The Battle of the Oils

dscn0022Slight exaggeration in title, yes, but does that make what we’re about to expound on any less interesting?  Hopefully not!  We want to talk about our new favorite oil.  We’re not about to push that bottle of extra virgin olive oil to the back of the cabinet, but we think he’s definitely got some competition.  The new kid on the block isn’t even really all that new.  He’s been around for a while, but how often do you see his name pop up in recipes?  We daresay not often enough.  In fact, we polled maybe one or two people, and they had no idea what this oil even was.  One or two people isn’t a lot, but this isn’t Family Feud here.  We just wanted to ask around.  So what is this crazy oil that’s got us so psyched up?  It starts with grape and ends with seed.

Grapeseed oil!  A vegetable oil made from the seeds of Vitis vinifera grapes (making it a byproduct of the wine industry) with the ability to span into all aspects of our daily lives–from the culinary world to the hygiene products to its natural health benefits.  It has the same calories per serving as most cooking oils, and pricewise, it’s no more expensive.  Maybe you haven’t seen it in your local chain grocery store, but you can find it with our friend Trader Joe or any competitors in his league.  The flavor is one of the lightest in comparison to other oils, which makes it perfect for salad dressings, sauces and frying.  It has a high flash point, so it can handle a splash in a very hot pan without turning into smoke as quickly as our friend Mr. Olive Oil.  That also means less of that stay-in-the-air for days scent that tends to linger in the kitchen after you’ve had a foray with your frying pan.

Now, this doesn’t mean that Mr. Grapeseed is a replacement, but when you think about it, cooking with a tasty oil is even better when you are meant to taste it.  We love olive oil on a tomato and mozzarella salad, drizzled over marinated olives, poured into pesto or trickled over homemade bread.  Olive oil can have a strong flavor, though, so when you want something subtle, a light addition to a meal, we think grapeseed oil can be the way to go.  Ease it into your salad dressing, sauté a side of fresh carrots, rub on the outside of your baked fingerling potatoes or slip fresh rosemary stalks and lemon rinds into a bottle to create a light, fresh infusion.  It’s oh so versatile.

Of course we couldn’t do all this yapping about grapeseed oil without sharing a recent creation that includes it.  A favorite use for grapeseed oil in our kitchen right now is the salad dressing.  It’s the perfect, flavorless connector to add body to any dressing.  Try this one on greens or sprinkled over seared tuna steaks or tofu. Play with the honey if you like sweet or decrease the water if you prefer it thicker.   And if spice is your thing, up the ante with the peppers!

Sesame Seared Tofu w/Honey Miso Vinaigrette

Sesame Seared Tofu with Jalapeno Miso Dressing – Serves 2 to 4

4 tablespoons mirin
4 tablespoons water
1 1/2 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons miso
1 scallion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon ginger, chopped
2 tablespoons honey
1/3 jalapeno pepper, seeded
4 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 teaspoon sesame seed oil

Blend all ingredients until smooth.  Best if allowed to chill overnight.

10 ounces firm tofu, drained, sliced
1 teaspoon sesame seed oil
1 teaspoon grapeseed oil
Sesame seeds
Kosher salt

1. Heavily coat one side of tofu with jalapeno miso dressing. Allow to rest in fridge for 2 hours.

2.  Once tofu is done marinating, heat a dry pan over medium heat.

3.  While pan heats, spread a layer of sesame seeds and a pinch of salt on a plate and press non-marinated side of tofu into sesame seeds.

4.  Hold hand just over bottom of pan to feel how hot it is.  (You should feel heat emanating towards your hand.) When it’s ready, add both oils, swirl in the pan and lay in then the tofu (sesame side first).  Cook on both sides until golden brown, approximately 2-3 minutes on each side.

5.  Serve over a bed of greens and drizzle with extra dressing.  Salt to taste.

Click HERE for printable recipes.


39 thoughts on “The Battle of the Oils

  1. From the smoke point angle, I believe ground nut (peanut) oil is the most preferred – also from the deep frying re-use angle.

    ps: quite silly of me, but I wasn’t visiting you often enough and couldn’t figure out how to keep in touch… then i remembered RSS. 😀 how silly can one get?

  2. At first I thought I knew about this oil and then realised what I was thinking of was Rapeseed oil. With just a G difference between the two it’s very easy to get confused. Grapeseed oil, nope, haven’t heard of it but will definitely keep my eyes peeled. Thanks for the great post!

  3. I know it is hardly news in this chef’s corner to know I have several bottles of infused grape seed oil and use it often…the benefits are as good as drinking its ‘Red’ juice relative!

  4. OMG that marinade is tasty!!! Our tofu didn’t come out quite looking like yours, even though I followed the recipe to the letter. And it burned the crap out of the skillet. But my vegetarian daughter raved and even my “1. buy the vegetables, 2. put the vegetables in the fridge, 3. wait three weeks until they have thoroughly rotted, 4. compost them and thank your favorite Deity that they never went through your digestive tract” husband liked it. We dumped the rest of the marinade on the salad, since no raw meat went in, it was OK to do that. So…. totally worth the SOS pad after.

