Minnesota Chef Cooks with Camelina Oil

Jul 27, 2018  | 21 min  | Ep4350

Camelina is an annual cover crop developed within the University of Minnesota's Forever Green Initiative. In addition to water quality and conservation benefits, the plant could provide an extra source of income for farmers who adopt it within a soybean rotation.

Livestock meal and biofuel feedstock are two value-added options.  And with further refinement after an initial cold press, camelina also can be used as a cooking oil.

Pioneer Public Television's Chef Curt Anderson fired up some everyday food items from his home kitchen outside Evansville, Minnesota to help demonstrate camelina's versatility.

Curt Anderson/Chef – “Prairie Sportsman”, Pioneer Public Television: “Alright, my friends, I want you to join me today. We're going to talk a little bit about camelina oil. I was just introduced to this in January. Here's what I've learned. We're going to make a series of items and I'm going to show you every day things that I've eaten and that I should eat, but how to make them. We're going to start here in the background. I've got an ordinary top steak. I want to make a chimichurri sauce. I want to marinate this so I can grill it outside.  So the basics that I'm going to use to create this...we're going to take a shot inside the bowl. For any basic chimichurri, I've got to have certain aromatics. In this case you're going to see diced onion and you're going to see some fresh garlic that I threw on top.  So now you know what's in the bottom of the bowl.  To this, I'm just going to use what we have in the fridge. We got A-1 steak sauce. I want just enough to moisten the onions I've got in there. Now my next item going in, we'll introduce us to some worcestershire sauce and I'm just going to top that A-1 with that liquid...just like so. On top of that, I've made a medley of salt, pepper, a little bit of sugar and some garlic. What you're going to find if you use the equal amounts of garlic and salt and pepper...same measurement for all three. Then you can add any other flavor that you want to this.  But I'm using just the basics because we're grilling. I want to marinate this and I'm going to sprinkle that across the top just so there's a fine layer. Let's color the top of this mixture.”

“Now that the aromatics are there and the basis of that flavoring is there... Here's where we're going to play with this camelina oil. Now I'm a person that uses a lot of times veg oil - especially after a heart issue many years ago.  But, if they show the graphic from this, from the U of M, there's many health benefits now to this camelina oil. You should take a look at it.  But we're going to emulsify this in there. We want to get this until it's glossy.  So you're going to find that I'm going to add almost the same volume of oil as I had for base material inside...right there. Think of it as a real thick vinaigrette. Okay? Now look at the sides of the bowl. If you see how when you're stirring it, it hits the side and then it flows back evenly. That's what I'm looking for on this.  It's not breaking. It's holding up. The oil has married with the rest of the flavoring and that's what I'm hoping for because now I won't break up, so whatever meat I put in this... bam - it's going to hold it. It's going to be nice.  So I can take the meat, now, the steak and I could just push that right inside. If I used many steaks, I could have them in a flat pan and I'll want to turn it maybe every 20 minutes or so. The last item I always add is cilantro. You'll see that I chopped this stuff up and I'm just going to dump that right on top. Set it aside, mix a little bit by hand, and now I'm just going to leave this alone.  But every 20 minutes or so give it a little shake, little turn, move it around a bit.”

“So to get things rolling here, I got to make the accompaniments that we're going to utilize.  I have a rice that I've cooked and I've got some potatoes that I wish to fry. We're all going to use camelina oil and all this, but I want to show you what happens with this rice. This rice I've made, like you would make a lot of certain rices at home. It's basic white, long grain rice. To this, I sauteed it with camelina oil. Once that rice turns a little bit nutty, very, very slightly nutty, you add the liquid. I've just cooked it. I added basic water to this, so I'm just cooking that rice, so it's just barely done. Now I chilled it and then on top of that, you'll see I've sliced and minced up peppers and onions. Okay? Now, once I have all the diced material inside there, I need just enough oil so you could see that sheen.  See that wetness look?  Here's why. If I'm going to use this as a fried rice cake, I need enough moisture there. I'm going to shoot for two to three ounce portion. Try to make it as evenly as possible. I want the grains to hold in. Now, if I've overcooked the rice, this would become total mush, which would be bad.  If the rice is just right, the grains will hold as such.”

“Now I'm assuming you see the amount of oil here and I'm using a nonstick skillet. I should not have to add any more oil to this. Here's the one thing to watch out when you're doing these rice cakes. Rice, will want to pop, just like popcorn, so you gotta kind of watch that.  But I don't have any extra oil here so I shouldn't get splattered. There I broke it a little bit.  That would hold together. I can squeeze it, hold it down. That will be my rice cake. I want to put the steak right on top of that. That's what's going to happen.”

