Monday, March 2, 2009

Cookin' Tips

Ok. I've been doing a lot of reading of recipes and have noticed that there are a lot of misconceptions about basic cooking that need to be rectified. Here is my list:

1. When cooking pasta- you do not need to add oil or salt to the water. Salt will give it a little flavor- but usually you are just going to cover the noodles with a yummy sauce anyway. If you don't want your noodles to stick- putting oil in the water is not the way to do it. All that does is make it harder for the sauce to stick to the noodles and sauce will make them less sticky anyway. If you are using pasta not covered in sauce or you are saving leftover noodles and don't want them to be a hard clump in the fridge- add a little bit of oil after the noodles have been drained and are back in the pot- then stir it around with a big spoon to coat them. They will not stick together but its also possible that nothing else will stick to them either.

2. When cooking- you do not need to use expensive extra fine virgin oil, regular cheap olive oil will do just fine. Everyone wants to eat healthier and olive oil is one of the healthiest oils we can have in our diet, so it is understandable why everyone wants to buy the very expensive extra virgin olive oil and it can be worth your money- if used wisely.

Olive oil is rich in polyphenols, antioxidants and lots of other big words that most of us don't know. These big words have health benefits like lowering cholesterol, protecting cells against heart disease and cancer and can help slow aging. Whether olive oil is extra virgin, virgin or 100% olive oil depends on how many pressings the olives have gone through. Extra Virgin oil is made from the first pressing of olive oil and contains a higher portion of plant extracts- that is why it is healthier and, of course, more expensive. It is best to save this kind of oil for use in foods that will not be exposed to high heat. The compounds that make this oil so healthy will break down when exposed to high temperatures and what you are left with is pretty much the same as the cheap, basic 100% olive oil- so why not use that kind to begin with? Save the expensive stuff for salad dressings and Italian dinner night (imitate Macaroni Grill and pour some Extra Virgin in a dish, grind up some fresh cracked pepper and use it as a dip for warm chewy bread. Then you can savor the flavor of the Extra Virgin Olive Oil and you get all of the nutrients that you pay for.)

If you don't want the strong taste of olive oil in a dish that you are making- try canola oil. It has better fats than vegetable oil (mostly monounsaturated which are healthy fats- the body can easily break them down for nutrients) and has a very neutral flavor. It is great for things like browines or other sweets where the olive oil taste might be undesirable or make it taste a little off. I use a canola and vegetable oil blend so that I still get the richness of vegetable oil- but its not so bad for you.

Well that's my diatribe! :-) I hope it was educational and helpful to you. If you guys like what you read then I can keep posting tips like these as I continue learning through my classes. And if you have any cooking questions I would love to learn more and answer your questions.

All my love and Good Eating!

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