The Washington Post

Chat Leftovers: Time for an oil change

A sign of the times: If we’re writing about ice cream — and we are — doesn’t it seem like summer can’t be too far off? Today in Food, Tim Carman’s Immigrant’s Table column is all about the wonders of Jamaican ice cream. There’s a bonus: two ice cream recipes that, trust me, are really good.

Speaking of recipes, you can’t go wrong with any of the ones today that call for five ingredients or fewer. I loved the Garam Masala Roast Chicken: three ingredients (for the purpose of this exercise we didn’t count salt, pepper or water) and it was just a terrific bird. A big surprise for me was the Baked Fruit Brioche, so simple but so packed with flavor.

Also today, read Jane Black’s story about Kavita Shukla, an Ellicott City native who was 17 years old when she won a patent for a product called FreshPaper that helps retard food spoilage. Now 27, she hopes someday to supply it to people in underdeveloped countries who lack refrigeration.

Shukla will join us for today’s Free Range chat at noon. You should, too. It’s 60 minutes of culinary give-and-take that just seem to fly by each week. To get you in the mood, here’s a leftover from last week’s chat . A question about freshness: I’ve had three bottles of infused olive oil on my counter for several years now. How long do they last? I don’t use them very often, obviously!

(Nate Lankford/For The Washington Post)

Some experts say it’s possible for olive oil to stay good for a few years, but only if it’s stored correctly. Which means not on the countertop but in a cool, dark spot. In an airtight container. (And not in the refrigerator.)

I confess that even though my olive oil is tucked away in a dark pantry, I still have rancidity problems. So I’m a little skeptical about claims of multi-year longevity.

But even if they’re true — even if you could keep olive oil for three years and avoid rancidity — the fresher stuff generally tastes better. One problem for consumers is that there’s usually no clue on a bottle of supermarket oil that would let you know when the oil was pressed. So you could be buying stuff that’s already fairly old. The solution is to shell out bigger bucks and buy a bottle made by a producer that includes the vintage date on the label.

I guess I should have started off by asking: Have you smelled the oil on your counter? That’s the best way to tell if it’s still good. Rancid oil has a nasty funk that’s unmistakable, and it’s one that the flavor infused into your bottles probably wouldn’t be able to mask.


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