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Flavored oils: Try cooking beyond olive oil

February 22, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Canola and olive oil are usually "go to" choices for cooking, but if you head down the baking aisle at the market, you will see all kinds of flavored oils to try in your favorite recipes.

Margo True, Sunset Magazine's food editor, loves using nut oils in meals, because she finds they bring out loads of flavor and taste.

"When the flavor is that intense, you can just use a little bit and it flavors your whole salad, it flavors your muffins, whatever it is that you are using it in," True said.

She drizzles walnut oil in oatmeal or in a winter salad featuring warm flavorful spices like ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and a pinch of cloves, combined with a little orange zest and orange juice.

It's also wonderful in baked goods.

"You can drizzle it into your muffin batter," said True. "Actually, you can use that instead of oil in quick breads and muffins. It's just fantastic."

True likes pecan oil for its rich nutty smell. She adds it to yogurt, cucumber, shallots and spices as a nice dip with veggies and pita wedges. It works well on a baked apple with pecans and cranberries.

Monounsaturated avocado oil imparts a smooth buttery flavor that works well in salads and dips, yet it is fabulous for frying as it has a smoke point of over 500 degrees.

But not all oils are the same. If you're going to cook with these oils, especially frying and you reach a smoke point, the oil starts to smoke, and that's bad. That means you're going to have toxic fumes, which is bad for you and also bad for your food and your health.

So you want to toss that batch out and start again and cook it on a lower setting.

"The walnut, the pecan and the almond can be heated up to medium-high temperature of about 375, but not until they're smoking," said True.

Cooking slow and low helps. True also keeps her oils in the fridge after opening to prevent rancidity.