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Archive for Oil/Vinegar/Dressing

TIP OF THE DAY: How To Buy Better Olive Oil

Some 10 years ago, the Food and Drug Administration allowed a qualified health claim on food labels of olive oil. The claim states that daily consumption of 2 tablespoons, or 23 grams of olive oil, may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. The decision to allow the claim was made after the FDA found sufficient evidence to conclude that monounsaturated fatty acids, naturally present in olive oil, may prevent heart disease.

This spurred the consumption of olive oil in the U.S. So if your healthier eating plans for the new year include those two tablespoons, here are tips for buying olive oil from an expert: David Neuman, CEO of Gaea US and a certified master panel taster trained at ONAOO, the Organizzazione Nazionale Assaggiatori Olio di Oliva (National Organization For The Tasters Of Olive Oil).

While American olive oils tend to be well monitored, that’s not so with some imports. The industry has long been fraught with fake and doctored oils, fooling even good retailers.

For your money and your heart-healthiness, here are some tips to help you find the real deal.
 
TIPS TO BUYING QUALITY EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

1. Look & Taste

Color is not necessarily an indicator of quality. The color has a lot to do with the variety of olive being crushed, the stage of the harvest the olives were picked and the time and temperature of the malaxation† process. And if the oil is filtered or not. Not to mention, many olive oils are sold in dark glass bottles which help preserve the oil, but make it impossible to see the color before you buy.

Neuman prefers robust oils of a premium nature that are early harvested and quickly malaxed using olives that are prone to being more green. However, he says, there are wonderful oils such as from Sicily that are yellow and have a very intense fruity taste accented by bitterness and pungency. They are of excellent quality, but not dark green in color.

There are also different styles, which appeal to different plates. Some examples:

  • Fruity, a factor affected by variety, maturity, processing and growing conditions.
  • Bitter, a feature of good, young olive oil, the intensity of which depends on the olive variety and ripeness, as well as on the milling technique.
  • Pungent (chemesthesis), throat-catching and/or mouth-hot, a characteristic of Tuscan olive oils.
  •  
    2. Aroma

    Neuman thinks that a much more precise indicator of the quality of an olive oil is the aroma. A quality EVOO should taste fresh, green, peppery and grassy.

    While you first have to purchase the bottle, Neuman recommends the sniff test, which is also the way to judge how an opened bottle of olive oil is holding up.

  • When you open the bottle it should smell green and grassy, or even ripe and tropical (depending on variety, ripeness, milling, etc. etc. etc.). It should smell good.
  • Look out for fustiness or rancidity, two common defects in olive oil. If you are reminded of a gym locker, sweaty socks, stinky football pads, feet, cheese, crayons, old peanuts, or a compost heap that is too wet, that oil has not been made with fresh, healthy olives. Return it to the retailer!
  • Rancidity doesn’t show up in the aroma until it’s fairly advanced, but you will can smell it immediately and taste it as soon as the oil is in your mouth: It will have a greasy, fatty mouthfeel. If you get an impression of crayons, wax, window putty, old linseed oil or oil paint, rancid walnuts or peanuts, “cat piss” or a wet compost heap: That’s rancidity.
  •  
    Here’s more on the flavors and aromas of olive oil.
    _________________________________
    *Olive oil should be used to replace, and not add to, the other fats present in your diet. Here’s more on the recommendations.

    †Malaxation is the churning or mixing of milled olives for 20 to 40 minutes. This allows the smaller droplets of oil released by the milling process to aggregate and be more easily separated. Here’s more about malaxation.

     

    Harvested Olives

    Gaea Olive Oil

    Green-Hued Olive Oil

    Coratina Olive Oil

    The color of olive oil is based on various factors, and is not necessarily indicative of quality. Top: Just-harvested olives at O Olive Oil. Second: A green-hued olive oil from DeMedici. Third: A yellow-hued premium olive oil from Gaea. Bottom: If you butter your bread, switch to an olive oil dipper. You can add herbs, chili flakes, or enjoy it plain, like this Coratina olive oil from Murrays.com.

     
    3. Price

    Price typically is a solid indicator of quality. The more the oil costs, the better the quality. But there’s a catch: A high-priced oil can sit on the shelves for years and be completely rancid. Check for “best before” dates, or at least harvest dates. You can check online for the shelf life of the particular oil.