“Now, the one thing I learned with camelina oil that it worked a lot like olive oil for me.  When I was cooking anything and wanted to get it a little more glazed or a little more of that darker edge, I was able to do that. It worked like that. It worked as well as veg oil on anything else I did too, which was surprising.  See the way that jumps? That's where the danger is. If I had live oil in there now, now I'm splattering myself. That becomes an issue. So we've got to be careful of that. So we want to just heat this rice up, like so, and then it'll be done.”

“Alright.  So I'm going to transfer this down. So get this ready for the plate. The other one I'll put aside and we'll start on the fried potatoes. So using the camelina oil, I just need to give me a few drops in the pan. When you smell this, it has that nutty-ish, grass-ish aroma...grass aroma, when you smell it. The stuff I have now has been refined. The color is very similar to olive oil. You can see that it holds up and doesn't a separate or change colors from top to bottom. That's kind of unique. So oil in the pan...in go potatoes.  We're just going to see if we're hot enough. Yes, we are.”

“Now, like any oil, again, we have to have some form of concern here for splattering.  So I am lucky here today I'm using a portable butane unit so I don't splatter everywhere.  And I have pre-poached the potatoes and cut them in half. That's why I didn't throw this veg in right away. I just want to get these just with a little bit of color. Then the veg will flash.  You're going to see here for vegetables, I use some pepper, I use some onion and I use some garlic. Now I apologize. Garlic is my favorite herb as I'm sure it is with many of you. Well with many of you.  And I've been told numerous times of the health benefits of onions. If you look at that chart and I have the health benefits of this oil, I'm doing myself a favor by using it. I add the last of this vegetable to it, just to give that a head start...and the goal here is that when I'm through tossing this, I should have used up every drop of oil that's in here. A little bit of seasoning on top of that. Then I could shut flame off.  I could dump in the tomatoes. See, the amount of oil residue is nonexistent. That's the second part of my dish.”

“My friends, here comes the steak part of it. Now I could do this on the griddle, grill, sautee, flat top, whatever you want to do this on, but I'm going to do it without oil - because they had the oil in here. All right. I want kind of a medium, medium, low flame, so I need to do this a little bit better than I did the potatoes because I don't want it too hot, so I'm going to check it. See how it just sizzles, but it doesn't totally jump up at you. Then you're at the right heat. I'm at that medium, medium-low heat. All right. Lean back a little bit. Here we go. That's what we're after. Now, safety tells us that any raw meat that we've marinated, I can't play with this marinate anymore unless I'm putting it on the meat and cooking it because I could have actual blood in there, so I have to avoid that. So I can't use this in as a cold product anymore or as a dip, but I know it looks great and all, but now the only thing I can do is I could put it on the steak as it's cooking, so that's where we're going to do here in this case.  I have just enough oil in here. I don't want to really put in any more oil because this will start to discolor because of the sugars and stuff that I had in the seasoning and along with the other material here.  I just don't want to get it too seared. My doneness here will take about five to six minutes because I want it close to medium. That's the way my wife and I like it.”

“Let me give you an idea what's going to happen. If I turn this over, I could show you. See, I'm starting to get some of that edging right on the side. This is where I can now sit and spoon some of this mixture over it and look at what happens. Now, let's watch. I just make sure I got have plenty of that goodness because I got enough on the top here, but I'm going to want to get this to cook. Here's where you might see some splatter. If you were here in the kitchen, this is where the worcestershire really kicks in.  So you have to be a little careful with your salt because this is going to enhance now.  That salt, it's going to cook down, it's going to reduce and you're going to notice it get a little bit stronger.”

