Olive Oil

Pesach Shopping

Pesach food is a little slow getting onto the grocery store shelves here. But every day there’s something new.

Today I found cooking oils. Fortunately, there was a lot of olive oil – the healthiest choice. They also had canola oil, which some people consider kitniyot. Kosher l’Pesach avocado oil (delicious, healthy and expensive) is also available this year.

Then I saw something else – palm oil.

Years ago, highly saturated palm oil, palm kernel oil and coconut oil were used extensively in commercial baking. When health professionals and the public finally influenced a change, industry switched to hydrogenated oils, which turned out to be full of unhealthy trans fat.

Now that trans fat is out, manufacturers are back to using palm and coconut oil. It’s true – they have 0% trans fat. But they are highly saturated and can raise blood cholesterol levels.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute warns that the “high content of saturated fat… in… palm kernel oil, palm oil, coconut oil, and cocoa butter” puts people at risk for heart attack or stroke. The World Health Organization states that there is “convincing evidence” that palmitic acid (found in palm oil) increases the risk of heart disease.

That’s reason enough to skip palm oil this Pesach and choose heart-healthy olive, walnut or canola oil instead.

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Olive Oil Brownies (Parve or Dairy)

Chocolate and olive oil? I hadn’t thought about it until I tasted the chocolate olive oil pralines made by Elie Tarrab, an amazing chocolatier in Tel Aviv.

These are adult brownies – dark and smooth, with a background taste of olive oil. For a sophisticated dessert, use a round pan and cut the brownies into wedges. A fruity but not-too-strong oil like Israeli Nabali or Picual is wonderful in this recipe.

4 ounces (100g) unsweetened chocolate, chopped

1/3 cup fruity extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 eggs

¾ cup sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup all-purpose flour

½ cup lightly toasted chopped walnuts, hazelnuts or pistachios (optional)


Preheat the oven to 350F (175C). Line an 8-inch (20cm) square baking pan with parchment paper and spray the paper and sides of the pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Melt the chocolate over low heat in a double boiler or on low power in the microwave. Whisk in the oil and the vanilla.

Beat together the eggs, sugar and salt with an electric mixer until pale and thick. (A hand-held mixer is fine, but don’t skip this step.) Whisk in the chocolate mixture. Fold in the flour and optional nuts, stirring just until everything is combined. Pour into the prepared pan.

Bake for 15-20 minutes. (A toothpick inserted in the center should still be a little sticky.) Cool completely and cut into squares.

16 squares


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Olive Oil

Olive oil granola? Indian curries made with olive oil? Cookies and cake too?

Is this another food fad, or is there really something to it?

We know from the Tanach that olive oil has been around for a long time. Today it’s still the best fat you can choose.

Extra-virgin olive oil is especially good for you. Minimal processing preserves its health-promoting antioxidants. And it’s an excellent source of heart- protecective monounsaturated fats. Best of all, olive oil is amazingly versatile and delicious.

Olive oil makes a wonderful salad dressing. But don’t just save it for vegetables. It’s great with pasta, grain and bean salads too.

Use it to sauté chicken breasts, fish, eggs and vegetables. Just don’t overheat it or it might burn.

Think outside of the box. I recently saw a cookbook devoted to using olive oil instead of ghee (clarified butter) in Indian cooking. There’s a recipe for granola made with pistachios, cardamom and olive oil. The Italians have a rich tradition of using olive oil in cakes, cookies and bread.

If you’re not familiar with the joys of olive oil or would just like an incredible culinary experience, visit these two gorgeous stores in Tel Aviv. (They both have websites just in case you can’t get to Tel Aviv.)

Olia features nearly a dozen varieties of Israeli olive oil, olives, condiments (fig balsamic vinegar!) and beauty products. Get an appreciation of nuances by tasting their oils – ranging from mild Leccino to fruity Picual and peppery Coratina. They really know (and love!) their olives and will answer all of your questions. They also deliver throughout the world. Check out their informative website at http://olia.co.il/en_shop.html

LiveO sells olive oil made from olives grown in the Negev desert. (That’s where we live!) They sell five varieties of oil, including the unusual and buttery tasting Frantoio – an amazingly good choice for Olive Oil Cake. They also sell tapenades, spreads, olives, vinegar (including raspberry, pear and mango) and soaps. http://liveo.co.il/

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Chana Rubin, RD

Food for the Soul

Traditional Jewish Wisdom for Healthy Eating
By Chana Rubin, RD

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