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Olive oil has long been one of the most popular and healthy cooking oils in the world. This Mediterranean wonder has long been a top selling oil in America and throughout the rest of the world.
Whether it’s used in cooking with sauces or used in dressings or just drizzled over fresh vegetables or pasta, extra-virgin olive oil, the highest quality of oil, has an acidity of less than one percent, according to the International Olive Oil Council.
But the question has always been, “Is extra-virgin olive oil always the best variety to use?” When deciding which type of oil to use, whether it’s olive oil, canola oil, chile oil, coconut oil, or peanut, sesame or even walnut oil, it depends on what you’re trying to do.
Does smoke point matter?
Whether you’re grilling or sautéing some chicken, shrimp or salmon, or just composing a spring salad, the right choice of oil is essential. If flavor is the key, you can’t go wrong with olive oil. Its distinct flavor, combined with its heart-healthy ingredients, makes it one of the most popular oils, offering a wide range of choices.
Refined oils, such as canola, corn, peanut, safflower, sunflower and soybean, are clear and free from rancidity and foreign matter. These oils are used as medium cooking oils (225-350 degrees), high cooking oils (350-450 degrees) and deep-frying oils (greater than 450 degrees).
Unrefined oils, such as butter, coconut, walnut, grape seed, sesame and extra-virgin olive oil, are best used at a temperature range of 212-320 degrees. The strong flavors of unrefined oils can dominate whatever dish you’re making and in some cases, are actually used as flavoring agents. Additionally, when the oil has a strong natural flavor and/or aroma, the result is a higher amount of nutritional value.
Types of olive oil
Virgin olive oils can contain up to three percent acidity. Lower acidity oils can be used as condiments and those with a higher-acidity are better suited for sautéing or frying. Both virgin and extra-virgin olive oils have been extracted from the fruit of olives without chemical alteration. There is also a refined olive oil, which has been stripped of much of its flavor, but is useful for sautéing and frying at higher temperatures.
Antipasto with Red Pepper Tapenade
1/2 loaf day-old crusty bread, sliced
2 large garlic cloves, cracked
Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
1 large jar roasted red peppers, drained
1/4 cup parsley leaves
1/4 cup black olives, pitted (about 20)
2 Tbsps. capers, drained
4 oz. tuna in oil
1 (6 oz) jar marinated artichokes
Hot peppers, cherry peppers, banana peppers or pepperoncini
1/2 lb. sliced Italian deli meats (pepperoni, Genoa salami, etc.)
1/2 lb assorted Italian cheeses (Asiago, Parmesan, provolone, smoked mozzarella, etc.)
If your slices of meat/cheese are wider than a few inches, cut each slice in half. Char pieces of bread under hot broiler to toast and crisp. Rub with cracked garlic and drizzle bread with extra-virgin olive oil. Place roasted red peppers in a food processor with parsley. Add olives. Drain a few spoonfuls of capers and add to processor. Pulse the processor and grind into a paste. Transfer to a small dish.
Arrange tuna, artichokes, hot peppers, meats and cheeses on a platter and serve with charred bread and red pepper spread for all-evening snacking. Makes 4 servings.
Chicken with Parmesan, Brown Butter and Sage Sauce
4 (5-6 ounces) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 Tbsps. butter (for cooking chicken)
2 sticks butter (8 oz)
2 cups whole sage leaves, loosely packed with stems removed
1 (16 oz) pkg. linguini, cooked “al dente”
In a skillet over medium-high heat, cook chicken in butter on both sides until juices run clear, about 10 minutes (chicken can also be grilled, if you prefer). Remove and keep warm. Add 2 sticks butter to the skillet. Bring to a boil over medium heat; stir to loosen brown bits from pan. Add whole sage leaves; continue over medium heat just until butter starts to brown. Do not overheat or butter will burn.
Place each chicken breast on a bed of linguini and top with ¼ cup of Parmesan cheese. Spoon the hot, sage sauce over the cheese, being sure to be generous with the crisp, sage leaves. Best to serve the sauce at the table, so guests can here the “crackle” when the sauce is poured over the cheese! Makes 4 servings.
Flounder Stuffed with Crabmeat
1-1/2 lbs. flounder fillets, 4 large pieces
1 cup crabmeat
1-1/2 tsps. chopped green pepper
1-1/2 tsps. chopped pimiento
1/4 tsp. dry mustard
1/4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. Old Bay seasoning
1/4 tsp. ground cayenne
4 saltine crackers, crushed
1 egg, separated
6 Tbsps. mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. chopped parsley
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 tsp. paprika
Rinse and dry the flounder. In a medium bowl, combine crabmeat, green pepper, pimiento, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, Old Bay, cayenne and crackers. In a small bowl or measure, combine egg white and 1 tablespoon of the mayonnaise.
Add to crab mixture and toss until well blended. Brush fillets on cut side with melted butter. Place flounder in greased shallow baking pan and top each fillet with even amounts of the crab mixture. Drizzle remaining butter over top of stuffed fillets. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Combine egg yolk and remaining mayonnaise. Spread egg mixture on top of each fillet and sprinkle with paprika. Increase temperature to 450 degrees and bake 6 minutes longer, or until golden and bubbly. Makes 4 servings.
Grilled Soy-Sesame Asparagus
1 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. brown sugar
1-1/2 lbs. fresh asparagus, trimmed
2 Tbsps. toasted sesame seeds
Preheat grill for high heat. In a bowl, mix sesame oil, soy sauce, garlic, and brown sugar. Place asparagus in the bowl, and toss to coat. Lightly oil a fine-mesh grill grate. Place asparagus on grate, and cook 8 minutes, until tender but firm. Garnish with sesame seeds to serve. Makes 4 servings.