  • Bottle dating is voluntary, and this type of transparency is not yet universal on bottles from all producers in countries. But you can let it be a deciding factor in your purchase.
  • Watch out for bargains. If the price is so low and seems too good to be true, it probably is. Expect to spend more than $10 for a 17-ounce bottle of EVOO.
  • Look for extra virgin olive oils that are from a single source. This can range from a single estate to a single Protected Designation of Origin (PDO—these regional designations are policed well by the EU) to a particular region or country.
  • The worst sign is a label that says, “May contain olive oils from Spain, Italy, Greece, Tunisia, Turkey, Argentina and Australia” (i.e., more than one country) or “Mediterranean blend.” This means that the oil is from an industrial packer that sells bulk not quality, and not a conscientious olive oil producer.
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    FINAL TIPS

  • Beware of “extra light” olive oil. Neuman warns that an “extra light” label does not indicate an olive oil that is light in calories. Rather, it is a refined olive oil blend, made with olive oil that has been heavily refined so that it has no color, aroma or flavor. It is blended with about 10% Extra Virgin or Virgin grade for flavor and color, and is the lowest-quality olive oil sold to consumers. Avoid it!
  • Study up before you buy. Check out our Olive Oil Glossary, what you need to know about extra virgin olive oil, and how to taste olive oil.
  • Olive oil sensory wheel: How to learn the flavors and aromas of olive oil.
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Oils To Use, And Not To Use

    What cooking oils are in your pantry?

    Here’s what you should know from Chef Gerard Viverito, a culinary instructor and Director of Culinary Education for Passionfish, an NGO non-profit organization dedicated to educating people around the globe on issues of sustainability in the seas.

    THE 12 COOKING OILS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT

    In your mother’s kitchen, the only cooking oil may have been all-purpose vegetable oil, a blend of inexpensive oils. Then came the Mediterranean Diet and the attention paid to its heart-healthy olive oil.

    Today, there are more than a dozen options for cooking oil. Don’t be stuck with mom’s ingredients. Use Chef Gerard’s handy guide to determine which cooking oils you need to add to your collection.

    EVERYDAY HEALTHY COOKING FATS

    Each of these healthy fats deserves a place in your pantry, says Chef Gerard.

  • Butter. There’s no need to avoid this tasty fat (it isn’t an oil, but we’re giving it a pass). The myth about saturated fat has been busted. Butter is fine to use in moderation for adding flavor to veggies or potatoes.
  •    

    Olive Oil & Olives

    Heart-healthy olive oil has become a staple in American kitchens. Photo courtesy Flavor-Your-Life.com, a great resource for olive oil lovers.

  • Coconut oil. A tropical oil that is gaining in popularity, coconut oil’s medium chain fatty acids (also found in grass-fed butter and palm oil) are easily utilized as body fuel, which may help with weight management. Coconut oil’s natural sweetness makes it a great choice for baking.
  • Malaysian palm oil. This up-and-coming healthy tropical oil is a popular replacement for harmful trans fat. This non-GMO, balanced and ultra-nutritious oil can already be found in many of your favorite packaged foods. It tolerates heat extremely well, so it’s an ideal all-purpose cooking oil. All palm oil isn’t the same. Look for Malaysian certified sustainable palm oil; if it isn’t in your supermarket, check the nearest health food store. The Malaysian palm industry adheres to the 3Ps sustainability model.
  • Olive oil. Rich in monounsaturated fat, this oil is great for a healthy heart and healthy skin. Use it for salad dressings and drizzling over breads, but don’t use for high-temperature applications. This healthy oil starts to degrade before you hit 400°F. (Tip: Have at least two tablespoons a day, whether in salad dressing or straight from the spoon.)
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    SPECIAL OCCASION COOKING OILS

    These oils have more limited uses, and often come with a higher price.

  • Avocado oil. Avocado oil is rich in nutrients, because it is extracted from the fruit’s flesh. This process is similar to olive oil and palm oil production. Avocado oil tolerates heat up to 500°F, which makes it great for broiling. You can also find flavored olive oils, delicious on salads and other vegetables, potatoes, and grains.
  • Flaxseed oil. Flaxseed oil is a nutritious yet delicate oil. While many nutrition-focused people want to eat more of it, it begins breaking down at just 225°F so can’t be exposed to heat. The oil is extremely rich in heart-healthy omega-3, but unfortunately, many people find its flavor unappealing. Consider adding a teaspoon of flaxseed oil to your next smoothie to reap its health benefits.
  • Macadamia nut oil. Although more commonly used as a beauty aid, this sweet and buttery oil is good for your health, too. It contains a 1:1 ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. Why is this important? Many health experts believe the Western diet contains too many inflammatory omega-6s. Try macadamia nut oil in salads.
  •  
    If you currently use sunflower oil, consider this:

