One of the nicest things about blogging is that occasionally, a company contacts you to ask if they can send you something free so you can write about it! So when Emile Noël -- a French, family-owned company that produces organic, virgin, fair-trade oils -- asked me to pick a flavor to review, I was thrilled but stumped. How would I choose from the 12 oils they produce?
After much consideration, I decided on the most unusual of their offerings, organic pumpkin seed oil. Cold-pressed and chock full of omega-6 fatty acids, the oil has a low smoke point, so it's best used for finishing dishes and in salad dressings.
The scent of the oil is toasty and deep -- somewhere between dark sesame oil and roasted peanuts. The color is a dark amber reminiscent of maple syrup but with the gorgeous sheen of liquid caramel. On its own, the flavor is intensely nutty and dark, and it was clear from my small spoonful that a little bit of the oil goes a long way.
Since the oil was new to me, I had to do some research online to learn how to use it. Apparently, in parts of Eastern Europe, the oil is often used as an ice cream topping; however, I wasn't thrilled by the idea of oily ice cream, so I decided to look for other ideas. Here is a brief summary of the ways I tried using the oil, with a short review of each method:
As a finishing oil on roasted broccoli: I roasted broccoli florets in olive oil and salt and then drizzled a bit of the pumpkin seed oil on top when I served it. I couldn't really pick out the oil's flavor as I was eating the broccoli, which means either I didn't use enough of it, or it just blends very harmoniously with the broccoli.
As salad dressing: I dressed a salad of spring mix, Gorgonzola, and chopped apples with a vinaigrette made from the pumpkin seed oil, some olive oil, mustard, lemon juice, dried thyme, and salt and pepper. Here, the pumpkin seed flavor was more pronounced and worked as a nice complement to the sweetness of the apple and the tang of the cheese. I'm glad, however, that I cut the pumpkin seed oil with olive oil, as I think the flavor would have been too intense on its own.
With roasted sweet potatoes in a cranberry-chipotle sauce: Unfortunately, the smoky, spicy chipotle flavor dominated here, and I couldn't taste the pumpkin seed oil at all. (However, that recipe was BANGIN' and I will definitely make it again this fall!)
In pumpkin chocolate chip bread: I replaced 2 Tbsp of the vegetable oil with the pumpkin seed oil, and wow. Just wow. This bread was intensely moist, nutty, and comforting. This was definitely my favorite recipe of the ideas I tried out. I doubt that anyone would try the bread and immediately recognize the addition of the pumpkin seed oil, but it did add that autumnal je ne sais quoi that an average pumpkin bread recipe is missing. I'll definitely bake this again later in the year.
In fact, I think I'll continue to find more ways to use the oil once the weather turns cold again. Most of the ideas I found online called for ingredients that are seasonal to fall, so I'm sure I will be bringing it out again during that time.
My only complaint about the oil is that the recipe section of the company's website does not give any recommendations for this particular oil. In my opinion, if a company wants American consumers to try out an unfamiliar ingredient, it should give specific suggestions for how to use it. In fact, some of the recipes I found came from Emile Nöel's competitors!
But I will continue to look online for new ideas for using this smooth, nutty, versatile oil!
(And congrats again to Erin M. for winning a free bottle of Emile Nöel organic mild olive oil!)