Oils & Other Options -Part I- **Meatless Monday Special**

Just today while still in a daydream, I wiped my mouth, hoping to clear my lips for another bite of deliciousness.  This was a beautiful moment in time, and I decided I would luxuriate in the present.  My eyes were more drawn to the olive oil that clung ever so gently to my grilled vegetables. It was luscious, simple…. delicious.  The whole situation made me think, was it the olive oil, the cooking method, or just the inherent deliciousness of the vegetables? The answer to that question proved to be all the above.  Clearly how we cook something makes all the difference in its outcome.  Choosing the best veggies is a great place  to start any dish, & roasting, or grilling vegetables are a sure way to minimize the amount of fat we use ( plant or animal based fats. ), and lastly the cooking medium (oil/fat) can mean the difference between a “sassy”, or “sorry” dish.  With that said lets help clear up some things. Where fat is, flavor abounds.  If you dont believe me think of the last “fat free” thing that you ate. It doesnt matter what it is, when you subtract or substitute a fat,  you change the chemistry.  Fat carries flavor the way a new Jeep Wrangler carries happy smiling  young passengers  into the sunset.  That flavor wants to ride  the length of your tongue right into flavor-ville and its only right that we offer it a fun ride. Hence the reason we will take a moment to explore a few to help decide, just which fat, which oil is the best in any given situation.  Here they are in no particular order.

Everybody knows that animal fat is very enticing.  So much so that much of  America lines up like zombie-like fashion to  buy goo gobs of animal products, even though its painfully clear to be the death of our nation. So Id like to shine some light on some plant based fats (oils)  that are better for you, but can also improve your cooking process.  Lets start identifying some of the most common and most accessible.  Canola, vegetable, corn, extra virgin olive, and coconut oil are all very mild, and tasty.  When each are used in their proper context they have the capacity to shine bright like a diamond ( http://youtu.be/91a1yO4Mx2I )    Canola oil  is very mild in flavor, and has a very high smoke point (meaning you can it can stand lots of heat before it smokes, and possibly loses its health benefits. Its ideal for sauteing,  and also grilling,  and broiling (and yes even frying, if that’s what youre into).  Canola oil like olive oil is made by pressing seeds to extract their precious bounty.  The particulars of the process are different, but the general idea is similar.  But canola oil has a dark history steeped in high temperature production, toxic chemicals, and  levels of euricic acid (which are spoken of as being toxic to humans) .  With this type of profile, its very challenging to develop a progressive relationship.  If you’re a big enough person, you can move past Canola’s imperfections to view its positives (its tough I know)

Olive oil is by birthright, great tasting, heart healthy (blood can flow through your veins freely), and can help protect the body from stroke, obesity chronic diseases like diabetes. It,  is made by pressing olives to relieve them of their nectar-Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and then pressed again to retrieve the most coveted portion of oil  for Virgin Olive Oil. Olive oil is a good substitute for saturated fats like butter. Its mild, but full flavor can be the right substitute for animal fats like butter (*Side bar- I use olive oil for my skin, and hair). Its benefits are better enjoyed at no, or low heat cooking (which does’nt exclude sauteing, but does discourage it and other high heat cooking methods).  Which might result in it being used  for a quick saute or other high heat, but quick cooking methods.  This wonder-filled olive oil is ideal for preparations like vinaigrettes ( or other dressings)  in order to benefit from its monsaturated fats, trace minerals and antioxidant qualities .  It is very important to avoid keeping olive oil at improper temperatures ( in order that you may preserve quality).  Heat, light and air all tend to diminish its quality.  Be sure your olive oil and all other edible oils are stored in airtight containers, preferably away from direct light and high heat. Treat her (olive oil) like a lady,  be sensitive to what application would be ideal to allow her to be her best (listen to her, give her what she needs to shine.

