Cooking with Oil: Part 1

Hello Dear Heart! 

Well, what a whirlwind week it has been for Rose! I am in northern Illinois for the autumn and will return to Palm Beach in time for The Season, but the weather here is simply delicious. The fall farmer’s markets are bursting with fresh produce and I cannot enjoy enough of it. The vegetable shopping is at its peak and poor Rose is delirious with delight. This week I have purchased the most decadent tomatoes, carrots, summer squash, string beans, peppers and snap peas…it seems endless! I thought of you the entire time, Dear Heart, and knew that I wanted to share with you some tips on how to properly cook these treasures. In this column, I want to show you how to cook vegetables with oil.

Some basic cooking principles to begin, Hon. Vegetables should never be immersed in oil, unless you are creating a tempura dish and they are sealed in a seasoned batter. One of the unique chemical properties of oil is that is resists water. When you coat your vegetable in oil, it seals water both out and in at the same time. You can use this to your advantage. Tossing your vegetables with a little oil before grilling or broiling can seal in the moisture, keeping them from becoming dry and tough. Stir-frying them with a little oil does the same. Be careful not to scorch or over cook them, since this will give them an off taste, unpleasant color and undesirable texture. Never drown them in oil, just enough to coat them lightly. Less IS more. Cook battered vegetables with higher heat, stir-fry or grill using medium temperatures. 

The oil you choose, Hon, is terribly important. Some oils can withstand the higher temperatures of grilling and stir-fry without burning. The oils that are best for high-temperature cooking (up to and above 450 degrees F, 230 degrees C) are corn, peanut, safflower, sesame, soybean and sunflower. Those oils that are best for medium-temperature cooking (up to and above 375 degrees C, 190 degrees C) are cottonseed, grape seed, lard, olive and rapeseed. Beware, Dear, that many of these oils have unique tastes that are added to your food. Before using them, be sure that the oil flavor will compliment the vegetable and other dishes being served.

All oils will degrade and become rancid through time, so purchase only the amount you will reasonably use in six months. Heat, light and exposure to air also deteriorate them, so keep them in a cool, dry, dark place.

Well, I’m off for a drive in the country. Who knows what there is to be found along the way, Dear Heart. If Adventure does carry me away, I will be sure to tell you all about it next time. Until then, Kisses!

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