Tuesday, December 2, 2008


I find that I use a number of different oils, for different purposes.

Vegetable. I use canola because it is lowest in saturated fats, but peanut, grape seed and corn are fine. All have relatively high smoking points and lack any distinctive taste.

. Volumes could be written on this subject. I use four kinds: (1) excellent quality Italian extra virgin, for finishing and special Italian salad dressings; (2) excellent quality French extra virgin, for finishing and French salad dressings; (3) good Italian extra virgin (I like Fairway's Pugliese) for everyday use, but not frying; and (4) cheap or non- extra virgin Italian for sauteing (apparently all the aromatic subtleties of an extra-virgin oil disappear when it is brought to high enough heat to saute). There are great olive oils made in Spain, Greece, Morocco, Australia and California which may substitute for the ones listed above.

Hazelnut. I use this all the time in salad dressing. See my post "Elegant Arugula Salad." Probably good drizzled over the right cheese, but I haven't worked on this yet.

Walnut. I don't use often, but there are recipes for walnut and apple/pear salads that feature this. This is also probably fine sprinkled over cheese and walnuts.

. This is a great product made of olive oil and pressed lemons rinds; it is not just lemon flavored. I love it over mozzarella and over simply steamed or boiled artichokes.

Sesame. For that Asian flavor, generally by itself or with rice vinegar. I love it sprinkled on top of a raw avocado.

I buy my highest quality French and Italian olive oils and lemon/olive oil from O & Co. (at Grand Central Market and elsewhere), where you can taste before buying. I'm sure there are many, many other great oils but O & Co.'s are reliable.

There are of course many infused oils, but space limitations make it difficult to keep many of them. Notables are truffle oil (great over a toast covered with parmesan shavings), hot pepper oil (great over pizza or pasta), garlic oil (ditto) and various herb oils, such as basil, rosemary and mixed herbs (great to drizzle over mozzarella and tomatoes. The great chef Bobby Flay just uses a blender and makes herb oils as required for his recipes.
In addition, there are a number of very specialized, delicious oils that I don't keep but that are worth buying if a really good recipe demands, for example pistachio oil and argan oil (a very expensive but wonderfully nutty oil made from the nut of the argan tree, which grows only in Southern Morocco).

Scented and specialty oils make excellent house gifts for people who like to cook, as do any really excellent oils (or vinegars . . . but that's another post).

Bobby Jay

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