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December 7, 2022

Oil, What’s it Good For?

“We should look for someone to eat and drink with

before looking for something to eat and drink.”

– Epicurus

While reaching for the mundane bottle of vegetable oil in the market, my eye caught the label on the bottle of avocado oil. Now, I love avocados in my salads, but for cooking, that’s a different matter. I looked at the price: 80 cents per oz. This was a 16 oz. bottle. I was not willing to pay two and a half times more to fry my food in.

I have found that most pricy oils are not worth the money. Take olive oil, for instance. Why does one olive oil cost three times more than another for the same amount of oil and both are labeled extra virgin? It is all in the method and equipment used in expressing the oil. Some methods such as cold pressing require more raw materials, and some have less efficient equipment. Cold-pressed might have more nutrients or a more complex flavor but is this worth paying three times more?

If you do decide to purchase specialty oils, here’s how to save.

Store brands and private labels are not only better priced, but often their quality is just as good as the brand-named oils. As well to a better price, the oils at these stores are permanently discounted.

It used to be that canola and extra-virgin oils were the go-to oils. However, so many supermarkets now have an entire section devoted to specialty oils such as grapeseed, avocado, toasted sesame and ghee. The varieties are wonderful, but what the heck do you actually use them all for? And are they good for you?

Fortunately, most cooking oils are high in unsaturated fats. These included olive, soybean and canola. Only using small amounts of coconut oil, butter and ghee is a good thing as these are high in saturated fats. If a fat is solid at room temperature such as these, it’s mostly saturated. If it’s a liquid oil like most cooking oils, it’s mostly unsaturated.

  • Oils for frying: Canola, sunflower, safflower, vegetable, olive and sesame.
  • Oils for salad dressings: Sesame seed, walnut, avocado, hazelnut and extra virgin olive oil.

Coconut oil is a great substitute for baking to replace butter for dairy-free baking.

Sesame oil is best for stir-frying Asian dishes.

Soybean is often labeled as vegetable oil.

All oils should be kept in a dark place and best used within 60 days, as once opened, they can turn rancid if kept longer.

Whichever oil you choose, whether for salads, baking or frying, remember to go for the unsaturated oils and keep in mind, each tablespoonful of oil contains at least 120 calories.

The one oil I succumb to paying a high price for is the Toasted Sesame Seed Oil (6oz./$6) which I use over stir-fried garlic green beans and in my orange and sesame seed salad dressing for a warm summer evening’s dinner.

Oriental Orange Sesame Seed Salad 

In a bowl add:

  • 4 cups chopped bite-sized Romaine Lettuce
  • Orange segments from 1 orange
  • 2 Tbsp. diced green onions
  • 1 cup fresh bean sprouts
  • ¼ cup sliced water chestnuts

Mix together:

  • ½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 tsp. grated orange zest
  • 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 small, diced garlic clove
  • 3 Tbsp. Toasted Sesame Seed oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper

Add to Salad Greens and mix well.

Stir-Fried String Beans w/Toasted Sesame Seed Oil

  • 1 lb. cleaned String Beans (Haricot Verts are best)
  • 2 Tbsp. Regular sesame oil for frying
  • 1 Tbsp. Toasted sesame seed oil for drizzling
  • 2 sliced garlic cloves
  • 1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper

In a hot wok or frying pan, heat oil to shimmer and add beans, garlic and pepper flakes. Stir quickly while frying for 3 minutes or until beans are al dente. When done, add salt and pepper and drizzle with the toasted sesame seed oil.

Colly Gruczelak, a Ben Lomond resident, loves people and loves to cook. Contact her at [email protected].

Colly Gruczelak
Colly Gruczelak, a Ben Lomond resident, loves people and loves to cook. Contact her at [email protected]

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