Unrefined oils are a deliciously wonderful thing. They can also be difficult to find even when you know what you want. Fortunately, though, extra-virgin olive oil is in just about every grocery store aisle nowadays, and many non-chain stores and health-oriented stores – read: not Wal-Mart, Costco, Meijer or Kroger’s – also stock unrefined peanut and sesame oils. Just be sure the word “unrefined” is on the label before you buy them. You’ll know they’re the real deal when you unscrew the top and are enveloped by the scent of peanut or sesame. (Someone standing several feet away will be enveloped by unrefined peanut oil, too. Peanuts are impressively assertive.) Unrefined/extra-virgin coconut oil is another relatively easy oil to find. It’s not nearly as coconutty as peanut oil is peanutty, but unrefined coconut oil is fantastic for making fritters, popcorn, and anything else that you’d prefer not to flavor too strongly with its cooking oil.
But if you want to veer a bit off the beaten track with your unrefined oil selection, check out what La Tourangelle has to offer. (Despite their French-sounding name, the company is based in California.) You’ll probably find one or two varieties in your local grocery store – shockingly, even my local Kroger’s carries two kinds – or you can check out www.latourangelle.com to see the full selection. I’ve tried nearly all of them, and so far my favorites are the pecan, hazelnut, walnut, and pistachio oils. These nutty oils are especially fragrant and flavorful. These are also my favorite nuts in their whole-nut form, so it isn’t surprising I’m a sucker for the oil-only versions. It’s amazing how much unrefined oils capture the essence of what the ingredient was originally … unlike refined oils, which all taste like nothing. Then again, when you overheat an oil way past its smoke point and then have to deodorize and de-gunk it, you gotta figure on flavor going out the window. Nutritive value does, too.Â You’re far better off choosing an unrefined oil and then using it sparingly to make the most of its flavor and health benefits.
The bottom line: cook medium- or low-heat food with extra-virgin olive oil and then toss/drizzle the dish with a more flavorful oil right before serving, or cook high-heat food with ghee, butter, or coconut oil and then toss/drizzle with a more flavorful oil before serving. Or combine the dish directly with a more flavorful and tender oil if it’s a non-heated dish.
Fresh Salad Tossed with Hazelnut Oil
Serves 2 for lunch. If you add the suggested garnishes, it can easily become a hearty meal.
Double handful of baby spinach or other tender greens
1 avocado, gently chopped
Handful cashews, chopped
1/4 sweet onion, slivered
2 T. unrefined hazelnut, walnut, pecan, almond, or pistachio oil (all pair beautifully with the creamy avocado and cashews and the sweet orange and raisin)
1 T. fresh orange juice
Sea salt & freshly ground pepper
Toss all ingredients together gently. Taste and add a little more orange juice if you’d like your salad to be sweeter. This would be excellent garnished with shrimp, chicken, or hard-boiled eggs, although I also like it unadorned as a simple last-minute meal.
Courtesy ofÂ Cultured Cook.
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Â© Copyright 2011 Â Allison Stuart Kaplan Â www.Askinyourface.com LLC