Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Schola Cooking School and I invited a long-time friend of the show, Liz Nuttle to come on and tell us how the creative application of oils and vinegars can make a huge difference.
Say oil and most people think olive oil, especially the authentic extra virgin kind. But most oils come not from fruit (which the olive is) but from nuts and seeds. Some of the most popular include our favorite, roasted sesame seed oil, almond oil, hazelnut oil, sunflower oil, grape seed oil, macadamia nut oil, peanut oil, pumpkin seed oil, soybean oil, flaxseed oil, and walnut oil.
Many of these, especially sesame, almond, and pumpkin seed oils are very potent and require only a few drops as a finishing touch to a dish.
A great example is a quick little dish Al made: cut up Brussels sprouts and leeks, simmer in chicken broth, season with salt and pepper and top off with a dash of roasted sesame seed oil. The last touch makes all the difference in the world.
Vinegars, especially balsamic vinegar from Modena, Italy, rice wine vinegar, red wine vinegar, and pungent fruit flavored vinegars (lemon, especially) are extremely useful in cooking. While wrapping up a stew, for instance, balsamic vinegar can give more bottom to flavors and bring out meaty sweetness; lighter vinegars are excellent for balancing the palate of the dish to boost acidity; while a fruit infused vinegar can give a specific twist to a dish ( imagine a Greek Chicken stew).
As ever, Liz regaled us with several recipes she has developed that feature oils and vinegars. And when it comes to using olive, keep two kinds: the best generic EVOO you can buy for ordinary sautéing and a high quality oil like a single variety olive selection for finishing a dish just before serving. Remember, if it goes into the pan it's one thing...if it goes straight into your mouth it's another.
Baked Acorn Squash
1 acorn squash, ends trimmed, cut in half, seeds scooped out
2 medium shallots, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 tbs dried rosemary
4 tbs high quality single variety EVOO like Picual
salt and pepper to taste
Balsamic vinegar de Modena to drizzle
1. Pre-heat oven to 450°. Place acorn squash face up in a oiled oven proof glass dish.
2. Mix the shallots, rosemary and olive oil separately and then generously coat the face of the upturned squashes. Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste.
3. Bake for 40 minutes, occasionally basting with any unused oil mixture.
4. Remove from oven, and drizzle the Balsamic vinegar over the squash. Let cool a bit and then serve.
Sautéed Brussels Sprouts
1/3 cup good quality EVOO
1 small yellow onion, peeled and chopped
1 slice of raw bacon cut into 1/2" pieces
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups Brussels sprouts, washed, trimmed, cut in half
salt and pepper to taste
1. Cover the bottom of a large deep sauté pan with a portion of the oil, warm over medium heat.
2. Sauté the onions and bacon until the onions are softened and turn translucent.
3. Add the Brussels sprouts and garlic and splash a little more olive oil on the sprouts.
4. Sauté for about 5 to 8 minutes until the bacon crisps up and the edge of the Brussels sprouts begin to brown.
5. Remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper, and drizzle with Balsamic vinegar and toss well. Serve at once.