I’m not a good cook. The only meals I can make are either already prepared or something I can fry on the stove (eggs, for example.) Basically, I can make a mean breakfast, but lunch and dinner for me means sandwiches, frozen dinners or takeout.
Lately I’ve been trying to cook more for myself and change my eating habits. Instead of throwing great gobs of real butter on toast and using it to fry with, I’ve switched over to olive oil.
Olive oil is incredibly useful. It goes well on toast and other forms of bread. It makes a good mix with tuna. And it’s a great frying medium for eggs and other foods that you can fry in a pan. There’s a reason the Italians, Greeks and Arabs use so much of it: olive oil goes well with a lot of foods and it’s healthy. Nutritionists seem to be agreed that olive oil is good to eat, and thousands of years of Mediterranean cuisine can’t be wrong.
Pictured above: one of the most common uses of olive oil in Mediterranean cooking. Hummus has become surprisingly popular in the United States, but a lot of Americans don’t know that hummus is traditionally served with olive oil. A plate of hummus with olive oil and a loaf of pita bread make for a healthy and filling breakfast.
There are different grades of olive oil, but the best to use raw is extra virgin. It’s more expensive, and generally speaking, the darker/greener it is the better. The stuff I’ve got right now is extra virgin but is quite yellow – it’s a basic cheap bottle. I’m a student and can’t go all out on a 20 dollar import of the finest Spanish olive oil. I need that money for other things.
If you’re planning to use your olive oil just for frying with, though, don’t bother getting extra virgin – just buy a bottle of the low-end oil. Don’t waste the good stuff in a frying pan.
What makes olive oil healthy? This food is high in unsaturated fats, which have various benefits including a reduced risk of heart disease and lower cholesterol. A doctor from the Mayo Clinic endorses it here, though he notes that while olive oil has healthy fats, it is also high in those fats, so it should be used in moderation.
So if you want to have a healthier alternative to butter or a less crappy alternative to margarine or the various “spreads” in the fake dairy aisle of the market, try out some olive oil.