Olive oil (Recipe: ratatouille)
One handy thing to know about olive oil:
Though extra-virgin olive oil is the most delicate, it is not the most refined. That honor goes to oils marked, simply, olive oil. Extra-virgin oil is also not, as some thirty-minute cooks would have you believe, an all-purpose oil for cooking. For dressing a salad, yes, the delicate flavor of extra-virgin oil is what you want, but for cooking, choose virgin or olive oil (Trader Joe's sells the oil I use for cooking). The smoke point of these oils is higher and the flavor is more neutral, making them excellent, heart-healthy cooking oils. And the price point is lower, making them a budget-friendly choice, too.
Cooking or baking?
Cooking and baking (don't forget about olive oil cakes, breads and crackers).
Keep oils at room temperature (away from heat) in your cupboard for up to two years. In humid climates, you might want to store oil in the refrigerator; the oil might get a bit cloudy, but it will return to its original viscosity when left at room temperature.
The only thing all cooks agree on is how to pronounce the name of this dish (rat-a-TOO-eee). About proportions, ingredients, and cooking method, there are probably not two cooks who think the same way. The outcome, though, is undeniably delicious and versatile. Use ratatouille as a side dish, as a filling for omelets or a topping for baked potatoes or bruschetta. Add shrimp or shredded chicken. Change up the amounts according to your own taste. More eggplant? Sure. More zucchini? Why not? Serves 6.
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and diced
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp dried thyme leaf
2 Tbsp dried oregano
12 small new potatoes, diced
2 medium zucchini, ends trimmed, diced
1 large Japanese eggplant, ends trimmed, diced
2 medium tomatoes, cored and diced
6 large white mushrooms, ends trimmed, roughly chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
1-2 Tbsp tomato paste
6-10 large basil leaves, roughly torn
1 tsp sugar (optional)
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
In a Dutch oven or heavy stock pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, and sauté for 2-3 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic, thyme and oregano, and cook, stirring, for one minute. Add the potatoes, zucchini and eggplant; stir everything together, and cover the pot. Reduce heat to simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes, until the eggplant and zucchini have begun to soften (this is called "sweating" the vegetables). Add the tomatoes and mushrooms, the wine and tomato paste. Stir everything together.
Cover the pot, and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are soft enough to be smashed against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon. Break up some of the potatoes, and leave some in chunks. Stir the stew to incorporate the smashed potatoes. Add basil, sugar, salt and pepper to taste, and stir in the cheese.
Serve hot, at room temperature, or cold.
Other recipes that use olive oil:
Rosemary olive oil cake, from 101 Cookbooks
Eggs fried in olive oil with wilted greens and sumac, from Kalyn's Kitchen
Olive oil cake with fennel pollen, from Hunter Angler Gardener Cook
Gluten-free crackers, from Gluten-Free Goddess
Spicy lamb stew, from Simply Recipes