with a fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth. Then funnel the oil into a glass bottle with a tight-fitting cap. Store in the fridge for up to 1 month.

    4. REMOVE the oil from the fridge 20 minutes before using, to bring it to room temperature. Or, use it as soon as it’s made.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Oil & Vinegar Sprayer


    Spray on oil and vinegar. Photo courtesy Delta.


    Just in time for summer cook-outs and picnics, we were sent samples of the large and small Evo Oil Sprayers.

    They’re different from misters: The spray is less fine and wider. The company claims that the spray nozzle is no-clog (a complaint with the finer-spray misters); so far, that’s been true for us.

    Today’s tip is: If you’re not yet using a mister/sprayer in the kitchen and for grilling, now’s the time to try one:

  • On cooking and baking pans and grill grates, instead of misters or aerosol-propelled (chemical) sprays. You also use your own quality oils, and can vary them (canola, olive, peanut or herb-infused, for example).
  • To evenly spray vegetables before roasting.
  • To spray butter- or herb-flavored oil on grains, popcorn and vegetables.
  • On salads, to save calories and the waste of vinaigrette at the bottom of the bowl.
    Available in two sizes, 8 ounces and 18 ounces, Evo is an option for people who aren’t happy with their current oil sprayers/misters. (We gave up on misters after trying to unclog two different brands.)

    The smaller size package consists of two bottles ($24.08). You can use one for oil and the other for vinegar; the bottles are different colors so you can easily tell which is which. We combined different oil and vinegar combinations into each bottle: one a balsamic vinaigrette, one a red wine vinaigrette.

    The large bottle ($19.99) comes with changeable silicone neck tags that identify five different kinds of oil plus balsamic vinegar (although you’d think that the color of the latter would be a dead giveaway). A funnel (provided) twists on to the bottle for easy filling.

    The Evo sprayers are made of high-quality plastic and are top-rack dishwasher safe; the sprayers are easily hand-washed in soapy water. Both components are BPA-, DEHP- and latex-free.

    The sleek ergonomic design is by Michael Graves Design Group, the architectural firm that has designed a variety of housewares including the iconic Alessi Michael Graves Kettle with Bird Whistle.

    Get your sprayers on, for yourself and for house gifts.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Cooking With Coconut Oil

    If you like coconut, have you cooked with coconut oil?

    We’re not talking about hydrogenated coconut oil, a trans fat long been used in American processed foods, which has been phased out of use over the past few years.

    We’re talking extra virgin coconut oil, which is 90% saturated fat but of a type that metabolizes in the body similar to an unsaturated fat. It thus does not increase LDL (bad) cholesterol.

  • Pressed from the fruit (the “flesh” or “meat”) of the coconut, coconut oil is very popular in India and throughout Southeast Asia. It adds a hint of coconut flavor and aroma to cooked dishes.
  • If you don’t want the coconut aroma and flavor, you can use refined coconut oil. But since we only use coconut oil for that hint of coconut, why bother when there other neutral oils in the pantry?
    At room temperature, coconut oil solidifies but turns liquid as soon as it hits the heat (or if your room is warmer than 76°F). Don’t put it in the fridge: It will turn rock-hard.

    You can find liquid coconut oil, which is fractionated coconut oil that has had the good-for-you lauric acid removed so it doesn’t solidify. It stays liquid, even in the fridge. Use it on your hair and skin if you want, but not for cooking.



    The same coconut oil that is used to cook is also used as a beauty product to make skin soft and hair shiny. Photo of virgin coconut oil—Fair Trade, organic and certified kosher—courtesy Dr. Bronner.



    When you’re in the store, you may discover a confusing list of options, including extra virgin coconut oil, virgin coconut oil, expeller-pressed coconut oil, the aforementioned liquid coconut oil, and generic products simply called “coconut oil.”

    Go with the virgin or extra virgin. According to Health Impact News, they’re the same thing. There’s no industry standard for “extra virgin”; it’s simply better marketing that leverages consumers’ preference for extra virgin oil oil.

    Here’s a detailed explanation of the different types of coconut oil.



    Refined coconut oil is pale yellow in color; unrefined (virgin) coconut oil is white.
    Photo courtesy Phu Thinh Co.



