Delicious vegan cooking is both art and science. Recipes are indeed a critical part of acing your cooking game, but ingredients? They make more of a difference than you might think. But it doesn’t have to be complicated. Simply cooking with olive oil — a high-quality olive oil — is an easy switch. And one that will bring all the benefits, both in flavor and nutrition.
Cooking With Good Olive Oil
Start here – the secret to any great meal is cooking with olive oil. Chefs have been using olive oil for centuries to make meals taste exceptional. To the connoisseur, olive oil is as nuanced as fine wine — olives impart the same terroir as wine. The flavor of the region is even more pronounced when pressed into oil.
Whether it’s a first “cold” pressing also makes a difference in the flavor and robustness. Any oil that’s not first cold pressing is going to lose flavor. And when it comes to olive oil, it’s all about the flavor.
Then there’s the freshness — a quality far-too often overlooked in olive oil. Unlike wine, age won’t do your oil any favors (or flavors!). Rancidity can happen quickly with oil. And big-name oil brands can often cut their olive oils with cheaper oils, too. Diluting both health benefits and flavor. It’s why you want to look for an olive oil producer that takes pride in their craft from growing and harvesting to pressing and bottling.
Once you’ve had good olive oil, you’ll know the difference immediately. A good, fresh olive oil will have spicy, grassy notes. It will be peppery but also buttery soft. If it makes you want to drink it straight out of the bottle or go out and buy the best bread in town to dunk into it, you’ve found yourself a keeper.
And when it comes to olive oil, Cobram Estate is a cut above the rest.
Cobram Estate is committed to creating the freshest extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) as naturally possible. The company pours its heart into its craft and being a vertically integrated Tree to Table, it’s invested in every step of the process. Cobram Estate grows its own olives from seedlings in its nursery facilities, sorting them to make sure each is near perfection.
The Cobram olives are crushed within six hours of being picked — the faster olives are picked and packed in the bottle, the higher the antioxidant levels will be, which is the key driver for EVOO health benefits. Cobram Estate’s olive oil contains polyphenols, which can help fight inflammation, aging, and weight gain. They also promote good heart health.
Industry standards require that EVOO products have an acidity below 0.8 percent and taste like fresh olives. Cobram Estate’s olive oil has an acidity below 0.3 percent and boasts a rich, robust, and flavor-packed taste.
But more than that, quality olive oil brings immense flavor to dishes. It can be as integral as salt in bringing out a dish’s potential.
“I want to get people to cook with extra virgin olive oil, in general,” Kevin O’Connor, chef-at-large at Cobram Estate, recently told Olive Oil Times. “To understand and enjoy different blends and single varietals. To have them in their repertoire and understand them. To learn how to taste them and how to cook with them is something that I’ve been wanting to push forward for years.”
Don’t lump olive oil in with general cooking oils — this is a key ingredient to drizzle over cooked pasta or vegetables, use instead of butter for bread or potatoes, and add it to sauces, marinades, and homemade dressings. And if you haven’t made an olive oil chocolate cake yet, you might want to bump that to the top of your to-do list!
You can pick up a bottle of Cobram Estate at Whole Foods and it will soon be available in Target stores. You can also visit the online store locator.
Go for the Grill
Want more flavorsome food? Get grilling. Just like cooking with olive oil, grilling has the same benefit. Flavor in food develops and deepens when it’s heated and nothing tastes better than food that’s been grilled to perfection.
To step up your grilled tofu game, all you need is a simple slather of olive oil (try the Cobram!) and a sprinkle of salt on half-inch-thick slices or kebab-cubed chunks of extra-firm tofu. Then just throw it on the grill until those crisp grill marks appear.
Veggies like asparagus, peppers, zucchini, eggplant, and corn grill up perfectly in olive oil, too. Have you ever grilled potatoes? You don’t know what you’re missing then! Lightly brush with olive oil, add the salt and pepper and slice or steam whole on the grill (wrap in foil first). Sweet potatoes work just as well as do other root veggies. Grilled beets, rutabaga, and carrots are out of this world.
Bring the Mushrooms
For a savory, umami-rich flavor, go for mushrooms. So savory and full of flavor mushrooms and olive oil are the perfect partners. The rich and buttery flavor of Cobram’s olive oil balances out the intense flavor of the mushrooms, bringing a well-rounded flavor to any dish.
Whether giant portobellos, crimini, or more exotic mushrooms like king oyster, shiitake, or lobster – you can simply brush them with oil and throw them on the grill, too.
Or in the kitchen, chop and sauté your mushrooms with shallot, garlic, and a bit of wine. That’s perfection.
Add your mushrooms to all kinds of dishes – from smoky carbonara pasta to piling them on burgers — even just served simply with a side of rice.
Eat Your Vegetables – But Roast Them First
Looking for new ways to spice up your vegetable game? Try roasting them. Roasting your veggies will give them a crispy finish and increase the savory depth of flavor, while still keeping their nutritional benefits. As a bonus, it’s super easy to do. Just add some extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of salt.
Oven-roasted tomatoes pack plenty of health benefits. Research shows cutting and heating this fruit opens up its cell walls, allowing the antioxidant lycopene to be more easily accessed. Lycopene can help reduce the risk of diseases like Alzheimer’s and cancer.
Roasted potatoes make for the perfect accompaniment to many dishes, but don’t stop there. Roasted zucchini, onions, cauliflower, broccoli, and green beans are guaranteed to warm up any chilly evening.
Try tossing whole carrots with EVOO, salt, and lemon zest for a delicious and gorgeous side.
Root veggies were made for roasting. Beets, rutabagas, turnips, parsnips, and of course white and sweet potatoes take on new flavors when roasted in olive oil.
And don’t forget the brussels sprouts! These little green cabbages are now the poster veggie for the wonders of roasting. All they need is a little EVOO, salt, and a bit of crushed pepper for the perfect healthy side. Roast until just bright green and charred to keep them from getting too soft.
Marinades and Dressings
Sure you can buy fancy marinades and dressings from the market, but here’s a pro-tip: you really don’t need to.
Most are a simple combination of oil, an acid, and fresh herbs or dried spices. You’ve probably got all of those in your kitchen right now. Not only does making your own save you money, but you can better control the quality of ingredients and avoid nasties like preservatives, corn syrup, or excess sodium.
The marinade options are endless — from spicy to herby to sweet. Start with a simple base of 3 parts EVOO to one part acid (red wine or balsamic vinegar or lemon or other citrus), a pinch of salt and then go from there. Add mustard and maple syrup for a sweet and sour, add lots of fresh parsley, garlic, and oregano for a chimichurri you’ll want to slather on everything.
Looking for a simple salad dressing? Start with that same marinade base of olive oil and vinegar and add some dried oregano, basil, garlic, and pepper for an easy Italian dressing. Try adding in fresh smashed raspberries to olive oil and balsamic for a simple summer sweet dressing that’s perfect when paired with fresh spinach salad. Instead of mustard, add a bit of vegan mayo to your base and some grated cucumber and a bit of dill for a healthy spin on the classic creamy cucumber.
The flavor possibilities are endless when cooking with high-quality olive oil. Make sure it’s a staple in your kitchen. Check out Cobram Estate’s website for more information.
*This is a sponsored post.