Appetites: Cooking with local oils

Sunflower Basil Pesto
Sunflower Basil Pesto makes a great spread on bruschetta, tossed with pasta or mixed into mayonnaise for sandwiches and salads.
Courtesy Beth Dooley

Cookbook author Beth Dooley says it's time to think beyond olive and vegetable when it comes to cooking oils.

The author of "Minnesota's Bounty: The Farmers Market Cookbook" says that local oils are a great complement for the fresh herbs that are available at farmers markets — and in backyards.

These local oils are cold-pressed, high in omega-3 fatty acids, and add a distinctly nutty flavor to salads and sautés. Here's a rundown of what you'll find in stores and farmers markets.

Camelina oil

It's very rich in omega-3s and antioxidants. It tastes a little like flaxseed oil, but it's milder and more food-friendly. Use it sparingly or in combinations with other oils as it tends to dominate a dish.

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Hazelnut oil

This oil is relatively new on the market so it may be hard to find. The flavor is very nutty, buttery and mild. It has a high-smoke point, so it works well in stir-fries and sautés. It should be available on grocers' shelves in a year or so.

Pumpkin seed oil

You can find this local oil in the fall that tastes like roasted pumpkin seeds with a bitter finish. It's not good for high-heat cooking. Instead, try it in vinaigrettes and uncooked sauces because it's best used as seasoning.

Sunflower oil

Like hazelnut oil, sunflower oil has a higher smoke point so it's great for high-heat sautéing and stir-fries. And unlike olive oil, it won't burn. It's got a distinctly sunflower flavor which is great for salads and baked goods, too.

Sunflower Basil Pesto

Courtesy of Beth Dooley

Makes about 1 cup

This is a great spread on bruschetta, tossed with pasta, or mixed into mayonnaise for sandwiches and salads.

1/4 cup sunflower seeds
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
2 cups packed chopped basil or mix of basil and parsley
3 tablespoons sunflower oil, or more as needed
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Squirt of lemon juice to taste

In a blender or food processor fitted with a steel blade, pulse together the sunflower seeds, garlic and herbs. Then, with the motor running, add the oil until you have a thick paste. Season with salt, pepper and fresh lemon juice.