Maybe it's time to look beyond claims of virginity in the oil aisle. Our 20-year love affair with olive oil has had fallout. We've forgotten that there's a whole world of oils that don't come from the olive tree.

And they can do a heck of a lot more than just saute and make a fine dressing.

Take sesame, for instance. It's what gives many Asian dishes a nutty, savory, richly aromatic flavor.

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Most sesame oil is made by pressing roasted sesame seeds. The oil tastes deeply nutty, almost smoky, and pairs well with anything salty.

There are cold-pressed varieties, but skip them; while fine for frying, the flavor is unimpressive.

A high smoke point - 420 degrees farenheit - means this amber colored oil can handle the heat of the fry pan.

But its flavor shines brightest when used raw. Which means that getting the deepest, richest sesame flavor will mean using a bit of the oil in the pan to saute, then drizzling a bit more over the finished dish.

When shopping for sesame oil (often labeled "toasted sesame oil" and hidden in the International aisle), the darker the color, the richer the flavor.

While loads of antioxidants give sesame oil a long shelf life, refrigerating it will make it last even longer.

What to do with it? It's obviously a natural for stir-fry (remember to drizzle a bit more on the finished dish for best flavor) and makes killer marinades for steak.

For more ideas for using sesame oil, check out the Off the Beaten Aisle column on Food Network.

Sesame Pulled Pork Sandwiches


•12-ounce bottle beer

•6-ounce can tomato paste

•1/4 cup packed brown sugar

•1/2 cup rice vinegar

•3 tablespoons sesame oil, divided

•1 tablespoon soy sauce

•1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder

•1 1/2 teaspoons mustard powder

•1 whole star anise

•3 pounds pork tenderloin, cut into 2-inch chunks

•1 to 2 teaspoons hot sauce

•Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

•6 bulky rolls or burger buns

•Sesame seeds, to garnish

•Sliced scallions, to garnish


In a large saucepan, whisk together the beer, tomato paste, brown sugar, vinegar, 2 tablespoons of the toasted sesame oil, the soy sauce, garlic powder and mustard powder. Add the star anise and pork. Bring to a simmer over medium-high, cover and cook until tender, about 40 minutes.

Discard the star anise, then use 2 forks to shred or pull apart the pork into bite-size pieces. Stir in the remaining tablespoon of toasted sesame oil and the hot sauce. Season with salt and pepper.

Spread the pork on the buns, sprinkling each serving with sesame seeds and scallions.

Servings: 6


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