April 25th, 2014

Guide to Oils and Vinegars

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Guide to Oils and Vinegars by Early Morning FarmA well stocked pantry can be the key to successful CSA cooking.  Keeping your kitchen well-stocked with oils and vinegars will help to perfectly compliment our fresh vegetables.  Start with your favorites and basics like Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar.  From there you can branch out to Asian Vinegars, herbed vinegars, flavored oils, nut oils, and more.  We’ve put together a quick guide to help you get started.  Did we miss any of your favorites?  Let us know in the comments.  A simple salad this summer with bright champagne vinegar can elevate a familiar dish into something completely different.  We’ll start with basic and move to different varieties.

Oils.

We’re covering a long list of oils from unrefined to refined.  For most recipes and everyday cooking you’ll probably stick with what’s in your comfort zone, but keep a few on hand for special ocassions or new recipes.  Heat and light can damage oil (you’ll know if your oil has gone rancid if the taste or smell changes)  so choose oils in dark glass bottles whenever possible and store in cool, dry place or in the refrigerator.  Some oils like olive will solidify and turn cloudy in the refrigerator.  A few minutes on the counter should bring it to room temperature and ready for cooking.  You’ll notice oils labelled as refined and unrefined.  In the farm kitchen we use whole unrefined fats as much as possible, but refined oils work well for anything cooked at a very high heat, so we always keep some on hand.  In general, use unrefined fats like olive and raw coconut oil for light tasting dishes cooked with low to medium heat and raw dishes, and refined oils like canola and sunflower for stir-fries, frying, and baking.


Olive Oil

A versatile oil, probably familiar to most.  Olive oil is a great source of healthy fat in your diet, choose the best quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil you can afford.  Olive oil is the perfect choice for sauteeing, salad dressings, and grilled vegetables.  It’s also great in pestos, hummus, and other homemade spreads.  Olive oil is typically not used in baking because of it’s strong flavor and low smoking point.


Canola Oil

Neutral tasting, refined canola oil.  Great for most cooking and baking where a mild flavor is desired.  Works well in sauces like homemade mayonnaise.  High smoking point makes it perfect for stir-fries and frying.


Butter

Not an oil, but we’re covering it here because it’s an unrefined fat!  In the farm kitchen, we take a Julia Child inspired approach – all good things in moderation, including butter!  We buy local, grassfed butter in salted and unsalted varieties.  Use salted in cooking and unsalted in baking.  If using salted butter be sure to taste your dish before salting.


Sesame Oil

Sesame oil can be purchase toasted or untoasted and each version is used in different applications. Toasted sesame oil is typically added at the end of cooking to stir-fries and sauces.  It’s great in Asian marinades and sauces.  Untoasted refined sesame oil can be used in the same way as canola oil.


Coconut Oil

Like sesame oil, coconut oil is available in two forms: raw and unrefined or refined for high temperature cooking.  Coconut oil is a neutral oil that works well in stir-fries and for making popcorn.  It can be used in baking, just melt first.


Sunflower Oil

Another neutral oil that can be used similarly to canola oil.  A great option for baking – we love it in banana or zucchini bread.


Avocado Oil

A smooth, nutty oil, that’s had a lot of attention lately.  Use in salad dressings, or in delicate chicken and fish dishes.

Tahini Slaw by Early Morning Farm CSA

Vinegars

Vinegars are made from fermented juices of any plant material.  You’ll find vinegars made from wine, rice, fruits, and more.  Essential to salad dressings and sauces, try adding some to sautéed greens to remove the bitterness, and even drizzled over fruit to bring out the sweetness.  Vinegar has a long shelf life, which can be prolonged even more by storing in a cool, dry place like the refrigerator.


Red Wine Vinegar

Red Wine Vinegar is versatile and probably familiar tasting to most.  It’s perfect in salad dressings, and in a pinch you can substitute it for lemon juice in some dishes.


White Wine Vinegar

White wine vinegar has a neutral flavor that is milder than red wine, this is a great one to try if you want to branch out to something new.  It’s great in dressings especially in our Beet, Escarole, and Goat Cheese Salad.


Balsamic Vinegar

Another common vinegar with a sweet and syrupy taste.  Just as with Extra Virgin, get the best quality your budget can afford.  Look for thick, aged, Vinegar of Modena.  Of course it’s great in balsamic vinaigrette, but try drizzling it over meat and even fruit like strawberries.  Boil it down to a thick syrup to bring out the sweet flavor and use as a topping on sweet and savory dishes alike.


Apple Cider Vinegar

A versatile slightly sweet vinegar.  Works well in pork marinades, added to greens while cooking, and in condiments and pickles.  Buy unfiltered, raw if possible.


Distilled Vinegar

We keep a large bottle of distilled vinegar around mostly for cleaning, but it’s a good choice for pickling and canning.  Try some of our favorite pickle recipes, like pickled beets or bread & butter pickles.


Champagne Vinegar

A bright fresh tasting vinegar, best raw in salad dressings and sauces.


Sherry Vinegar

Like it sounds, sherry vinegar is made from sherry wine.  A little less common, but good to have on hand for cooking, fruit salads, and cheesy dishes.


Rice Vinegar

This is one we keep stocked in the farm kitchen.  We use it for pickling, in sushi, Asian stir-fries, and marinades.  It pairs well with lime, and is essential for our Sushi Salad.


Ume Plum Vinegar

Actually the brine from pickling asian plums, and it is great in the kitchen.  Use in similar ways to rice vinegar, I love it splashed on cooked greens and bean dishes.


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