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A Few Favorite Fats and Oils
- Cultured organic butter tastes unlike anything else, it melts on the back of your tongue and its nutty milky flavor dances up into your nose, comforting all your senses. This is one of the best fats for baking. As with any dairy products you buy, make sure it comes from producers using sustainable, organic practices. Butter, yogurt, and milk should be free of artificial hormones and extraneous antibiotics, and the livestock should be raised in humane conditions. These products are better for you, better for the planet, and better for the animals. Two other butter-based options,
- clarified butter and ghee
- , are made by removing milk solids and water from the butter over heat. The main difference between the two is that when preparing ghee, you leave the milk solids in to toast a bit before pouring off the clarified butter; this lends a distinctive rich, nutty flavor to recipes - it also allows for higher cooking temperatures.
- Coconut oil
- is a luxurious naturally saturated fat that's solid at room temperature. The smell of pure, unrefined coconut oil is tropical, rich, and enveloping. Many people stay away from coconut oil due to all the bad press it got over the years for being high in saturated fat, but fragrant, unrefined, natural, virgin coconut oil fits all of the criteria I look for in a good ingredient (see opening paragraphs). Many island cultures with diets rich in coconut oil (and unprocessed foods in general), saw very few cases of "western" diseases before processed foods washed up on their shores. For vegans, or people looking to use less butter, coconut oil is often a fantastic butter substitute and one of the only unrefined vegetarian fats that isn't compromised at higher temperatures. When substituting coconut oil for butter, start by using 25 percent less coconut oil, as it is more concentrated than butter, having a lower water content.
- Olive oil:
- If you live in region where olives are grown, you may be lucky enough to find fresh, local extra-virgin olive oil at your local farmers' market. Look for small producers who cold-press their olives. The oil can ranging from golden and buttery to grassy and green, so be sure to sample the range of flavors available. Use olive oil as soon as possible or purchase smaller bottles to start with; unlike wine, you don't want to age your olive oil. Use your best, most fragrant and flavorful extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling and seasoning recipes, not for cooking. I keep a separate bottle on hand for cooking, typically a milder-flavored extra-virgin oil, and use this for most applications that require heating the oil. Because olive oil is rich in omega-9 fatty acids, it can tolerate moderate heat. It is fine for sauting over medium to medium-high heat, or you can pair it with a bit of water for a steam-saut.
- Sesame oil:
- People have long valued this oil for its distinctive flavor and rich nutritional profile. This popular oil is typically available in two varieties: plain and toasted. I use plain sesame oil to cook with when clarified butter or olive oil aren't a fit. Toasted sesame oil plays a pivotal role in many Asian recipes, and it has a special place in my kitchen as well. It sends out an immediately recognizable nutty, sultry aroma and is perfect as a seasoning on anything from noodle bowls to salads.
Directions:View on 101 Cookbooks
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