    Manufacturers use coconut oil in candies, cookies, whipped toppings, nondairy creamers and other foods. At home, we use it to add a hint of coconut flavor in:

  • Baked goods
  • Sautéed veggies: Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, root vegetables, potatoes
  • Stir fries
  • Sautéed chicken or fish (if you’re making a breading, use half bread crumbs and half flaked unsweetened coconut)
  • Stir fries
  • Marinades
  • Popcorn drizzle (add flaked coconut and toasted almonds!)
  • Bread spread (a vegan friend uses it to make delicious cinnamon toast)
  • Grains, as a butter alternative (we love what it adds to rice, regular and fried)/li>
    The same coconut oil that is eaten is also used as a beauty product. You can use it to soften skin, shine hair or as a massage oil.

    You can replace other oils or butter at a 1:1 ratio in baked goods. For shortening, replace 1 part with 3/4 part coconut oil.

    Solid coconut oil will mix like softened butter with other ingredients are at room temperature; but to be sure to please the gods of baking chemistry, we melt it first.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Ways To Use Miso Paste


    White miso paste, also called mild or sweet
    miso. Photo courtesy
    Try their recipe for carrot, miso and ginger
    salad dressing.


    Almost everyone who has been to a Japanese restaurant has had miso soup. But today’s tip includes other things to do with miso (MEE-zoe).

    Thanks to the popularity of miso, you can find at least one type of miso paste in many supermarkets and all natural foods stores (Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, for example).

    Miso is a paste made from soybeans and grains (typically barley or rice), koji (a fungus that serves as a fermenting agent) and sea salt. It can ferment from a short time (for mild homemade miso) to three years (for red miso). The result has the consistency of hummus.

    The fermentation produces an enzyme-rich, living food that contains many beneficial microorganisms. However, it also has a relatively high salt content.

    Miso should be refrigerated and added to cooked foods just before they are removed from the heat.



    Different types of miso paste are available in Japanese markets (like Sunrise Mart in New York City). Natural food stores typically carry the three most common.

    The deeper the color, the higher the percentage of soybeans and the stronger the flavor.

  • White miso paste, shiromiso, is the most common form. It has just a small amount of soybeans; the majority ingredient is riceor barley. White miso is also called mild miso and sweet miso, and is used mostly in salad dressings and marinades. It is also incorporated into Japanese and vegan desserts.
  • Yellow miso paste is stronger than white miso. It is a combination of barley and rice, and the most versatile of the varieties, used for glazes, marinades and soups.
  • Red miso paste is the strongest, fermented the longest to a deep red or deep brown color, made from mostly soybeans. The more percentage of soybeans, the longer the fermentation and the deeper the color. It is used to add heartier flavors to vegetables asparagus, eggplant and kale; dips, sauces and spreads.

    In Japan, miso soup is a culinary staple, whisked into dashi (stock) and enjoyed at any meal, starting with breakfast. It is also used to give an earthier flavor to noodle soups, such as ramen and udon.

    It is also used as a condiment/seasoning:

  • Braising meats, seafood (try miso-braised cod) and vegetables (try eggplant and mushrooms)
  • Compound butter: East meets West (how to make compound butter)
  • Dips and spreads: season with spices and use with crudités and rice crackers
  • Dressing: whisked into a dressing for salads and cooked vegetables
  • Grilling, as an overnight marinade and a glaze (coat corn on the cob, wrap in foil and grill)
  • Pickling, for a sweeter variety of vegetables pickles
  • Sauces: misoyaki is a variant of teriyaki

    Americans have incorporated miso into Western cuisine, from gravy to risotto and quich. For inspiration, pick up a book like The Miso Book: The Art of Cooking with Miso. It not only has many recipes, but shows you how to make your own miso paste from scratch.

    Start by making miso soup and salad dressing with the recipes below.



  • 3 tablespoons canola or other neutral oil (peanut, vegetable)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons white miso
  • 1/4 teaspoon dark sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey or 1/4 teaspoon agave
  • 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce


    A familiar bowl of miso soup. Photo courtesy Sushi Lounge | NJ.

