Recently, the Mediterranean Diet made headlines again as being a top heart healthy diet. Rooted on the premise of eating plant-based foods (such as vegetables and fruits) as well as grains, nuts and legumes, the incorporation of olive oil instead of butter and red wine in moderation certainly caught my attention.
While wine I’m sure caught many people’s attention, it was the olive oil that grabbed my ear. Why? I couldn’t imagine cooking without olive oil, and here’s why:
1. Instant flavor. One of my favorite side dishes (and even a snack) is to drizzle olive oil over broccoli (choose your favorite vegetable), sprinkle some salt and pepper and place in the oven for 20 minutes at 400 degrees. Vegetables come out a touch crispy and full of flavor.
2. Easy appetizers. If last minute guests stop by, pick up a fresh baguette from the bakery and pour extra virgin olive oil into a small ramekin, add a dollop of quality balsamic vinegar, a sprinkle of pepper and you have a instantly delicious appetizer. Oh, and pair with a lovely table wine – white or red, your choice.
3. Prevent butter from burning. Chicken Picatta is one of my favorite go-to dinner recipes that impresses guests and always satiates my appetite. While preparing the skillet for the tenderized chicken breasts, the combination of butter and olive oil prevents the butter from burning as the oil has a higher smoke point (temperature at which it burns), but also adds an extra touch of flavor.
4. Simple sauces for pasta. While a rich alfredo sauce is lovely, it is also quite decadent and can’t be splurged on often. A simple way to add flavor without a large amount of calories to your next pasta dish is to infuse it with lemon zest prior to boiling the pasta. Set the oil aside and then when the pasta is ready, drizzle it over your linguine for a simple mix of beautiful flavor. Click here for a simple recipe that I love to enjoy during the week.
5. Healthy salad dressing. The simplest salad dressing when you already have fresh from the garden produce is to mix 1/4 cup white wine vinegar (or any vinegar you prefer) with 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, a dash of salt and pepper and voila! The vegetables get a dash of flavor to brighten what they already have to offer, top with fresh cheese and pine nuts (or the nut of your choice), and pair with a crisp white wine. So simple. So delicious.
6. Create a non-stick pan. Whether I’m making an omelet in the morning, frying pork chops on the stovetop, or sautéing shallots in preparation for my favorite comfort food meal risotto, olive oil is drizzled in the pan to prevent anything from sticking and add an extra hint of fantastic flavor. Click here for my favorite risotto dish.
7. Bruschetta. For your favorite bruschetta recipe (I love to top my with melted mozzarella, basil and fresh heirloom tomato slices), prepping the French bread before popping into the oven or into the skillet involves drizzling it with olive oil so that it browns exactly as you wish and perhaps rubbing it with a bit of garlic for extra . . . you guessed it . . . flavor. (Here’s my recipe – tomato, basil and mozzarella bruschetta.)
While I have sworn off any restrictive diet, adhering to a healthy regular diet of real food and eating in moderation is something I continue to be an advocate of. And one component I highly recommend welcoming into your cooking repertoire is olive oil. Bon appétit!
~For more information on how to choose the right olive oil for your needs, click here.
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