How to use olive oil

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olive oil and leaves
Olive oil isn't just for salads anymore
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You can use olive oil in everything from stir fry to dessert

For those of us who are concerned about healthy eating, every ingredient matters. And that's especially true when it comes to fats and oils.

Scientists agree that olive oil is one of the healthiest choices, but most people don't know exactly how to use olive oil in anything except salad dressing. If you're looking for ways to add this healthy fat to your diet, here are some ideas for using this ancient oil in everything from appetizers to dessert.

In sautes

Olive oil, especially extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), is a natural for sauteing fresh vegetables, fish or lean meats. If you select a fine extra virgin oil, a little goes a long way in carrying flavor.

For richer flavors, add your herbs and other flavorings to the oil and allow it to warm in the pan before you add the veggies or meats. The heat will help infuse the oil with the flavors, so it can carry it into the rest of the dish.

In marinades

It's easy to create your own marinades using EVOO and fresh herbs or spices. Try combining your favorite Italian herbs with olive oil for a superb marinade for chicken. Or blend in Herbs de Provence and use it to marinate garden-fresh vegetables.

For the best flavor, allow the herbs to remain in the oil for a day or two before you use the blend for cooking.

For frying

Although olive oil doesn't have as high a smoke temperature as grape seed oil, it is still a delicious and healthy choice when frying is called for in a recipe.

Use a heavy bottomed pan, and keep heat at medium high or below to prevent the oil from smoking and tasting burnt.

In dressings

Olive oil, especially a fine extra-virgin oil, remains the very best choice for creating tasty and delicious salad dressings.

Combine EVOO with aged balsamic vinegar or a quality red wine vinegar, then add your favorite herbs, minced garlic, a pinch of salt and some finely grated Italian cheese for a dressing no bottled version could ever match.

As a dip for bread

In Italy, the very best olive oils are saved for the table. Whether it's served as is, or blended with herbs and spices, these rich, fruity cold-pressed oils are perfect as dip for crusty French or Italian bread.

In baking

Most people think of olive oil as something for savory cooking only. But it's also a great choice for baking. 

In sweet desserts and baked goods, forgo the heavier EVOO in favor of a light, milder olive oil. That way the taste of your dessert will come through, and you'll still be enjoying the benefits of heart-healthy olive oil.

Outside of the kitchen

For generations of people in the Mediterranean, olive oil was the moisturizer of choice for dry hands, face and body. It was used to deep condition hair and sooth wounds. Cleopatra was reported to have bathed in it, to retain her youth and beauty.

And Italian grandmothers knew that a few drops of olive oil could sooth an earache, too.

Today, many skin, hair and health remedies use olive oil as a main ingredient. But you don't have to buy expensive preparations to reap the benefits.

Massaging olive oil into dry hands or applying it to your skin before a shower or bath can bring the same benefits as the ancients enjoyed, for a fraction of the price of commercial preparations.

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