  5. I’m right there with you. We use olive oil, coconut oil (also as a butter substitute for non-dairy eating) and grapeseed is the newest addition to our kitchen! Great article!!

  6. You’ve convinced me … I need to head to TJ’s stat to pick up a bottle of the fabulous grapeseed oil.

    Ya know, it’s breakfast time for me and I’m now craving a tofu salad with jalapeno miso dressing. Where in the world that craving came from, I’ll never know!! 😉

  7. Can you believe I do not have nor have I ever had grapeseed oil in my pantry. But, I like the idea of a neutral oil (and it has health benefits), so I need to change that. Thanks for the push. I enjoy reading your blog.

  8. I love olive oil and use it almost everyday. It’s true that it can be a bit strong for some dishes. I have never tried grapeseed and will have to give it a try for frying. Thanks for the info!

  9. I started using grapeseed oil after I went to a HipCooks class where they used it! I’m so glad I did too, because all I used before was olive oil, and not every dish is suited to olive oil, obviously.

  10. I am really glad you posted about this. I love using olive oil as my staple oil, but when I am frying something (which is not usual) I use grapeseed oil and I have started using it when I need something tasteless.

  11. I started using grapeseed oil about a year ago and love it in place of regular vegetable oil. I still use a ton of extra virgin olive oil, but grapeseed oil is wonderful when you’re cooking at a higher temp or need a neutral flavor. Great post!

  12. You know who has a great grapeseed oil…Wildtree! You can find it on my site
    The seared tofu looks amazing by the way.

  13. I’ve been meaning to try grapeseed oil for a while now, as olive oil doesn’t seem to suit a lot of the cooking I’m doing lately. Nice reminder! And that tuna looks fab… mmm, I love miso.

  14. Oyyy that looks delicious. and vegetarian too. I got some grapeseed oil once in Nocal. We don’t have a trader Joe’s here but I have people I can send on a mission. I’m stealin your tofu recipe guys!

  15. I’ve seen grapeseed oil but have never used it…will definitely check it out. I’ve always got two bottles of olive oil going, but they have flavors to them so not always welcome with certain dishes. I’ll probably try this recipe with some fish – I’m totally tofu-d out right now.

  16. Love, love, love the looks of that dressing. Any combination of ginger/soy/rice wine vinegar/and spice … I’m there. Yum! Its been a while since I’ve used grapeseed oil … thanks for the reminder!

  17. Great recipe! I’ve been using grapeseed and olive oil interchangeably although I rely on grapeseed for most of my sauteing and light frying needs (for the occasional deep-frying, gotta go w/less expensive canola!). I’m so happy that Trader Joe’s carries their own brand, otherwise both oils can be pretty pricey.

  18. It’s true about olive oil. I think we all use it because it’s handy and we’re used to just reaching for the bottle. I have to say I was surprised when I was leafing through the “French Laundry Cookbook” to find that the kitchen there uses canola oil most of the time. But when you think about it, it makes sense. Extra virgin olive oil can be so wonderfully peppery or grassy or buttery. But you don’t always want those strong characteristics in a dish where you want other flavors to shine.

  19. This article is very enlightening! I’ve always found the taste of olive oil to be a bit too overwhelming so maybe grapeseed oil will be a good substitute here and there. I’ll be sure to pick up a bottle the next time I’m at TJ’s.

    Thank you for visiting my blog AND leaving comments 🙂 I’ve been wanting to do more informational based entries like you have on your blog so this will hopefully just the right inspiration!

  20. I can’t say I’ve ever tried it, opting for canola oil when I need something flavourless instead. Still, I’m always open to trying new things, so I’ll keep an eye out for it next time I’m shoppng.

  21. Hey thanks for the heads up. I had never heard of this type of oil before but now I am intrigued. I must try it to see how it compares to my other favorite oils.

  22. Not only does the higher smoke point of grapeseed oil mean there is less of a lingering smell, but it also means that it is a safer oil to use in cooking. When oils reach their smoke points they create oxygen radicals which cause cancer. So I usually use grapeseed oil anytime I cook and olive oil when I’m doing things raw like a dressing. The smoke points of different kinds of olive oils (refined, evoo, voo, etc) really vary and it is too much work for me to pay attention to getting the right one or whatever, so I just try to error on the side of the all mighty grapeseed! This dish looks awesome and totally works with my detox, so I may just be whipping this baby up this week!

  23. It’s just past lunchtime here, I haven’t eaten and I see this – I would so like some right now (but I shall have to settle for a cheese and tomato toastie instead!). As far as the oil goes, I must say that I haven’t used grapeseed oil, but I think I’ll be keeping an eye out for it now.

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