  • Sunflower oil. Sunflower oil is rich in skin-, brain- and heart-healthy vitamin E tocotrienols. Unfortunately, it’s also high in inflammatory compounds, so instead of cooking with it, it’s better to rub some on your cuticles or use it to smooth your hair. Instead of sunflower oil, get your tocotrienols from Malaysian certified sustainable palm oil, nature’s richest source.
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    Macadamia Nut Oil

    Macadamia and avocado oils are both made in Australia. For the best flavor, look for first cold pressed oils. Photo courtesy Brookfarm.

     

    GENETICALLY MODIFIED OILS

    If you’re trying to avoid genetically modified foods (GMOs), put these oils on your “do not buy” list. More than 90% of these crops are grown using genetically modified seeds.

  • Canola oil
  • Corn oil
  • Cottonseed oil
  • Soybean oil
  •  
    Give all of your current oils the “sniff test.” If they smell musty, they’re ready the recycling bin.

    Replace them with “good oils.”
     
    ALL OF THE COOKING OILS

    There are more cooking oils, including the pricey-but-delicious hazelnut, pistachio and walnut oils; and powerful dark sesame oil, which is delicious when used in moderation. Take a look at the different cooking oils in our Culinary Oils Glossary.

     

    And check to see if your oil should be kept in the fridge. Some are very hardy and stay well on the shelf for two years; others, less so.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Uses For Duck Fat

    Duck fat has long been a staple in the kitchens of top chefs. Like bacon fat, duck fat enhances the flavor of anything it touches.

    One of the finest animal fats for cooking, it actually is low in saturated fat. As an ingredient, it has a silky mouth feel, subtle flavor and a high smoke point, which makes it valuable for high-heat cooking like French fries or pan searing.

    Other benefits include deep browning and the ability to re-use the fat after cooking with it (strain it into a container).

    DUCK FAT WITHOUT GUILT

    Recent studies on duck fat show that it is low in saturated fat and high in unsaturated fat, making it one of healthiest animal fats you can eat.

  • Duck fat contains only 33% saturated fat; 62% is unsaturated fat (13.7% of which is polyunsaturated fat, containing Omega-6 and Omega-3 essential oils).
  • Duck fat is closer nutritionally to olive oil, with 75% monounsaturated fat, 13% saturated fat, 10% omega-6 linoleic acid and 2% omega-3 linoleic acid, than it is to other animal fats.
  • It’s high in oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat that actually helps keep cholesterol numbers in check (it’s the same fat that makes olive oil heart-healthy).
  • Most of the saturated fat is stearic acid, which is generally considered to be heart friendly.
  •    

    Duck Fat Uses

    TOP PHOTO: Duck Fat-Potato Galette with Caraway and Sweet Onions from Bon Appetit. Here’s the recipe. BOTTOM PHOTO: A French classic: confit leg of duck in cassoulet, with duck bacon. Photo courtesy Payard | NYC.

  • Duck fat has less saturated fat than butter, (which has 51%).
  • High use of duck fat equals lower heart disease. In the southwest of France, where duck is the go-to cooking fat, the incidence of cardiovascular disease is about half that of the rest of France—which, per the French paradox, is already less than half that of the U.S.
  •  
    While the USDA may never declare duck fat to be heart-healthy like olive oil, you can use it without guilt. You have plenty of time to try it: It keeps frozen for six months or longer.
     
    HOW TO USE DUCK FAT

    Use duck fat as you would any other animal fat, in the same quantity and manner (melted vs. solid, cold vs. room temperature, for example) as the fat you’re replacing.

  • In place of a stick of butter, use a half cup of duck fat.
  • For a drizzle of oil, use a drizzle of slightly warmed duck fat.
  • When using duck fat for deep frying, gently melt the solid fat over medium-high heat until it completely liquefies; then raise the temperature to high to bring the fat up to the proper frying temperature.
  •  
    Use Duck Fat At Breakfast

  • Eggs: fried or scrambled eggs, omelets, frittatas, etc. cooked in duck fat.
  • Potatoes: hash browns cooked in duck fat.
  •  
    Use Duck Fat At Lunch & Dinner

