One of the health bonuses of eating meat and fish is they are a good source of fats and oils, but we all know that there are a numerous fruit, nut and vegetable oils available to all of us that will add nutrition, flavor and pizzaz to the most ascetic of diets.
A number years ago my husband and I were invited to a vegan dinner. It was a sort of pop-up affair, hosted by some earnest food enthusiasts who were vegan, and we thought it would be interesting, eye-opening and perhaps even delicious. Turns out, the vegan dinner was a bust; the first and worst course was a “salad” of naked greens. No dressing, no salt, no spices, no zip. These well-intentioned cooks had no idea how to make a bowl of leaves taste better than just a bowl of leaves. It is amazing what a dash of lemon juice, a sprinkle of sea salt and a few shakes of a fruity nutty oil, like say almond oil, can do to a simple dish.
Almond oil is one of our favourite oils to have in the refrigerator. We mostly use it for salads and finishing dishes because of its distinctive flavor. Yes, it does taste and smell like almonds, so you might not reach for it when making a garlic aoli. But a little in place of the ubiquitous olive oil in a quick vinaigrette for a tabouleh-like salad with fresh greens, or a teaspoon in a cold blueberry smoothie will add depth, sophistication, and a welcome and surprise hit of delicious flavor. In addition, almond oil is good for you; rich in vitamin D and E, over 60% of the oil is mono-unsaturated oleic acid (an omega-9 fatty acid), 29% is linoleic acid (an omega 6 essential fatty acid) and 9% is saturated fatty acid. Surprisingly, it has a high smoking point, approximately 495 F , so it is great for stir fries. It’s pretty pricey though so better to use it as an oil to finish a plate rather than cook with.
Almond oil has numerous other applications as well; it has been used in massage therapy since ancient times as it is suitable for any skin type. It absorbs deeply and readily, soothes dry skin and irritation and nourishes the skin. A little massaged gently into the scalp and hair adds lustre and shine and sweet almond oil is one of the most popular essential oils used in aromatherapy.
Regardless, our favourite thing to do with almond oil is to eat it. Expeller-pressed, sweet roasted almond oil is one of nature’s gifts, and it shines in this dessert by Mario Batali.