THE Spanish call it el oro líquido (liquid gold), and it’s no wonder. The olive tree, that symbol of peace and wisdom, contributes so much to the robust and ruddy health of those who use its oil regularly. For her 51st wedding anniversary, mum-in-law was especially pleased to receive a bottle of Tuccioliva Matilda 0.7 litres made with premium olives of the picual variety from Jaén, the region with the largest extension of olive trees in the world. She knows instinctively what makes her glow inside out.
For those needing more convincing, the Mayo Clinic says: “The Mediterranean diet features olive oil as the primary source of fat (approximate 25% of caloric intake). Olive oil provides monounsaturated fat — a type of fat that can help reduce LDL cholesterol levels when used in place of saturated or trans fats. Extra-virgin and virgin olive oils — the least processed forms — also contain the highest levels of the protective plant compounds that provide antioxidant effects.” For more details, check out the Mayo Clinic for an indepth analysis of what a Mediterranean diet entails. Also, do read Ciki’s recent post on Myth 2: Fat-free food makes you skinny.
Ye, ole olive tree – photo credit Nelima
The beauty of this way of life is you can indulge in red wine with moderation. This tipple is optional, but such pleasure indeed to have a rather good bottle of wine for about €12. A really good bottle such as the Scala Dei Cartoixa Reserva D.O. Priorat can be had for about €28. If you find extra virgin olive oil — which has a sublime taste — too expensive an option to use liberally in salads, alternate with other monounsaturated oils such as canola and peanut and polyunsaturated oils such as safflower, sunflower, corn and flaxseed oils. It depends on your tastebuds too which ones you choose. Make sure they’re not heavily refined with the use of chemical additives.
Just a thought: sesame oil has fine properties, especially for women in confinement. I understand virgin coconut oil is prized for its health benefits and also because it’s composed mainly of “medium-chain triglycerides, which may not carry the same risks as other saturated fats.” And that there’s bad press surrounding the use of coconut oil in general. Any advice on this matter?
Besugo al horno (Baked sea bream)
I usually avoid frying, and for foods with enough wok hei (high-heat cooking), we go out to the local Chinese restaurant or Argentinian for a good side of beef. Here in Barcelona, it’s easy to get a lean cut of Galician beef which goes well just grilled on its own with pepper and sea salt, and Argentinian chimichurri (get the mix from the grocer), or a Chilean pebre (fresh cilantro sauce for grilled meats).
Besugo al horno (baked sea bream) is a typical Spanish fish recipe, especially in the Basque country. Here’s a modified recipe:
1.5kg sea bream or other white fish with firm flesh
½ cup of olive oil or any other good quality oil
2 medium-sized white potatoes, skinned, cut in 1cm slices and boiled 5 minutes
2 large tomatoes, sliced
1 medium white onion, sliced
1 large lemon or 2 limes cut in wedges
4 cloves of garlic, smashed in skin
Heat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Make 2 diagonal slashes on one side of the fish and push a lemon wedge or 2 lime wedges into each. Oil an oval ovenproof dish. Put in the fish, cut-side up. Tuck the cooled sliced potato, tomato, onion beneath and around the fish. Pour over the rest of the oil. Season upon eating as adding salt now tends to dry the fish. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes or more to crisp the fish and brown the potato edges. Serve on its own or with any sauce you choose.
For the proper usage of cooking oils, Cooking for Engineers has this advice: note the smoke point of various fats because a fat is no longer good for consumption after it has exceeded its smoke point and has begun to break down. What more can I say? Healthy eating goes with good living. And there’s a world of opportunities for us to get moving and shaking either in the gym or in the good outdoors. My favourite is piggy-trotting (I’m too slow to call it a run) on the beach or playing ta-ka-ta (sort of like beach tennis, except that you use your head, hands, shoulders, arms and legs as the ‘racket’. That’ll work up a sweat!
Previous installment to this post : Lose Fat with the Mediterranean Diet – Part 1
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