Coconut oil is one of my favorite plant based fats.  Its a great saturated fat substitute for butter, depending on your love of its gentle coconut flavor.  I’ll cosign Melissa Clark  ( Writer for the New York Times Dining and Wine)  on her statement about coconut oil having been coined a villan, kin to the devil himself in the past. But the reality is that coconut oil has an awesome lingering flavor, with a sweetness that’s complimentary for desserts and  lends itself toward some savory preparations as well (depending on your love for coconut oil) Coconut oil is, and has been favored by the every growing population of vegans in the U.S because of its ability to be used well as a substitute in baking, dessert preparation and in raising the bar on flavor in entrees.  When you read studies that relate to coconut oil in a derogatory way, the coconut oil that’s being highlighted is normally hydrogenated.  And anything hydrogenated is the pits.  The good stuff (extra virgin-unrefined coconut oil) is not chemically treated as is canola oil.  Lauric acid and stearic acid are both fatty acids that are found  in coconut oil.  They are both said to have favorable attributes in the body. In short that makes for a good product to keep on hand.  Join me next week for Part II of Oils and Options to dispel all of the mystery surrounding cooking healthily with oils and other fat options. Try this low cost, tasty vegan recipe  from the Vegetarian Times starring coconut oil, and eat your way to a healthier lifestyle. Till next time.

Cheers,

Chef Will Hall

Vegan: Lentil and Coconut Soup with Cilantro-Habanero Gremolata

Vegan: Lentil and Coconut Soup with Cilantro-Habanero Gremolata

Note: Wear plastic gloves and use a separate cutting board when chopping the habanero pepper. You do not want to get it anywhere near your eyes or skin.

Yield: makes about 2 1/2 quarts, serving 4 to 6
Active time: 30 minutes
Total time: 2 hours

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and finely diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 large onion, finely diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 stalks celery, finely diced (about 3/4 cup)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced on a microplane grater
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger grated on a microplane grater
  • 1 small habanero or serrano pepper, seeds and ribs removed, flesh finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seed
  • 1 pound dry brown lentils
  • 3 quarts water or vegetable stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 (12-ounce) can coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce, such as Frank’s
  • 1/4 cup juice from 2 limes
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • Kosher Salt
  • For the Gremolata:
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
  • 1 small habanero or serrano pepper, seeds and ribs removed, flesh finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced on a microplane grater
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger grated on a microplane grater
  • 1 tablespoon zest from one orange, grated on a microplane grater

Procedures

  1. Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven or saucepan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add carrots, onions, and celery, and cook, stirring frequently, until softened but not browned, about 4 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, habanero pepper, cumin, and coriander and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute longer.

  2. Add lentils, water, bay leaves, and coconut milk.Bring to a boil over high heat and reduce to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until lentils are completely tender and have started to break down and thicken the soup, about 1 1/2 hours, adding more water or vegetable stock if soup begins to get too thick. Add chopped cilantro and stir to incorporate.

  3. Discard bay leaves. If desired, partially puree some of the soup with a hand blender or in a standing blender to thicken. Add hot sauce, lime juice, and soy sauce and stir to combine. Season to taste with kosher salt.

  4. For the Gremolata: combine all ingredients in a small bowl.

  5. Ladle soup into individual bowls, sprinkle with gremolata mixture, and serve.

    References:

Chen, J. (2007, 05 17). Forget the irs — there’s an olive-oil scandal afoot read more: The controversy behind extra-virgin olive oil | time.com http://ideas.time.com/2013/05/17/forget-the-irs-theres-an-olive-oil-scandal-afoot/

Clark, M. (2011, 03 01). Once a villain, coconut oil charms the health food world. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/02/dining/02Appe.html?pagewanted=all/

David L, K. M. (2013). Could coconut oil be good for your heart? read more: http://www.oprah.com/health/the-health-benefits-of-coconut-oil-nutrition-advice

http://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/nutrition/healthy-eating/olive-oil-vs-canola-oil.htmlOlive oil health benefits and nutrition. (2014). Retrieved from http://www.oliveoiltimes.com/olive-oil-health-benefits

oil image. (2014). Retrieved from http://www.eatright.org/public/slideshow.aspx?id=6442471506

Vegan: Lentil and coconut soup with cilantro-habañero gremolata. (2014). Retrieved from http://www.yummly.com/recipe/Vegan_-Lentil-and-Coconut-Soup-with-Cilantro-Habanero-Gremolata-Serious-Eats-200288?columns=4&position=3/61

What is canola oil. (2007). Retrieved from http://www.canolainfo.org/canola/

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