Monday, July 28, 2008

Roasted walnut and pesto pasta, anyone?

It's on rare occasions that I find something interesting to write about cooking. Otherwise it's just the humdrum existence of vegetables in a pot of boiling water followed by a dash of spices. Oh no, it's not that food is not interesting, it's just that my cooking is not so interesting. I’m lucky to be married to someone who understands the pains of cooking and hence does not bother too much when my ‘poha’ looks like mashed potatoes and ‘chat’ is anything that I add ‘Everest Chat Masala’ to.

Now people, I’m not such a bad cook. In my personal opinion I believe that one has arrived when it comes to Indian cooking if – one, you can make rotis from scratch. Of course, by scratch I don’t mean sowing wheat in your backyard - you get what I mean. Two – making yogurt at home. Thanks to kind neighbours, my mom and mom-in-law I get by with both these things.

Coming to the point of why I’m writing about cooking today - is this heart-breaking, soul-searching, grief-causing, mentally-anguishing article I read in ‘The Economic Times.’ Now, from when I started cooking the only oil (other than the occasional sesame oil for Chinese cooking) I’ve ever used in my kitchen has been Olive Oil – no, not any olive oil but Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Why? Because it’s healthy, duhhhh! Then – Bang! - Suddenly after a sumptuous Saturday lunch this article stares me in the eye and what’s worse - it has a sequel too that came out this weekend. Now why ‘heart-breaking’, ‘soul-searching’ and all that you may ask – I was almost convinced that I had found the perfection solution to heart disease, trans-fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and all that. There is nothing as perfect as good karma, now, is there?

The underlined statement is – Extra Virgin Olive Oil is not suitable for Indian cooking considering the high temperatures that we cook/ fry in. EVOO breaks down and decomposes and hence losing all the ‘good’ properties and assimilating ‘bad’ properties. Imagine one Indian dish that can be cooked with out heating oil – how do I do ‘thadka’, how do I sauté, how do I make dosa or any of those finger-counting dishes that I know? And then the Indian olive oil consortium or whatever-the-heck-they-call-themselves claims that Olive Pomace Oil is best suited for Indian cooking since the temperature at which this oil starts smoking is much higher than EVOO. Now all of us in our right minds know that olive pomade-pomace-whatever oil is no edible oil at all. How can it be, if it’s industrially extracted from pomace cake that is left after naturally extracting the oil from the olives?

Oh well, while the whole world is screaming foul at the mention of pomace as a cooking oil and when it’s legally not even supposed to be called olive oil, our great sir - the president of the Indian Olive Oil Association who also incidentally (I mean it – just incidentally) owns a company that supplies ‘olive’ pomace oil in India, thinks this is the ideal oil for Indian cooking. Not just that, his company’s website even goes ahead and says that EVOO is a super-deluxe gourmet olive oil and pomace is the main cooking grade [sic] oil. And behold, the pomace oil is even suited for ‘Iyengar Cooking’ according the COO!

All right, so where does that leave us with extra virgin olive oil now? It’s going to remain in my kitchen but its use substantially reduced to the occasional pasta and salads and may be some light sautéing. I’m back to my search for the perfect and least harmful cooking oil. There is an 8:2 blend of rice barn oil and sunflower oil in the market that my mom recommended long time back. May be it’s time to give it a shot.


Princess Fiona said...

ummm....wat is pomace?

Arthi Madhusudhan said...

Pomace is the solid remains of olives, grapes, or other fruit after pressing for juice or oil. It is essentially the pulp, peel, seeds and stalks of the fruit after the oil, water, or other liquid has been pressed out.Today, pomace is most commonly used as fodder or fertilizer.

Anonymous said...

We use Canola Oil here in US not sure if you get that in India. I thought Extra Virgin olive oil is supposed to be more fatty than the Extra light version. We too use olive oil for pasta.

Arthi Madhusudhan said...

Thanks for your comment. I think Canola oil is still in its early stages in India. But with Rice Barn available, Canola is likely to get shot down. Haven't heard great reviews about canola either. I would recommend you do your research. I was using EVOO and even tried 'Corn Oil' when I was in the US. As long as you don't reuse the oil, it's a good option.

Also, virgin or light olive oil refers to the color and flavor of the olive oil, not its calorie content. So no respite from calories there!

Balu said...

there are two kind of olive oil.. the virgin one is typically used for salad dressing and mostly for microwavable stuff and the other one (pure olive oil and pomace olive oil) can be used for high temperatures typically the Indian style..

These days we have Canola oil in India (very highly priced as it is imported) as well which is the cheapest (by price) in the west :-)