  • Biscuits and popovers.
  • Classic French dishes such as cassoulet, confit de canard and rillettes.
  • Potatoes: French fries, galettes and roasted potatoes will be even crisper. Use it instead of butter in mashed potatoes.
  • Poultry: Instead of rubbing the bird with butter or oil before roasting, use duck fat for crisper skin. Rub some softened duck fat under the skin of the breasts and inside the cavity; massage it into the skin; then seasoning and roast in a hot oven.
  • Salad dressing: Substitute heated (liquid) duck fat for the oil, and pair with a fruity vinegar. Serve immediately after tossing with greens.
  • Searing: Give fish and seafood, meats and poultry, fish and shellfish an evenly browned, flavorful crust.
  • Vegetables: Sautéed or roasted, a little duck fat goes a long way in adding richness and facilitating caramelization.
  • Savory pie crusts: pot pie and quiche.
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    D'artgnan Duck Fat

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    You can buy duck fat from companies that specialize in pates and charcuterie, like D’Artagnan and Aux Delices. Photos courtesy Dartagnan.com.

     

    Use Duck Fat To Make Desserts & Snacks

  • Donuts: Fry them in duck fat—really! It adds a depth of flavor.
  • Popcorn: Pop the corn in it duck fat.
  • Pastry: It makes crisp, golden puffed pastry, tender, flaky pâté brisée and short crust pastry. Use a 50:50 duck fat:butter blend for most baking recipes. If using it as a replacement for lard, use an equal measure.
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    WHERE TO FIND DUCK FAT

  • Gourmet/specialty food stores.
  • Your local butcher or anywhere raw or cooked duck* is sold.
  • Your local poultry farmer.
  • Online: from D’artagnan.
  •  
    *Gourmet take-out shops that sell rotisserie duck should have lots of it.

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: 25+ Uses For Bacon Fat, Bacon Grease, Drippings Or Whatever You Call It

    Our mom loved to cook bacon: She loved the aroma. She also had a great exhaust hood, a kitchen with pocket doors to prevent the aroma from escaping to the rest of the house, and a window and a back door to let in fresh air.

    She bought thick-cut bacon and cooked it slowly over medium-low heat in a stainless steel skillet big enough to hold the entire pound of strips without crowding. At a lower heat, all the fat renders (melts into liquid) while the bacon crisps. Once, we recall, she received a block of slab bacon in a gourmet gift basket, cut it in a small dice and cooked it the same way.

    Call it bacon fat, bacon grease or bacon drippings: She strained it and stored the fat in a jar in the fridge, where it turned a creamy beige. She used it for pie crusts, for cooking eggs and a number of the uses below. And she always advised us never to pour it down the drain, or it would congeal and clog.

    You can store bacon fat in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a month. Use it instead of butter or oil—or in combination with them—to add hints of bacon flavor to your recipes.

    Then, when you’re ready to cook, you can:

  • Grease the pan with bacon fat.
  • Drizzle bacon fat over the ingredients.
  • Toss ingredients with bacon fat instead of oil.
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    Bacon Cooking In Pan

    Cook the bacon, save the fat. Photo by Claire Freierman | THE NIBBLE.

  • Mix melted bacon fat into the recipe instead of melted butter or oil.
  •  
    Before you comment on the consumption of bacon fat: Yes, we know that cardiologists don’t support the consumption of any component of bacon. But that doesn’t stop Americans from eating 18 pounds of pork bacon each, per year. [Source]

     

    Beer & Bacon Potato Salad

    bacon-grease-fancyfoodfancy.wordpress-230

    TOP PHOTO: Potato salad with bacon fat (recipe below). Photo courtesy Samuel Adams. BOTTOM PHOTO: See how Sandy of Fancy Food Fancy uses bacon fat in her pie crusts. Photo courtesy Fancy Food Fancy.

      BACON FAT AT BREAKFAST

  • Fry eggs, hash browns and pancakes.
  • Grease the cornbread pan.
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    BACON FAT AT LUNCH

  • Bacon barbecue sauce (recipe)
  • Bacon mayonnaise or aïoli (recipe)
  • Caramelized onion dip (recipe)
  • French fries
  • Fried rice (recipe)
  • Grilled cheese and panini (instead of butter to pan-fry the
    sandwich)
  • Loaf breads (grease the pan)
  • Salad with warm bacon vinaigrette (recipe)
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    BACON FAT AT DINNER

  • Baked potatoes: rub bacon fat instead of oil on the skins before baking.
  • Brussels sprouts and bacon (recipe)
  • Cocktails: bacon-infused bourbon or other spirit (recipe)
  • Pan-fried potatoes.
  • Potato pancakes, roasted potatoes
  • Sauté cabbage, greens, mushrooms, onions and other veggies.
  • Stir-frys
  • Wine and bacon pasta sauce (recipe)
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    BACON FAT IN DESSERTS & SWEETS

