Monday, September 27, 2010

Is It Safe to Cook with Olive Oil?

Today I'll be answering a question from one of our readers: Is it safe to cook with olive oil, or can that create harmful trans fats?

From the perspective of integrative medicine, extra virgin olive oil (preferably organic 1st coldpressed) is one of the healthiest fats. It is a key element of the Mediterranean diet, one of the most healthful ways of eating that has been shown to reduce risk of heart disease and stroke. I use extra virgin olive oil every day in my food and cooking.

A key question is the smoke point of the oil, the temperature at which it starts to smoke and breakdown, creating free radicals. The smoke point of olive oil varies, between 300°F to 400°F. But in order to actually create trans fats, repeated heating above 400°F and cooling is required, like in a commercial fryer. If you're cooking at home you're not going to create trans fats from the olive oil.

However, you don't want to heat it to its smoke point because of the creation of free radicals. In general I use extra virgin olive oil for salads, sautéing, and similar lower temperature uses. I do not recommended for deep frying. I don't recommend deep frying anyway. For high temperature cooking applications I recommend coconut oil which has a very high smoke point, or ghee.

Please post your comments and responses!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Turmeric cocktail

You may have heard in the news about turmeric, a "new" healing superfood.

Turmeric has been used in Indian cooking for thousands of years. The rhizome or root of the plant is ground into a powder to create the yellow turmeric powder that we are familiar with.

Turmeric is rich in curcumin, a powerful natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. We are finding that inflammation is the common root cause for many chronic diseases, and having as much turmeric in your diet as possible may help reduce inflammation.

I recommend adding as much turmeric powder to your meat and vegetables as you can. It's hard to use too much. Most people can safely handle 8 g per day. In addition to eating food with turmeric, here is an interesting recipe to incorporate turmeric into beverages:

Turmeric Cocktail

1/2 cup fruit juice, such as apple or pineapple
1 heaping Tb. turmeric
1 Tb. apple cider vinegar
1 Tb. fresh lemon juice
dilute with water as necessary for taste
Stir all together. Drink once or twice a day.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Roasted Pork with fresh figs

Ayurveda always emphasizes being in touch with the current season and using whatever fresh fruits and vegetables are available. One of the great things about California is that we get a variety of fresh produce throughout the year. I recently obtained a large tray of fresh figs and had to figure out how to use them. Besides gobbling up as many as I could and freezing some, I needed to figure out a way to cook some as an entrée. Thus I came up with the following recipe:

Roasted pork with fresh figs

1 pound of ground pork
1 tablespoon turmeric
2 teaspoons clove powder
2 teaspoon coriander powder
half teaspoon allspice
half teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon salt (add more to taste)
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 fresh figs, sliced into thin strips

-- in saucepan, heat olive oil and cumin.
-- when cumin is browning, add the pork and remainder of spices. Stir well to blend all the spices evenly in the pork.
-- Cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally
-- once the meat is fully cooked, scatter the fresh figs throughout the saucepan and stir well.
-- Turn off heat and cover. The remaining heat is just enough to lightly caramelize the figs and allow the various Indian spices to permeate them and create a sweet spicy flavor.

Serves 4 people. Pairs well with brown rice, naan or chapati. Try it out and let me know how it turns out!