An easy weeknight dish is pasta tossed in olive oil, minced garlic, basil and sun-dried tomatoes. It's easy to cook, and healthy, as are so many recipes using olive oil. When marinating chicken, beef or fish, extra virgin olive oil is the key ingredient.
When baking, substituting olive oil for butter eliminates much of the saturated fat and also infuses a distinct texture that can elevate the average chocolate cake into a delectable and healthier delight. The next time you serve baked potatoes, top them with extra virgin olive oil or use olive oil instead of butter in mashed potatoes.
Cooks from Italy and France have been poaching fish in olive oil for centuries to keep the fish moist but not watery.
Food drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil infused with herbs and other flavoring elements such as lemon, garlic and chili pepper takes on a new dimension.
Good-quality infused oils are available in local supermarkets or online. However, if you can't find the flavor of your choice, you can make your own.
Simply bring a medium size pot of water to a boil. Add 1 cup of basil leaves or other herb (rosemary, parsley, mint, thyme) and blanch for 30 seconds. Drain and rinse under cold running water. Blend herbs in a food processor with 1 cup extra virgin olive oil (not the most expensive bottle) and a pinch of salt. Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer lined with a coffee filter. The oil will last about a month in the refrigerator.
When you want to make something to impress guests, a new date or a longtime companion, this oil-poached fish is the most elegant of dishes. Serve it with roasted baby potatoes and accompany it with a crisp, acidic white wine.
OIL-POACHED BLACK BASS WITH FRESH PEAS AND BABY TOMATOES
Bass and Poaching Oil:
- 4 black bass fillets (or red snapper or yellowtail), skin on, about 6 ounces each
- 3 cups grapeseed oil or canola oil
- 1 1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
- 10 to 15 sprigs fresh thyme
- 3 bay leaves
Peas and Tomatoes:
- 1 1/2 pounds English peas, shelled
- 2 cups grape tomatoes
- 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 4 to 6 spring onions, trimmed and julienned
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons torn fresh tarragon
- 2 teaspoons torn fresh chervil
- Maldon sea salt for garnish
For the bass and poaching oil: Rinse the bass, and pour the oils into a deep sauté pan big enough to hold all of the fish. Roll the thyme and bay in cheesecloth and wrap and tie with kitchen string. Add the sachet to the poaching oil and bring the mixture to 220 degrees over medium heat. Add the bass; the oil temperature will drop. Adjust the heat so that the oil temperature stays at 190 degrees. Poach the bass until just a little moist and translucent in the center, to a 130-degree internal temperature, about 7 minutes. Carefully transfer the fish to paper towels to drain.
For the peas and tomatoes: Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil and fill a large bowl with ice water. Add the peas and blanch for 1 1/2 minutes. Transfer to the ice water to stop the cooking. When cool, use your fingers to slip the peas from their skins. You should have about 1 1/2 cups shelled peas.
Drop the tomatoes into the boiling water and blanch for 10 seconds. Transfer to the ice water to stop the cooking. When cool, slip the tomatoes from their skins. Set aside. Heat 1/4 cup of the oil in a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Add onions, and cook until soft but not browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the skinned tomatoes and warm through, 1 to 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
In another pan, heat the remaining 3/4 cup of oil and the lemon juice over medium heat. Add the peas and herbs and warm through, 1 to 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Spread the onions in the center of each plate. Place fish on top and tomatoes around the fish. Spoon peas over the top and garnish with sea salt and black pepper.
Per serving: 732 calories (59 percent from fat), 48.4 g fat (5 g saturated, 31.3 g mono ), 63 mg cholesterol, 45 g protein, 32 g carbohydrates, 10.8 g fiber, 124 mg sodium.
Source: Adapted from "Eating Italy" by Jeff Michaud with David Joachim (Running Press, $35)