  • Bacon-bourbon ice cream (recipe)
  • Bacon brownies (recipe)
  • Bacon caramel corn (recipe)
  • Bacon caramels (recipe)
  • Bacon milkshake (recipe).
  • Cookies: in chocolate chip or other cookies, substitute bacon fat for half the butter
  • Gingersnaps (recipe)
  • Pie crust (recipe)
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    BEER & BACON POTATO SALAD

    People who love bacon may already have discovered German potato salad, also called Alsatian potato salad. It is typically mixed with a vinagrette and the grease from the cooked bacon, and served warm with grilled sausages. Here’s a recipe.

    This recipe is by chef Michele Ragussis for Samuel Adams.

    Ingredients For 6-8 Servings

  • 3 bottles Samuel Adams Boston Lager or equivalent
  • 3 pounds baby potatoes
  • 8 eggs
  • 1 package bacon
  • ½ red onion, diced
  • Half head celery, diced
  • 1 bunch scallions, finely sliced
  • ¼ bunch dill
  • 16 ounces mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard
  • 3 dashes red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon bacon fat
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    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 375°F. Bring the beer to a boil in a large pot. Add the potatoes and boil in beer for about 15 minutes or until fork tender. Drain and let cool. Set aside.

    2. BRING a large pot of water to boil, and hard boil the eggs for about 12 minutes. Let the eggs cool, then peel and chop.

    3. COOK the bacon in a large sheet pan until crispy; then dice. Set aside.

    4. MIX the diced red onion, scallions, celery, bacon, eggs and dill in a large bowl.

    5. Once potatoes are cool, add to bowl of ingredients and smash together so they are half mashed.

    6. ADD all wet ingredients, salt and pepper and mix well. Add about a tablespoon of the bacon grease for flavor.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Beware Of Fake Italian Olive Oil

    bottle-question-mark-fake-livefreelivenatural

    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
    LiveFreeLiveNatural.com.

     

    “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]

     
    EVEN IF IT’S OLIVE OIL, IT MAY NOT BE “EXTRA VIRGIN”

    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.

     

    GREEN COLOR DOESN’T MEAN BETTER OLIVE OIL

    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 OliveOilSource.com.
     
    HOW TO DETERMINE IF OLIVE OIL IS REAL

  • 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.
  •  

    extra-virginity-230

    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.
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    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.

      

    Comments

    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.

    WHEN TO USE INFUSED OILS

    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.
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    olive-oil-pour-spout-flavoryourlife-230

    Drizzle flavored olive oil on pasta, meat or fish. Photo courtesy Flavor-Your-Life.com.

  • 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.
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    WHAT FLAVORS TO INFUSE

    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?

     

    olive-oil-pouring-flavoryourlife-230

    Add flavor to grilled vegetables. Photo courtesy Flavor-Your-Life.com.

     

    QUICK-INFUSED OIL

    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).

     
    Preparation

    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.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Oil & Vinegar Sprayer

    evo-oil-sprayer-230

    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 Amazon.com, for yourself and for house gifts.

     
      

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    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.

       

    Coconut-oil-dr-bronner-230

    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.

     

    DIFFERENT TYPES OF COCONUT OIL

    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.

     

    Coconut-and-oil-w-coconut-PhuThinhCo-230

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

     

    WAYS TO USE COCONUT OIL

    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.
     
    BAKING WITH COCONUT 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.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Ways To Use Miso Paste

    sweet-white-miso-crumbsandtales-230

    White miso paste, also called mild or sweet
    miso. Photo courtesy CrumbsAndTales.com.
    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.

     

    TYPES OF MISO PASTE

    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.
  •  
    WAYS TO USE MISO PASTE

    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.

    RECIPE: EASY MISO DRESSING

    Ingredients

  • 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
  •  

    miso-soup-2-sushiloungeNJ-230

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

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

    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.

     
    RECIPE: EASY MISO SOUP

    Ingredients

  • 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
  •  
    Preparation

    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.

      

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    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.

    RECIPE: TUNA SALAD WITH POACHED EGG

    Ingredients

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

    tuna-salad-poached-egg-ozery-230

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

     

    Preparation

    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.

     

    salad-vinaigrette-230

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

     

    BASIC VINAIGRETTE RECIPE

    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.

    Ingredients

  • 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
  •  
    Preparation

    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).

      

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