10 things to do with olive oil

oliveoilbottlesMediterranean Diet month continues with olive oil tips

Olive oil has a major health halo.  Everyone seems to be using it or promoting it.  Food companies love to tout olive oil on labels, especially for salad dressing.  Unfortunately, if you look at the actual ingredients list, the main ingredient in many of these is something inexpensive like canola oil, and olive oil is way down the list.

Olive oil comes from many different locations, and comes in many different flavors.  The flavor is determined by the polyphenol content, and research suggests it’s those polyphenols that provide some of olive oil’s health benefits.   So the best olive oils — extra virgin — actually should have flavor.

Once you’ve purchased your lovely olive oil, what can you use it for?  Here are some really easy ideas to make the best use of flavorful olive oil:

  1. Use it on tossed green salad.  Drizzle some oil over the salad, toss briefly. Then add a splash or two of vinegar, salt and pepper and a sprinkling of dried herbs of your choice (oregano, basil and thyme are good).  Toss again and serve.  No need for expensive bottled dressings that scream “Olive Oil!” on the label, but turn out to have little actual olive oil content.
  2. Use it for a dip with bread.  Get some French, Italian or artisanal bread.  Pour a little olive oil into a small bowl, grate some fresh pepper, perhaps add some chopped fresh basil or other herb.  Dip pieces of bread.  Healthier than butter, also more flavorful.
  3. Use it to sauté vegetables.  This only works for low temperature cooking.  Don’t heat extra virgin olive oil to a high, smokey temperature.
  4. Brush it on vegetables for grilling, such as zucchini, yellow squash, onion slices, mushrooms, peppers.  Also great for basting meat like chicken breast or fish, or kebabs.
  5. Toss olive oil with chunky vegetables for oven roasting, such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, chunks of winter squash, brussels sprouts or asparagus.
  6. Use it for cooking eggs: fried, scrambled, omelets or frittatas
  7. Toss cooked pasta with olive oil after draining.  Adds great flavor to your pasta dish.
  8. Drizzle a teaspoon in a bowl of soup.  Works well for pureed vegetable soups like squash, cream of tomato, and the like.
  9. Rub olive oil on meats before roasting, such as a whole chicken, turkey or leg of lamb.
  10. Use it!  Don’t let bottles of expensive olive oil sit around on the counter or a pantry shelf for months.  It will deteriorate, and if you use it it will taste bad.  Sadly, some people may base their opinion about olive oil on a taste of rancid oil that was kept out too long.  If you aren’t going to use it up in a timely fashion, keep it in the refrigerator, preferably in a dark colored bottle.
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