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The Internet is a wild arena in which passionate stands are taken by anyone who cares to weigh in on any topic at all, and it isn't always clear who's credible.
Beyond the margarine-oil debate - which seems to have been pretty well won by those who favor the stuff in the bottle - we now have some fervent folk campaigning against canola oil, which they claim is "poisonous," "industrial" and not intended for human consumption at all.
I cook with canola oil, which contains omega 3, and thought this was a bit much. So I consulted my colleague, Post health reporter Judy Siegel-Itzkovich.
"I checked this out months ago," she said. "All the toxic stuff, found on the outside of the rapeseed, is removed during production of the oil. The Health Ministry considers canola the most healthful oil, except for olive."
Good enough for me.
WHAT ABOUT a cake that relies chiefly on the natural oil contained in orange peel? I first shared this recipe in a 1999 column, and have been asked to include it again. The cake doesn't rise very much, but it's delicious - and the smell is heavenly. It tends to get polished off as soon as it's cooled.
VERY ORANGE CAKE
1â„2 cup self-raising flour
1 cup sugar, or a bit less
a whole orange, including peel, preferably organic, or well scrubbed
Quarter the orange and remove only the pits and center pith. Pulp it in the food processor until smooth. (If it isn't very juicy, you can add a tablespoon or two of orange juice.)
Beat the eggs well with the sugar, add the orange and the flour and bake in a medium oven for 20-30 minutes, or until the top turns golden.
I CAME late to curries, but if they're mild I'll eat them any time (well, maybe not for breakfast). The New Laurel's Kitchen describes this as "one of our favorite mixed vegetable dishes, whether the meal is Indian in mood, or not."
CAULIFLOWER EGGPLANT CURRY
2 Tbsp. oil
1 tsp. mustard seed (black mustard if possible)
1â„2 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. curry powder
1 tsp. salt
1â„4 cup water
1 cup frozen peas
1 tomato, chopped finely
juice of 1 lemon
Cube the potatoes and parboil them separately. Remove the thick stems of the cauliflower and cut them into small pieces. Separate the head into florets, and slice. Cut the eggplant into 1.5-cm. cubes.
Heat the oil in a heavy pot with a lid. When it is very hot, add the mustard seed and cover quickly. The seeds will pop wildly. When the sound dies down, turn off the flame, take off the lid and add the salt, spices and cauliflower. Stir to coat with the spices and the oil. Add the water, eggplant and potatoes.
Continue cooking for 20 minutes or so over medium heat, adding 1-2 tablespoons of water from time to time, stirring gently. Add the peas about five minutes before serving. At the last minute add the tomato. Turn off the heat and add the lemon juice.
THERE'S something about quick soups that inspires great fondness, sometimes lifetime loyalty. And what could be easier than this one, from the same cookbook?
NEW FAVORITE GREEN SOUP
1 onion or 1 bunch scallions, chopped
1 Tbsp. oil or butter
2 or 3 potatoes, cut up
6-8 cups chopped fresh greens (spinach or Swiss chard)
broth or milk to thin
salt and pepper to taste
Saute the onion in the oil or butter until very soft. Add the potatoes and enough water to cover. Cook until tender. Add the greens and simmer until they wilt. Puree everything briefly. Add broth or milk to thin as desired, then season to taste.
YOU KNOW those square or oblong see-through plastic containers in which fruit is sold? Some are quite sturdy, and it was with a tinge of regret that I would throw them away after returning from the supermarket.
Until I stacked a couple together and stood the resulting - and now very solid - box on my kitchen counter where, lined with one of the multitude of clear plastic bags in which I carry vegetables home, it now fills the useful role of mini-garbage receptacle, highly accessible for tossing vegetable peelings and other small discards.
It saves a lot of bending and, used in tandem with a more "serious" garbage container, has taken some of the flap out of kitchen chores.