Olive oil is an ingredient in most of the food we make in cooking class. Not only is it very useful and tasty in countless kinds of dishes, it also has anti-inflammatory, cardiovascular, digestive, bone, cognitive, and anti-cancer benefits! While pouring olive oil on cut pita bread to make chips that accompanied our kale salad last week, one student commented on how often we use olive oil in cooking class. She was surprised that one ingredient is used so commonly in simple dishes like salads, on pita chips, or simmering in a pan before sautéing vegetables. We discussed how olive oil offers many different benefits and uses in cooking. To make pita chips we coated the pita bread with olive oil to make crispy and delicious chips; whereas when we sautéed vegetables we used olive oil as an agent for flavor and cooking ease. We also talked about how sensitive oils are in general, to heat, light and oxygen and why we prefer to find oil in dark glass bottles or cans.

We smelled — and some brave little chefs tasted — the olive oil before we put it in on the pita pieces and baking them. The class agreed that it didn’t smell or taste like olives and no one wanted to eat it plain. But once the pita chips were done baking, all the students were able to identify the flavor of the oil.

The students’ interest in the oil continued when we added sesame and canola oil to the dressing for the kale salad. “There are so many types of oil!” When I asked for other examples of oil, one student said “black car oil,” but I assured him we would not be cooking with car oil. It was fun to compare the smell and taste of canola and sesame oil to olive oil as well as discuss how they are made differently. All of the students loved the smell of sesame oil and claimed it was the prominent taste in the kale salad.

Seeing the different kinds of oils reappear class after class has given and will continue to give the students an understanding of how and when to use different kinds of oil.

*Blog posted contributed by Julia, one of our wonderful after-school cooking class teachers. Look out for more cooking class reflections to come.