  • Optional additions: chili flakes/sriracha, grated fresh ginger, peanut butter

    1. WHISK the ingredients in a bowl until smooth. Taste and add more honey or vinegar as you prefer.

    2. STORE leftovers in the fridge for up to a week.



  • 8 cups water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons instant dashi granules*
  • 1/4 cup red miso paste
  • 1 tablespoon dried seaweed, reconstituted in water and drained
  • 1/2 cup cubed tofu
  • 2 tablespoons green onion, chopped

    1. ADD the water into a pot and bring to a boil. Add the instant dashi; whisk to dissolve. Turn the heat to medium-low and add the tofu and seaweed. Simmer for 2 minutes. While the soup simmers…

    2. SPOON the miso paste into a bowl. Ladle 1/2 cup of the hot dashi broth into the bowl and whisk until the miso paste melts and is the mixture smooth.

    3. TURN off the heat and add the miso paste to the pot. Stir well. Taste the soup and whisk in another 1-2 tablespoons of miso paste as desired. Garnish with green onions and serve immediately.

    *This is the easy version; the soup will be ready in 10 minutes. When you have time, try a recipe that uses homemade dashi stock, made from fish and kelp. For quick recipes, dashi is also available in a bouillon cube format.



    RECIPE: Tuna Salad With Poached Egg & Vinaigrette

    We love Ozery Breads, and as we were checking out recipes on the company’s website we came across this tasty idea: Tuna Salad With Poached Egg.

    Hard boiled eggs are included in various salads—Chef Salad, Cobb Salad and Spinach Salad, for example—and chopped into egg, potato and tuna salads. So why not experiment with a poached egg, with a runny yolk that can augment the dressing?

    At Ozery, they enjoy this salad with their Zero Low Low Light Rye OneBun.

    Optional avocado slices also contribute to the richness of the dish.



  • Mixed salad greens
  • 1 egg per person
  • Tuna
  • Olive oil vinaigrette (recipe below)
  • Optional: avocado slices
  • Garnish: sunflower seeds
  • Bread of choice for toast


    A new way to enjoy salad: with tuna and a poached egg. Photo courtesy Ozery.



    1. FILL a larage pan with water and a pinch of salt, and bring it to a light simmer over a medium heat. Crack the egg and gently float it into the water. Cook for about 3-4 minutes and remove with a slotted spoon. While the egg poaches…

    2 TOAST the bread. Cut into 4 pieces.

    3. PLACE the greens on a plate and drizzle with the dressing. Top with avocado, tuna and poached egg. Sprinkle with sunflowers seeds and season with fresh-ground pepper.



    A vinaigrette will separate easily. To keep it emulsified, whirl it in the blender. Photo by Elena Thewise | ISP.



    Recently, a dinner guest asked us the “secret” to making a good vinaigrette. It’s simple: Good ingredients make good vinaigrettes. Use the best olive oil and vinegar in the right proportions (3:1) with a bit of seasoning.

    But we like more elaborate flavors in our vinaigrettes. We have an entire shelf of oils and vinegars. In the vinegar category: balsamic, champagne, fruit, herb, malt, red and white wine, rice, sherry and white balsamic. In the oil category: different EVOOS with different flavor profiles (grassy, herbal, mild, peppery and infused—with basil, rosemary, chile, etc.), flavored avocado oils, sesame and roasted nut oils (almond, pecan, pistachio, walnut).

    We do have canola and grapeseed oils, but we don’t use them in salad dressing—not enough flavor.

    When we’re ready to make a vinaigrette, we consider the main course and pick a complementary oil and vinegar. There’s no right or wrong answer as long as you don’t pair heavily-flavored oils and vinegars with delicate dishes. For example, you wouldn’t want a sesame oil vinaigrette with an omelet.

    Which brings up another point: There are different ways to manufacture oil. You have to know what you’re buying.

    Seeking walnut oil for a holiday vinaigrette—it delivers a rich, nutty, toasty flavor—we recently purchased a bottle made by International Oils. We were looking for a French import, but it was the only walnut oil on the shelf at Fairway. (Boo, Fairway!) When we got it home, it was bland, with scarcely any walnut flavor.

    Most health food store oils are produced in this style. If you want the true flavor, you need a traditionally produced oil, either imported or from La Tourangelle, a California producer and a NIBBLE Top Pick.

    A final tip: If you’re using a strongly-flavored oil or vinegar, you can omit the mustard and shallot. However, we enjoy complex layerings of flavor, so tend to keep them.


