Interview with Olive Oil Expert Laura Bashar

We get the inside scoop on Cooking Techniques and Recipes with Olive Oil

Cooking Techniques and Recipes with Olive Oil

In the world of fast food and frozen dinners, cooking often falls by the wayside. Most people think it's too difficult or laborious to cook for their families, but it doesn't have to be! Author Laura Bashar, one of two writers who penned the new cook-book Cooking Techniques and Recipes with Olive Oil, sat down with us to explain why cooking is so rewarding, and why olive oil is an amazing ingredient.

How did you get involved in the world of cooking?

Cooking and food have always been an integral part of my family. My Persian grandmother was an amazing cook and so are my aunts, uncle, and mom. I started cooking at a young age to help my mom get dinner on the table. The first cookbook I ever cooked from was Chef Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen. I always enjoyed a good challenge! When I was single, I cooked for my friends. And now that I have a family of my own, I cook for them.

I began writing a food blog, Family Spice, while my children were young as a way to record the recipes I was creating. It comes very natural to me to experiment in the kitchen.

What was the idea behind writing this cookbook? Why focus on olive oil?

Extra virgin olive oil is a key ingredient that is often misunderstood among the masses. Everyone is now paying close attention to the ingredients they eat, i.e. they read labels, subscribe to CSA’s, and eat less processed foods. But people still grab the cheapest bottle of olive oil to use in their cooking. They don’t realize that most of the time, they are using cheap, rancid olive oil that has very little health benefits, let alone flavor.

Despite the controversy exposed several years ago that cheap oil was falsely labeled and sold as extra virgin olive oil, not all Americans have heard this news. This is especially crucial for those people who suffer from food allergies or are using olive oil because of its health benefits. 

In your book, you give a detailed overview of all things olive oil. What’s the most important thing about cooking with extra virgin olive oil that you’ve learned?

You can use extra virgin olive oil in every aspect of cooking, every single one. There are so many myths out there about cooking with olive oil. It’s our job to educate the public. Yes, you can cook with extra virgin olive oil. Yes, you can cook at high temperatures with extra virgin olive oil. Real extra virgin olive oil has a high smoking point, ranging from 385ºF to 420ºF. Yes, you can fry with extra virgin olive oil.

Cooking Techniques and Recipes with Olive Oil

How would you describe the recipes in Cooking Techniques and Recipes with Olive Oil?

Many of these recipes are tried and true family recipes. We have a wide variety of recipes that would satisfy a big hearty appetite or be used for a light meal. Some of my favorite recipes are the simplest, like the poached tomatoes. We feature as much fresh produce and wholesome ingredients as we can in each recipe. And we have some unexpected recipes like our cocktails with olive oil!

What is your favorite dish to use olive oil in? 

I especially love baking with olive oil. I have found that you can easily make traditional butter-only recipes, like scones and pie crusts, using olive oil. All of my holiday baking, for example, was made with extra virgin olive oil: sugar cookies, gingerbread cookies, lemon cakes, pumpkin pie, chocolate galette… No one missed the butter.

Is there anything we can expect from you and your coauthor Mary Platis in the future? Where can eager young cooks find your book?

Mary and I are active on our blogs, California Greek Girl and Family Spice We also give talks about cooking with olive oil and demo olive oil tastings. Plus, we are working on a second cookbook that will pair nicely with our olive oil book! We sell our books on our blogs, our website, and in many olive oil stores across the nation.

Cooking Techniques with Olive Oil

What advice do you have for people just learning how to cook?

Don’t give up. Even the experienced cook has recipe flops. Once I forgot to add sugar to a cake I was baking. I even took it to a dinner party and served it without realizing my mistake! I learned to cook from my mother and from cookbooks and cooking shows. But nothing beats trial and error. I have [never] forgotten sugar while baking again!

Is there anything in particular that you really want to cover for the site that you haven’t already?

One argument I hear from the public is that olive oil is too expensive to cook with on a daily basis. There are a wide range of good to high quality extra virgin olive oils that you can purchase. In order to determine the quality of the oil, you have to taste it alone, as you would a peach or carrot. You can get a 16-ounce bottle of good extra virgin olive oil in the grocery store for less than $10. This would make a great oil to use in everyday cooking. Different quality of oils can be used in a number of different ways, depending on the flavor you want to infuse in your cooking.