How and Where To Use Olive Oil: Some Ideas
You may want to visit the International Olive Council’s Web site for more information and some excellent recipes from around the world. In brief though, here’s what you should know about the various kinds of olive oil and how to use ‘em:
Because of its exquisite flavor, a little goes a long way. Use anywhere that flavor matters in a big way, or where the flavor of the oil will be a primary, standalone taste. If you want to use it for cooking, be sure that you’re using it over low heat; higher temperatures will break the flavor of the oil down. Does not pair well with the flavors of most Indian dishes.
My fave: Toss a fistful of peeled, slightly bashed garlic into a cup of the finest grade of extra virgin olive oil you can afford, place in a large pan on very, very low heat, and sauté for 45 min. Leave to cool, then pour into a glass jar (strain if you like). Voila! Garlic-infused olive oil… swirl into hung curd for a luscious dip, pour over a leafy salad, or simply dunk bread in it. Divine.
The milder flavor of a virgin olive oil stand up to cooking on medium heat, making it perfect for marinades and sautés. Use anywhere that flavor is required, but not all-important, or when combining with other flavors.
My fave: Quick pistou-style pesto. Rip up a couple of cupfuls of basil leaves by hand, add a few lightly bashed pods of garlic, one teaspoon of salt, and half a teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper. Grind lovingly in a mortar until almost smooth. Then stir in about a quarter cupful of virgin olive oil, spoonful by spoonful, and mix well. Add a few drops of balsamic vinegar too, if you like. Spread on bread, add to pasta, use as salad dressing, spread on pizza instead of tomato sauce. Yum.
Refined olive oil withstands high levels of heat very well, but lacks the robust flavors of better grades of olive oil. Use for stir-fries, deep frying, roasting… any kind of cooking that requires high-heat, or when the flavor of the oil doesn’t really matter at all. Good for desi khaana. Cheapskate cheat-sheet: cook in refined olive oil, then after you’re done, drizzle extra-virgin over the dish for flavor.
My fave: Chop a half kilo of boneless veal into small bite-size strips (or cut potatoes, into bite-sized cubes and boil 10 min, if you’re a vegetarian). Beat together half a cup of oil, a couple tablespoons of lemon juice, a couple of pods of crushed garlic, and salt to taste. Toss the meat or potatoes in this mixture, and sprinkle a pinch of chilli powder on top. Stick in the oven and grill at 200ºC for 15-20 min or until done, turning once about midway through.
Good for baking, or anywhere you don’t want the flavor of olive oil to come through. Great for Indian cooking.
My fave: Is this easy-to-make lemon cake. It tastes good when you make it when just about any olive oil, even extra-virgin, but if the flavor is too strong for you, make it with light and enjoy a healthy cake sans butter.
Where to use: in soap. Seriously. Do not buy if you see the word “pomace” on the label. It is processed with hexane and other solvents – as are seed oils like canola and safflower. Don’t waste your money; buy the canola oil instead. No flavor or aroma whatsoever.
My fave: If you have any in your kitchen cupboard, use it to polish your wooden furniture. Or, add a couple drops of your favorite essential oil or perfume to it and use as a massage or bath oil.
Any more ideas? What’s your fave thing to do with olive oil? Tell, tell…