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Cooking with Olive and Coconut Oil

December 7, 2020 | by Elizabeth Kurtz

This Hanukkah have fun with these flavored oils featured in these delicious recipes.

Hanukkah is the time we whip out our best deep-fried recipes and indulge in foods with oil. Most fried dishes are made with vegetable oils, like canola or peanut oil, due to their high smoke point, meaning they can be heated to a high temperature for effective frying without burning or smoking until over 400 degrees F. Refined oils like extra-virgin olive oil and sesame oil start smoking at lower temperatures which can burn foods that are cooked in it and generate a lot of smoke on the fire. Another not commonly known fact... light olive oil is just olive oil blended with conventional vegetable oil like canola oil. So it’s not any healthier despite its misleading name.

Olive oil and coconut oil pack in flavor that fits specific recipes perfectly. For example, marinades and salad dressings go perfectly with the savory taste from 100% virgin olive oil. Sweet treats and desserts get a nutty flavor and crispy texture from coconut oil. This Hanukkah have fun with these flavored oils.

Olive Oil Poached Salmon

Serves 5

Poached salmon yields a moist and flavorful fish. Poached in olive oil creates a rich decadence that is wonderful to taste. This can be made a day ahead of time.

  • 10 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 large sprig fresh rosemary
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
  • About 3 cups olive oil, more to cover fish
  • 2 pounds salmon fillet, cut into 5 pieces or left in 1 large piece, at room temperature
  • 2 lemons (one peeled, see instructions, one sliced thin)
  • 1 blood orange or grapefruit, sliced thin
  • Salt
  • black pepper to taste
  • Minced parsley, chives or another fresh herb, for garnish

Combine thyme, rosemary, garlic and oil in a pot just wide enough to hold fish in a single layer without touching the edges. (When fish is added, oil should cover it, so it is better to use more oil than not enough.)

Peel 1 lemon, using a vegetable peeler to remove yellow part only, in strips. Add peel to oil. Season fish on both sides with salt and pepper. Place lemon and blood orange slices on top of fish.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Let the fish stand in marinade at room temperature 15 minutes before cooking. Bake in preheated oven until the fish is just cooked through, 18 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and chives. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Olive Oil Braised Leeks

Photo by

Serves 4 - 6

I eat these as is and use them atop fish, grilled chicken, in omelets and as a great sandwich filling.

  • 2 pounds leeks (about 5 medium), white and light-green parts only, halved lengthwise
  • 12 small sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon dry white wine
  • Kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F.

Arrange the leek halves cut side down in a snug single layer in a shallow 8-inch square baking dish. Nestle the thyme sprigs among the leeks. In a small bowl, mix the olive oil, wine, and 1 tablespoon water and drizzle over the leeks. Sprinkle evenly with 1/2 teaspoon salt and crushed red pepper. Cover the baking dish tightly with aluminum foil.

Braise the leeks in the oven until completely tender and easy to pierce with a fork, about 45 minutes. Uncover the dish and continue to braise until the leeks are caramelized, about 15 minutes more. Remove the thyme sprigs and serve the leeks warm or at room temperature.

Cucumber Salad with Coconut

Serves 6 – 8

Fun alternative to traditional cucumber salad. It has lots of great bold flavor.

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 small tomatoes, peeled, and coarsely chopped
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 2 jalapenos (seeds and membranes removed), thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed
  • ½ cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 ½ teaspoons honey
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • Fresh lime juice
  • 2 cups 1/4-inch-thick slices peeled cucumber (I use English or Persian cucumbers)

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add tomatoes, scallions, jalapenos, and garlic. Sauté until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Add coconut milk and honey; simmer until vegetables are cooked through, 2–3 minutes. Stir in cilantro leaves and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. Turn off heat and cool for a few minutes. Add cucumbers and any additional salt and pepper to taste.

Savory Coconut Rice

Photo by

Serves 6

This is a go-to recipe for me all year long. I serve it with roasted chicken, cooked lentils, brisket, or any salmon dish. It’s wonderfully fragrant and delicious.

  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 cups basmati long grain rice
  • 1/2 cup grated, unsweetened coconut, optional (do not use sweetened)
  • 2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 3/4 cups plain water
  • ½ teaspoon cardamom
  • Sprinkle ground cloves
  • 1 stick cinnamon

In a medium pot, melt coconut oil, over medium low heat. Add the onion and cook until golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic, cayenne, and salt, and cook a minute more.