“All right, we're going to give just a couple more minutes for this to cook and then I'll be able to plate it. So while that's cooking, I want to show and tell a little something over here with camelina oil. When I was given this oil, I tried obviously lots of hot stuff that I would use - olive oil, salad oil, anything else for. And it performed well even when I tried to make popcorn. Obviously it's not buttery. You'll have to add your butter. Doc says my big butt don't need to butter, so I have to do without it, but I'm a pepper man now, so I throw the pepper in there.  But one item I can't live without is French dressing, always been my favorite. Love it. Buy it at the store. Western is one of my favorites. It's that tangy sharp flavor that I love...so let me show you how to start off and do that at home and you're going to use camelina to finish this. If you raid your refrigerator and you grab some ketchup, you throw in a little sugar, just a line of sugar. You throw in a little pile of minced onion and then you hit it with a little vinegar. Doesn't matter if you have rice vinegar, apple cider vinegar.  What is your favorite? You put that in there, but notice you don't put any more vinegar than you have ketchup, okay? I had a little bit of seasoning and you saw that I use just this little mixture that works fine and I mix and I'm going to get this liquid that looks almost like a thin tomato juice. Okay? See how that looks. Now, here's where the fun begins. When we make French dressing, we have that basic tomato-ish background, but we have to add an oil. Here's the fun fact that I learned. You're going to have to add oil when you make French dressing.  Now watch the sides of that bowl. See where I always talk about, so now I'm still very tomatoey. You can see it holds well. So let's start stirring in. I'll share with you that most vinaigrettes have more oil than other material. In this case though, we're going to add only about 50/50, so half of this will be oil. Half of this is going to be that tomato base that we add in there that was flavored. Now you're watching. Watch them bubbles.  Watch them little bubbles.  They get real small in that vinaigrette there. See, they're just getting real small and you're getting that gloss and then you watch the sides. Kind of like when you make hollandaise - you get that gloppage - and it holds on there. So we just keep stirring, keep stirring. We can go a little more oil.  If you add too much it breaks, so that's going to be the trick part here. But if you watch the sides of your bowl, watch that side, watch how that holds and now you know that you, you saw what I had in the glass, you know, I've added almost the same amount of oil is I had material in the bowl and I'm getting that nice smooth gloss. Notice that? Nice smooth gloss and look at the sides - how it's holding now even better than it did before. Tells me I got a good stiff dressing.  When I did this the first time and I did a taping for another TV show and I had this on the counter for six and a half hours before we even started taping that episode. And it held the whole time. Never separated, never fell apart. That's as good as I can expect from any other oil that I want to pair it up against. So it's important to remember that.  I was trying to show you apples to apples.  Stuff that we would make at home, normal stuff that we would have. And then the final ace in the pudding, what's it going to taste like?  And it tastes like French dressing. That's what I need. That's what I am able to eat. I'm a heart patient. That's what's healthier for me, so it's what I should be doing.  And if I listen to the doctors there, I'm supposed to dip my fork in this and then into the lettuce, I'll be honest, I don't follow that rule very well, but I'm assuming many of us don't. This is something to try.”

“Let me put this steak on a plate.  This is going to be lunch for me. Now here's the thing I was trying to tell you that you always need to watch. It doesn't matter what type of oil you're going to use. The less oil you can use, the better. So that's why we didn't add any excess to this pan. The second thing is if they get a look at the cooker here, you could see how the oil will splatter. We've all done this at the stove. We've all created that issue at home, so whether we're frying or grilling that here or out on the char broil grill, we're going to get that splatter. That always can mean trouble or injury. So you have to be careful of that.  Today, this was a wonderful thing to do on this portable cooker, easy to clean and it doesn't dirty up my countertops.  But it doesn't matter.  I've still got a wonderful meal here to play with and I got my favorite little potatoes that will be healthy for me and I got a lean cut of meat that will be healthy for me and I didn't hurt it in the oil that I used to marinate and cook this with either. It helps me, if nothing else. There is no after taste.  Tasted potatoes. They were fried in oil.  I have this... It doesn't cover any of the taste of any of the acidic items or the potatoes. It's as good as anything else I've used.”

“I think they need to market it for the average person - everybody - where we do basic stuff and you taste it so you get over any fear. Fear is always a change issue. That's tough. So to get that to happen, you have to have a sample. You have to taste it.  You have to play with it in its environment so that you're eating against other stuff that you utilize. That's how you sell it. But it's gonna take more than one group of people. It's going to take a bunch of people.  I talked to the U of M.  It's going to take, you know, farmers that say to themselves: 'Hey, I can put in a cover crop that's going to hold my soil down.  It's going to pop up fast. I'm going to give them more than one crop off of field a year. I can potentially make money off of this' - which is the important part for them. But then what's left of that plant feeds to the animals and they apparently love it. And then if I've got the health benefits for me, which only makes sense because it's a natural grown product that you're not encouraging or changing in any other way other than pressing the oil out of it. And if all of that can come together and everybody can make their share of the pie and the buyers can buy it and say:  'Hey, this is a good oil, reasonable oil, and it does the job of everything'. What amazed me is when I deep fry with it... and you know the stuff has a 475 degree flash point. Well now you're in the range of oils that aren't very healthy for you at that heat.  You know, you're up against some of those major items that doesn't compare. Now I've only fried with this five times so far since I'd gotten this product. I haven't broken down that oil a bit. I've fried a little of everything in it. You guys tasted some potatoes today.  There was fish in that oil a week ago. I mean it's, that oil is holding up like a charm. Yeah, I drain it - which you should do. And you, you know, you should take out the foreign bodies, the foreign materials. But the oil is holding up wonderful.  And you would definitely see that difference in lower quality oil. Have you ever bought the cheap stuff and you cook with it and you get a couple of rotations and you'll open up that deep fryer and it has that funny film on the top or you open it up and it has that eerie aroma from what you made a week ago? I don't like that. I'm sure you don't either. Other than that, it worked like any other oil I've used.  I've been pleasantly surprised with it.”

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