The oil drill: Acidity makes the difference


March 23, 1994|By Rita Calvert | Rita Calvert,Special to The Sun

Q: What is the difference between the different types of olive oils? How do I know which ones to buy? What about canola oil?

A: All olive oils are monounsaturated and are graded according to the degree of acidity they contain. You'll find many different colors, qualities, places of origin and prices. The best olive oils are cold-pressed, which produces a low level of acidity. Extra virgin olive oil is the result of the first of the cold-pressings. It is considered the finest, the fruitiest and is also the most expensive. This kind is best for non-cooking treatments such as salad dressings and dipping. The colors of extra virgin olive oils vary from a pale champagne color to a deep green. The deepest color is said to have the richest flavor. After extra virgin, in ascending acidity are superfine, fine and pure (or virgin). The new light olive oil has been processed through an extra fine filtration, which removes much of the color and flavor of the oil.

Canola oil (derived from rapeseed) is rapidly gaining popularity. It has a light taste and is considered lower in saturated fat than any other oil.

Q: Do mushrooms have any fat or nutritional value? I never see them listed on diet plans.

A: Common, domestic mushrooms, the type most often found in supermarkets, are very low in fat but do supply protein, iron, phosphorus and other minerals. The shiitake mushroom, now becoming more commonly available, is rich in vitamins and enzymes, making them quite nutritious. Q: I have a stir-fry dish made with mayonnaise. Is there something healthier, like yogurt or low-fat sour cream that would work instead? It's basically chicken and vegetables with mayonnaise making the sauce at the end. A: In your stir-fry dish, it is possible to trade a reduced fat substitute such as low-fat yogurt or sour cream with a bit of tweaking. Stir a small amount of cornstarch, about 1 teaspoon to 1 cup yogurt or sour cream before adding it to the stir-fry. This will prevent either from breaking down under heat. You might want to add a touch of flavorful mustard or Worcestershire sauce for pizazz without calories.

Send your questions to: What's Cooking, c/o Food & Home, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278. Or leave your questions by phone by calling Sundial, The Sun's telephone information service, at (410) 783-1800 (268-7736 in Anne Arundel County, hTC 836-5028 in Harford County, 848-0338 in Carroll County). Using a touch-tone phone, punch in 6180 after the greeting. Questions of general interest will be answered in this column.

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