  • 1/4 vinegar (balsamic, red wine, white wine, other)
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon finely chopped shallot or capers
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

    1. WHISK together in a small bowl the vinegar, mustard, salt, pepper and sugar.

    2. SLOWLY whisk in the olive oil until emulsified. Or, if you’re not going to dress the salad immediately, do a more intense emulsification: Shake the ingredients vigorously in a jar; or better, whirl them in a blender or use an immersion blender (an Aerolatte milk frother works great).



    TIP OF THE DAY: Switch To Olive Oil

    Here’s a New Year’s resolution that isn’t tough to keep: Switch from olive oil to butter for your everyday fat.

    You’ve been hearing it for 10 years: olive oil is a heart healthy fat. Here’s what the Harvard School Of Public Health has to say:

    It’s time to end the low-fat myth. That’s because the percentage of calories from fat that you eat, whether high or low, isn’t really linked with disease. What really matters is the type of fat you eat.

  • Choose foods with healthy fats, limit foods high in saturated fat, and avoid foods with trans fat.
  • “Good” fats—monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats—lower disease risk. Foods high in good fats include vegetable oils (such as olive, canola, sunflower, soy, and corn), nuts, seeds and fish.
  • “Bad” fats—saturated and, especially, trans fats—increase disease risk. Foods high in bad fats include red meat, butter, cheese, and ice cream, as well as processed foods made with trans fat from partially hydrogenated oil.
  • And if you have lactose sensitivity, remember that butter is dairy.



    The choice is yours, but make the right choice. Photo courtesy Olive Oil Emporium.


    In 2004, the FDA allowed this health claim:

    “Limited and not conclusive scientific evidence suggests that eating about 2 tablespoons (23 grams) of olive oil daily may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease due to the monounsaturated fat in olive oil. To achieve this possible benefit, olive oil is to replace a similar amount of saturated fat and not increase the total number of calories you eat in a day.”

    Last year, researchers at Glasgow University in Scotland suggested that two teaspoons (20 ml) per day of extra virgin olive oil for 6 weeks “would be enough to see beneficial effects for the heart.”



    Dip bread in olive oil instead of spreading it with butter. Use a more flavorful EVOO, and add seasonings—herbs, pepper, salt, spices—as well as a splash of balsamic vinegar if you like. Photo courtesy



  • Butter: 100 calories per tablespoon, 12 grams fat, 7 grams saturated fat, 3 grams monounsaturated fat. 31mg cholesterol, 82 mg sodium.
  • Olive Oil: 120 calories per tablespoon, 14 grams fat, 2 grams saturated fats, 12 grams healthy fats, 0 mg cholesterol, 0 mg sodium.
    Breads, eggs, grains, meat and poultry, popcorn and just about anything cooked with butter can all be cooked in, or accented with, heart-healthy oils instead.

    If you miss the flavor of butter, transition away from it by cooking in oil and finishing the dish by adding a small amount of butter at the end.

    You don’t need to cook with extra virgin olive oil: The heat destroys the delicate flavors that you pay for. Instead of EVOO, look to virgin olive oil or what is known as ordinary olive oil—the major supermarket brands like Bertolli and Filippo Berio. Here are the different grades of olive oil.

    Do, however, use EVOO as a garnish: toss it with pasta, rice and vegetables; use it as a bread dipper. Select olive oils with the flavor profile you prefer—fruity, herbal, peppery, etc. (Alas, since flavor information is rarely on the label, you need to experiment or get recommendations from your retailer.)

    Use the appropriate grade of olive oil for different types of food preparation.



    We use butter for cakes and cookies, because our palate wants butteriness in those foods. But, as everyone who follows the cake mix directions to mix the dry ingredients with olive oil, oils work just fine. Unless you want the flavor of olive oil (Italian olive oil cakes are delicious!), use a neutral oil like canola.

    While you won’t get buttery flavor with oil, it does produce a moist cake, which tends to be be lighter and taller than a cake made with butter. The texture is is a bit more coarse and the crumb is more open (less dense).

    Butter produces shorter, more compact cakes, with a finer texture and a smaller crumb due. The texture will be a bit creamier, and of course it sports that rich, buttery taste.

