What is canola oil?

When I was at the CIA, our chef-professor casually mentioned that canola was “just soy bean oil from Canada.”

So I looked it up. Canola oil is indeed the most widely used oil in Canada.  Its real name is “rapeseed oil,” which probably wouldn’t market well in the U.S. (another example is “orange roughy,” a fish originally called “slimehead.”). But I don’t think it is even remotely close to soy bean. The rapeseed is from the mustard or cabbage family. Some online insist canola oil actually comes from a genetically modified type of rapeseed, because, according to one site:

Rapeseed typically contains high levels of erucic acid (which makes oils go rancid quickly, is toxic in large doses, and may cause cancer) and glucosinolate (which tastes so bitter and unpleasant that it’s undesirable even in animal feed).

Some people complain about the smell of canola (I’ll have to try an independent test sometime) calling it “fishy” or even “rancid.” In any case, our chef-professor said safflower was an excellent choice for things like salad dressings because of its clean flavor.

I haven’t bought bottled salad dressing in ages…preferring to make small batches of my own. Right now I’m on a tomato-basil-olive oil-balsamic kick. Sometimes I can find fresh California-made bufala mozzarella which is a great creamy addition. The tomatoes are amazing and the “insalata caprese” makes a perfect summer salad.

But now I’m distracted…can you say “summer haze”?

2 Replies to “What is canola oil?”

  1. There was one of those urban legend e-mails that went out about Canola oil, all false.

    I find EVOO and Corn to be the two I use. Oh and Peanut for fried foods. As it is we go the ‘use sparingly’ route.

    I would have liked to seen your perfect summer salad recepie you mention in the last paragraph…

  2. Some of my favorite EVOO:

    DaVero and Bariani (both from Northern California)

    Salad: not a recipe, really…

    Sliced heirloom tomatoes, various colors, arranged on a plate.

    Sliced fresh mozzarella (the stuff in water…not that dry stuff for pizza)

    Basil thinly sliced and sprinkled across

    Sprinkle some sea salt to taste

    Drizzle with your favorite olive oil and balsamic vinegar

    Some crusty ciabatta bread is good, too to sop up the dressing afterwards.

    Different salad dressing recipes in future post.

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