by Andrew Pacholyk, MS, L.Ac.
Rich and aromatic plant oils are most often associated with aromatherapy and are usually used in massage oils, incense and are diffused in the air for a soothing and healing affect. The benefits of essential oils can also be found with their tantalizing use in the kitchen. Cooking with essential oils is just another way of being creative with food preparations.
Essential oils are classified into three main categories and explain their benefits. The oils are classified as notes, top, middle, or base notes. These single notes have a general rule of thumb:
*Top notes: are the fastest acting and quickest to evaporate. Lasting 3-24 hrs.
*Middle notes: are the moderately volatile, affect metabolisms, body functions. Last 2-3 days.
*Base notes: are slower to evaporate, the most sedative and relaxing oils. Last up to approximately one week.
When cooking with essential oils, it is important to know that because they are extracted as nectar, they are very concentrated. Essential oils therefore, can add zest to any recipe and enrich the flavor of your creation. The FDA considers essential oils as a food additive and regards a majority of these oils as safe for use. Their safe use requires they be used in moderation and with proper care.
Here is a list of Essential Oils Certified as Generally regarded as safe (GRAS) and Food Additives (FA) by the FDA.
Angelica, Basil, Bergamot, Chamomile, Roman, Chamomile, German, Cinnamon Bark, Citrus rind (all), Clary Sage, Clove, Coriander, Dill, Eucalyptus glob., Frankincense, Galbanum, Geranium, Ginger, Grapefruit, Hyssop, Juniper, Jasmine, Laurus nobilis, Lavender, Lemon, Lemongrass, Lime, Melissa (lemonbalm), Marjoram, Myrrh, Myrtle, Nutmeg, Orange, Oregano, Patchouli, Pepper, Peppermint, Petitgrain, Pine, Rosemary, Rose, Savory, Sage, Sandalwood, Spearmint, Spruce, Tarragon, Tangerine, Thyme, Valerian, Vetiver, Ylang Ylang.
The flavor of these herbs and fruits are concentrated in their volatile oils, which are extracted by different methods in order for us to benefit from them. With this many oils at our fingertips, making tasteful, mouthwatering culinary dishes can be fun and inventive. Here are some general guidelines for certain groups of oils:
Fruity oils: such as lime, lemon, orange, tangerine, grapefruit and mandarin can add zest and a full flavor to drinks, desserts and sweet and sour recipes. Because these are generally top note oils, they evaporate quickly so adding them into your recipes toward the end is recommended.
Acrid or Spicy oils: such as black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, cumin and ginger are warming oils. A little of these oils go a long way. These are great oils for winter recipes or whenever you want to add a little spice to your food. They also are considered aphrodisiac oils.
Cooling, Mint oils: such as mint, peppermint and spearmint are great in recipes that call for a hint of mint such as jams, jellies, sauces or in a cooling tea for reducing heat in the body.
Floral oils: such as geranium, jasmine, lavender and rose are versatile and full-bodied in scent and essence. It takes thousands of petals to produce an ounce of rose oil. Lavender oil is rich in scent and flavor and can be added to meats, desserts or any creative recipes you make. These floral oils can entice and bring out the best in any culinary adventure.
Herbal oils: such as basil, dill, fennel, marjoram, mellisa, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, tarragon and thyme are rich and flavorful oils that only need a hint in any recipe to embody an herbaceous taste.
When making recipes with essential oils, a little goes a long way. The rule of thumb is to add the oils toward the end of the simmering, baking or boiling process. The heat will evaporate the oils quickly; so in order to take advantage of the oils scent and flavor, adding them into the recipe at the last minutes prolongs the goodness.
The possibilities for flavoring are endless. The best way to try your creation with essential oils is through trial and error. It is recommended that 2-3 drops of oil in a recipe would have its greatest effect. Below are some general guidelines and suggestions for oils by groups.
Seasonal recipes can spark up any celebration, new moon or gathering. Adding essential oils to these recipes allow us to take advantage of the herbs and oils of that particular season and offer a taste of what the holiday will bring! Here are some seasonal recipes that can be created now or anytime!
Roast, grill or bake a whole chicken. Add 2 drops each of rosemary lemon and sage oils in a mixing cup. Add 4 tablespoons of olive oil to the essential oils. Brush the cooked chicken with the mixture, cover the chicken and place it back on the heat for 10-15 minutes. Allow the oils to penetrate the chicken for a full-bodied flavor. Serve.
Summer Cooler Treats
To a 2-quart pitcher of water add 2 drops each of two of these oils of cinnamon, grapefruit, lavender, lime, lemon, mandarin, orange, peppermint, spearmint and tangerine. Stir the mixture and add ice and a sprig of mint or rind of orange for color. Serve.
Fall Pot Roast
Add 2 drops each of basil, clove and tarragon oils in a mixing cup. Add 4 tablespoons of olive oil to the essential oils. Brush the mixture on the uncooked meat. Roast the meat in the oven. You may want to consider roasting in a roasting bag to keep in the flavor and juices from the meat. Once the meat is cooked, remove the pot roast and brush the meat again with the mixture. Place it back on the oven and let it roast for 10-15 minutes longer. Serve.
Winter Warmer Meatloaf
Make a mixture of hamburger, ground turkey meat, ground chicken meat or a combination of these, into a bowl with your other ingredients (which may include tomatoes, oats, breadcrumbs, egg whites, spices). Add 2 drops of dill, fennel, mint and sage to the mixture. Form into a loaf. Bake. Serve.