    Here’s a conversion chart for baking, courtesy of Castillo de Piñar, which has many tips for cooking with olive oil:



    TIP OF THE DAY: Asian Vinaigrette

    Hungering for a salad dressing served at a local Asian restaurant, we made our own this weekend. It was so easy and delicious, we made up an extra-large batch to keep on hand for regular use.
    For lunch we tossed it with a package of shredded cabbage, essentially creating Asian cole slaw to go with sandwiches. Delicious! That evening, we served it with a conventional romaine tossed salad, with bell peppers, cherry tomatoes and red onions (plus some dried cranberries and slivered almonds we wanted to use up).

    This vinaigrette awaits everything from mesclun to Asian chicken salad, steamed vegetables to steamed rice.


    Ingredients For 1 Cup

  • ¼ cup rice vinegar
  • 1½ tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons dark sesame oil*
  • 9 tablespoons canola or other salad oil
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • ½ tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
  • ½ clove garlic, crushed
  • Optional: dash of sriracha or other hot sauce
  • Optional: 1/8 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
  • Optional: fresh-ground black pepper, to taste


    Asian vinaigrette is delicious on any salad. Photo by Juan Monino | IST.

    *About The Oil

    We love the flavor of Asian dark sesame oil. It’s very strong, so you only need a touch. We mix a smaller proportion of it with a larger proportion canola oil; you can use your salad oil of choice.

    Don’t try to solve the problem by purchasing light sesame oil: The ones we’ve had tend to be bland and don’t deliver delicious sesame flavor.

    You can use olive oil instead of canola—but not your best EVOO, since the sesame flavor will cover up its flavor nuances.

    1. WHISK the ingredients together in a bowl (or use a blender). Let stand for 30 minutes or more to let the flavors meld.

    2. WHISK again before serving.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Check Your Cooking Spray Ingredients

    Some 50 years ago, the debut of the first spray cooking oil, PAM, was a game changer for many cooks. But over the years, the joy of convenience and calorie savings gave way to wariness of the chemical propellants—petroleum, propane and isobutene—said to be 11% of the contents in the aerosol spray can. Today’s tip is to look at the ingredients in the can.

    If you’ve never used it, here’s the 411: Cooking spray is applied to frying pans and other cookware to prevent food from sticking. The virtually calorie-free spray spare the calories and saturated fats of butter, oil or other fat because the sprayed layer is so thin.

    PAM and the cooking spray brands that followed made other tasks a breeze, too—in the kitchen and beyond. We’ve listed some of the popular uses for cooking spray, below.

    In recent years, consumers have become more aware and fussy about the quality of the ingredients they consume. Two companies have decided to lose the controversial chemicals: major brand Bertolli and artisan producer La Tourangelle.

    Opting for compressed air to propel 100% oil (instead of 89% oil and 11% chemicals), these products deliver even better taste without the hint of chemicals.

    The original sprays were a greasing agent; these new, all natural sprays are also salad spritzers, finishing oils* (especially the top-quality La Tourangelle line) and more—for example, a cholesterol-free, mess-free condiment for corn on the cob. In every case you use far less oil than in another type of application.


    The new sprays launch in three varieties:



    Spray away, without chemical propellants. Photo courtesy Bertolli.

  • Bertolli 100% Classico Olive Oil Spray, to spray directly on the pan before sautéing proteins and vegetables
  • Bertolli 100% Extra Virgin Olive Oil Spray, to spray onto salads and pastas
  • Bertolli 100% Extra Light Tasting Olive Oil Spray, for baking tins and preparations that require high heat
    You can purchase a six-pack on for $37.52 ($6.25 per five-ounce can), or a three-pack, one of each flavor, for $21.99 ($7.33 per can).


    La Tourangelle, the California-based artisanal oil company and a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week, has launched the first-to-market line of gourmet spray oils that are also all-natural and propellant-free. The company’s top-selling bottled oils are now sprayable:

  • 100% Organic Extra Virgin Olive Spray
  • Grapeseed Oil Spray
  • Roasted Pistachio Spray
  • Organic Canola Spray
  • Roasted Walnut Oil Spray
  • Thai Wok Spray
    The products are now available online at and will be hitting store shelves soon. The prices range from $6.99 to $9.99 SRP. Consider them as stocking stuffers for friends with good palates.

