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There are various different uses of olive oil, most commonly for sautéing and in dressings. It can be used in marinades or in dips for vegetables or bread as well. Olive oil can also be used in baking, often to reduce the amount of saturated fat in baked goods.
Olive oil is commonly used in place of butter or other oils for sautéing or cooking meats and vegetables. Extra virgin olive oil is healthier than many alternatives and, when made with quality olives, can add flavor to cooked dishes. When used for sautéing or pan frying foods, it is important to keep the heat moderate because olive oil has a relatively low smoking point and can burn easily. Olive oil can be appropriate for high heat cooking as long as it is used with oil that has a higher smoking point such as canola oil or vegetable oil.
One of the most popular uses of olive oil is in dressings. Italian style dressings and Caesar dressing are predominantly made with extra virgin olive oil. It also works well in a variety of other dressings for pasta, potato, and lettuce salads and can replace almost any oil. Simply mix the olive oil with vinegar or another acid and any type of seasoning. Olive oil is also often used to dress cooked foods; it can be drizzled over steamed vegetables, meats, soups, or pasta immediately before serving for additional flavor.
Olive oil is a common component in marinades for meats and vegetables. Using olive oil in a marinade for meat can be a good way to get the flavor of the oil without cooking with it. This can reduce the chances that the oil will burn with high heat cooking, especially grilling. Olive oil and other ingredients can be utilized to marinade vegetables before cooking or grilling; this works especially well with vegetables on a skewer.
Other popular uses of olive oil include dips for vegetables or bread. When the oil is added to a mayonnaise or sour cream base, it can make a healthy, flavorful dip for a variety of cut vegetables. Olive oil mixed with garlic, salt, and herbs such as basil and rosemary is a popular dip for freshly baked bread in many parts of the world, especially Italy. For these applications, it is typically best to use the highest quality extra virgin olive oil available.
One of the most little known uses of olive oil is in baking. In many different baked goods, especially cakes, olive oil can be substituted for vegetable oil or butter to improve the healthiness of the dish; this can significantly reduce the amount of cholesterol and saturated fat. When including olive oil in baking, it is typically best to use oil made from late harvest olives because it tends to have a less pronounced flavor; olive oil made from a first press may result in an undesirable taste.
I use light olive oil in cooking, and even ran across a delicious lemon tart recipe that used olive oil. It's also unequaled as a base for a vinaigrette. Since it is good for you, it's nice to know that olive oil is good for so many cooking uses.
I've also seen olive oil used in skin and hair products. I think I have a hair conditioner that uses olive oil, and is formulated for very dry hair.
Olives are ancient plants, and it's easy to see why they have retained their popularity as an all-purpose product.