Add the rice: Stir the rice into the onion mixture to coat with the oil and cook for 3 more minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add coconut, coconut milk, water, cardamom, and cloves, and cinnamon. Bring to a gentle boil. Cover and turn heat down to a simmer and cook for approximately 15 minutes or until water is mostly absorbed.

Remove from heat and let the rice steam in the residual heat, covered, for 10 more minutes.

Remove the cinnamon stick. Fluff with a fork and serve.

Almond and Olive Oil Cake

Serves 8 - 10

Great nutty, fruity, and hearty cake that we serve for snacking, with a coffee or as a fun alternative to donuts on Hanukkah. The olive oil makes it rich and filling. This can be made gluten free.

  • 3/4 cup sliced almonds (with or without skins)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (or potato starch or gluten-free flour alternative)
  • ½ cup ground almonds
  • 1-½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • ½ teaspoon orange zest (from one orange)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Trace an 8-inch round pan on parchment paper and cut out. Grease and flour the pan, press in the parchment circle into the pan and grease and flour the top of the parchment and sides of the pan. Sprinkle the sliced almonds on the bottom of the pan and spread to cover.

In a medium bowl, beat the sugar, eggs and olive oil together until creamy, about one minute at medium speed. Add the flour (or gluten-free flour or potato starch), ground almonds, baking powder, salt, almond extract and orange zest and beat until combined. Pour over the sliced nuts. Bake for 35 minutes, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then run a knife around the sides.

Turn the cake onto a wire rack and let cool. Serve almond side up. Store covered at room temperature for up to four days or freeze for up to three months.

Cinnamon Swirl Vanilla Pretzel Ice Cream Bars

Photo and original recipe by Bon Appetit

Serves 8

I love the ice cream and topping in this recipe. It’s a little more challenging to dip these bars but the secret is to keep refreezing them. As a cheater recipe, you could make these in a bigger pan and just use the dipping ingredients as a frosting/topping.

  • ¼ cup pareve whipping cream or heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 cup almond or other nut butter (Lotus butter works too), divided
  • 2 cup (packed) light brown sugar, divided
  • 1 pint pareve or dairy vanilla ice cream
  • ⅔ cup virgin coconut oil, melted
  • 1 cup chopped pretzel sticks
  • Flaky sea salt

Line an 8x8" baking pan, with plastic wrap, leaving a generous overhang on all sides and let chill in the freezer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, blend pareve whipping cream, cinnamon, a pinch of kosher salt, ½ cup almond butter, and ½ cup brown sugar in a blender, adding 1–2 Tbsp water if mixture is too thick or looks broken, until smooth and thick but pourable.

Peel away sides of containers from ice cream. Cut ice cream into 2" pieces and place in a medium bowl. Let sit until slightly softened, about 5 minutes, then stir with a wooden spoon or large rubber spatula until the consistency of thick cake batter. Scrape almond-butter mixture into bowl with ice cream and fold several times with a rubber spatula to create a marbled effect (do not overmix; you want defined ribbons running through). Scrape into the prepared baking pan and spread out into an even layer. Smooth top, then bring plastic up and over ice cream. Freeze until hard, about 12 hours.

Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper and place in the freezer. (Freeze at least 15 minutes before using to ensure they are properly chilled.) Remove the baking pan with ice cream from the freezer. Use edges of plastic to unmold ice cream and place on a cutting board; peel off plastic. Use a dry hot knife (run under hot water and wipe dry between slices) to cut ice cream into a 6x4 grid to make 24 bars (if ice cream starts to soften, freeze again until firm before proceeding). Place bars on a chilled baking sheet, spacing evenly; freeze until firm, 40–45 minutes.

Whisk coconut oil, a pinch of kosher salt, remaining 1 cup almond butter, and remaining ½ cup brown sugar in a small bowl until smooth. Working one at a time and using a fork, dip ice cream bars into coconut-oil mixture, allowing excess to drip back into bowl, then place on remaining chilled baking sheet and immediately sprinkle with pretzels and sea salt. Return ice cream to the freezer from time to time while you work if it becomes too soft.

Freeze bars until ice cream and nut-butter shells are hard, at least 1 hour, before serving.

Do Ahead: Bars can be made 1 week ahead. Once frozen solid, wrap in plastic; keep frozen.

Click here for more Hanukkah recipes.


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