    *A finishing oil is one that is added to cooked food as a condiment, to add flavor and mouthfeel. It is an oil with especially fine natural flavor and aroma that should be enjoyed as a surface accent, and not used for cooking or baking where the nuances will dissipate under heat. It can be used on carpaccio, legumes, porcini mushrooms, pasta, rice and other grains, roasted meats and fish, vegetables and other foods. Fine olive oil can be drizzled atop vanilla ice cream and garnished with a sprinkle of sea salt.




    Four of the six new artisan-quality spray oils
    from La Tourangelle. Photo courtesy La



    Cooking spray is godsend for anything that calls for greasing, from skillets to bundt pans. Popular kitchen uses include:

  • Baking & Roasting: baking sheets, baking dishes/casseroles, cake and muffin pans, roasting pans and broiler pans
  • Cookware, with or without non-stick coating: barbecue grills, frying pans/skillets, gelatin molds, griddles, pots
  • Food preparation: preventing food from sticking to spatulas, wooden spoons, skewers, measuring cups (especially when measuring sticky things like honey, syrup and agave), food processor blades and blender blades
    Adventurous people found uses beyond the kitchen: everything from unsticking doors to preventing fresh nail polish from smudging.

    How about using cooking spray for removing dead bugs from your car, and other unconventional uses?


    PAM, America’s first aerosol cooking spray, was launched in 1961 by entrepreneur Leon Rubin who, with Arthur Meyerhoff, started Gibraltar Industries to market the spray. The name is an acronym for Product of Arthur Meyerhoff. The brand is currently owned and distributed by ConAgra Foods.

    With canola oil as its main ingredient, the appeal of PAM was immediate.

  • For calorie counters, it provided a zero-calorie*, fat-free option for greasing the pan, instead of other fats at 100 calories per tablespoon.
  • For bakers, it was the way to prevent cakes and muffins from sticking.
  • For recipes like vegetables, mozzarella sticks and the like, it helped the seasonings to stick thoroughly.
  • For utensils, coating the inside of a measuring cup with the spray allows sticky substances such as honey to pour out more easily.
    Not only did it spawn imitators (Baker’s Joy, Crisco, Emeril, Mazola and Smart Balance, for example), but PAM itself developed eight varieties: Original plus Baking, Butter, Canola Oil, Organic Canola Oil, Grilling, Olive Oil, Organic Olive Oil Professional.

    And now, welcome to Cooking Spray 3.0: chemical free.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Olive Oil Swap


    Instead butter on your bread, try olive oil.
    Photo courtesy


    August is National Olive Oil Month, reminding us again that it’s easy to make heart-healthy switches in everyday eating.

    While the health benefits of olive oil are no secret (including no cholesterol and less saturated fat than butter), most people are unaware of how simple it is to make the swap. Here are three easy switches:

  • Olive oil vinaigrette instead of creamy salad dressings
  • Sautéeing with olive oil instead of butter or other fat
  • Dipping bread in olive oil instead of spreading it with butter
    When you swap butter for olive oil, you use need less oil—so that’s also a savings in calories.

  • 1 teaspoon butter > ¾ teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter > 2-¼ teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter > 1-½ tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ cup butter > 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup butter > ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2/3 cup butter > ½ cup olive oil
  • ¾ cup > ½ cup + 1 tablespoon
  • 1 cup > ¾ cup
  • 2 cups > 1-½ cups
    For more ways to swap butter for olive oil in everyday recipes, visit

    You can also print out Pompeian’s butter to olive oil conversion chart and hang it on the fridge.


    What kind of oil is in and on your movie popcorn?

    Most movie theaters pop the kernels in coconut oil. Coconut oil is 86% saturated fat, the kind that raises cholesterol. Lard is 38% saturated fat.

    The butter-flavored oil topping at the movies is usually partially hydrogenated soybean oil that contains both saturated and trans fats. [Source]

    What happened to “butter topping?” The butter made the popcorn soggier than oil. As a bonus to theater owners, oil is also far cheaper than butter.

    During the month of August, Pompeian Extra Virgin Olive Oil has arranged with some movie theater chains to offer pure olive oil as an alternative to the standard topping. If you find yourself at one of those venues, let us know how you enjoyed the swap.



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