Styling and photography by Sina Mizrahi
Chanukah is the holiday of light, miracles, and oil. Which all intertwine, of course — the light and the oil commemorate the miracle of the small jug of oil that stayed lit for eight days.
I find it so interesting that we tend to commemorate a miracle having to do with olive oil… by frying food in canola oil!
There is a reason we don’t deep-fry in olive oil. It becomes rancid and unhealthy at temperatures above 375 degrees Fahrenheit (190 degrees Celsius). But deep-frying aside, olive oil is gold. It is literally the healthiest oil in the world.
There are other healthy oils out there, of course. Unrefined avocado oil is a healthy, non-inflammatory monounsaturated fat. Unrefined coconut oil is a healthy, non-inflammatory saturated fat. Unrefined flaxseed and sesame oils are also healthy oils. But none does quite as much for our bodies as olive oil does.
If an oil is refined or processed with heat, its health properties are damaged. “Light” olive oil is not the same as the real thing. When you’re choosing, go for cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil.
Let’s talk about why cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil is so good for us.
Extra-virgin olive oil contains oleocanthal, an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound. Oleocanthal can act similarly to
ibuprofen! Additionally, it can help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and kill cancer cells, as it clears plaques from the brain.
Extra-virgin olive oil is rich in vitamin E, which supports hair and skin health, and vitamin K, which helps lower LDL cholesterol levels and protects against insulin resistance. It improves blood pressure, metabolism, digestion, and bone density. It also balances our hormones and helps keep our moods regulated and even-keeled. On top of all that, the monounsaturated fat in olive oil rarely causes weight gain.
As 60+ Club puts it, “We are only just beginning to understand the countless ways olive oil can improve our health and our lives.”
How to Use It
Because it can’t be used in high-heat cooking, olive oil is best in salads, stir-fries, and oven-roasted dishes, where the temperature is easy to control. Only go up to 375 degrees Fahrenheit if you’re using a high-quality extra-virgin olive oil.
I’ve heard from a lot of people that they don’t like the flavor of olive oil. That’s normal. The refined oils we tend to use have been stripped of their natural properties, and our hijacked taste buds are used to their bland, neutral flavors. But in olive oil, the stronger the flavor, the higher the polyphenols (healthy micronutrients).
Here’s a tip for all you cautious olive-oil users out there: ease in slowly. When I started my journey toward healthy eating, I also didn’t like olive oil! I started by using a ratio of three-quarters avocado oil to one-quarter olive oil. Slowly, I retrained my taste buds, and now I’ve come to love its complex flavor. It enhances all my dishes. Sometimes, for a quick dressing, I’ll use just olive oil, fresh lemon juice, and salt, no extra spices necessary.
Drizzle, Don’t Sizzle
We aren’t skipping the oil this Chanukah. My family’s going to commemorate the miracle with olive-oil-dressed salads, olive oil stir-fries, and sourdough dipped in olive oil. Honestly, I’ll probably end up frying latkes in avocado or coconut oil once or twice, too. But to me, something along the lines of a yummy Greek salad dressed with olive oil, spices, and herbs is the best way to get in the miracle, light, oil, and health benefits all in one.
Wishing you a delightful Chanukah,
Rorie Recommends: Alonso Olive Oil
Alonso is my favorite brand for extra-virgin olive oil. It produces a cold-pressed, manually extracted oil, which means that the oil hasn’t been damaged by heat or chemicals. I’ve also found their oil very accessible — it’s available in kosher groceries and on Amazon. Because it’s boutique produced, it’s fresher than most oils on the market, so its taste is robust and fruity, not thick or stale with that overpowering olive smell.
Alonso says they use very fresh olives that contain optimal antioxidant levels, and they pride themselves on their oil’s extremely low free-fatty acid levels (below .2, as opposed to most other extra-virgin olive oils, which come in at .5 or .8). They even show which varieties of olives they use in each oil, like wine companies do with their grapes!
Their extra-virgin olive oils can be heated up to 375˚F, perfect for most baking and cooking.
When I first tasted sourdough, I really didn’t like it. Me, of all people! But I slowly developed my taste buds, and now, olive oil and sourdough — originally two of my least favorite foods — are the highlight of my Shabbos table. We still love dips and challah, but for sophisticated taste buds, this stuff wins.
I guess you could say that sourdough and garlic confit is our new bread and butter!
YIELDS ABOUT 2 CUPS
- 2 cups peeled garlic cloves
- 2 cups high-quality extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 thyme sprigs
- 2 bay leaves or rosemary sprigs
- ¼ tsp kosher salt
- fresh pepper, for sprinkling (optional)
Place the peeled garlic cloves in a single layer into a shallow oven-safe dish. Pour olive oil over the cloves. Add herbs, then season with salt and pepper, if using. Cover and bake at 250˚F (120°C) for 2 hours. Remove from oven, uncover, and cool completely.
Store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Let your garlic confit sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes before serving.
As a health coach certified in integrative nutrition, Rorie shows the frum community how delicious, fun, and doable it can be to incorporate healthy habits into our lifestyle, one small step at time. She’s the health ambassador of Kosher.com, founder of Full ’N Free, LLC, and a diehard recipe developer who’s always whipping up foods and treats that love us back. Her most recent project? Bringing the goodness of spelt sourdough to the public! Check out her all-new video demos and detailed instructions at www.fullnfree.com.
All statements are suggestive only. Please consult with your doctor before making any dietary or lifestyle changes.
(Originally featured in Family Table, Issue 770)
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