Oil has a long tradition in cooking; both olive and sesame oil have been in use for thousands of years. Both olive and sesame oil can be pressed naturally without added heat or solvents. Even though oil is not a whole food, it has the ability to transform our foods. The use of oil in food preparation has recently come under question because it is not a whole food and is very calorie-dense. Because it has been in use for thousands of years, it leads me to think that oil has important value.

Oil provides different benefits. Oil changes the taste and satisfaction of the food as well as the physical, mental, and emotional energy of the food. It can also create a heating or cooling effect, and increases our ability to absorb minerals and fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) at the deepest levels of our organs, bones, and nervous system. If you use oil at the beginning of cooking, it has a more deeply nourishing and energizing effect and provides warmth. Whereas if you add oil at the end of cooking, there is a more dispersing effect, which tends to be more relaxing and cooling. When oil is used properly, it enhances the taste and texture of the food and does not taste oily because the oil has been integrated into the dish.

Try to find the highest quality, mechanically-pressed and unrefined sesame and olive oils for use as your primary oils. You can tell much about the quality by the taste and smell–similar to water. Think about the water in different cities, or at different times of the year. Sesame oil is drier; it has a lighter, more refined quality and encourages the intellect and practicality. Olive oil is richer and more moisturizing, and nourishes the emotions more. Imagine the differences in Japanese and Italian cuisine. You may want to experiment on your own trying periods with or without oil in your food preparation. Always mind the quality and quantity of the oil.

Oil should never burn. When using oil at the beginning of cooking, add water at the first sign of sizzling to disperse and cool the oil. This method allows us to use less oil and combines the oil with the food more thoroughly. You may also add oil near the end after steaming or boiling to add a light, refreshing effect to a dish. These suggestions and insights have come from my experience with how we use oil at home, at seminars and in my counseling practice. The recipe below uses the technique of adding oil at the end of a dish.

Sesame oil with seeds.

Sesame oil with seeds.

Quick Sautéed Leafy Greens

This is a light preparation style featured in “The Complete Macrobiotic Diet” created by Susan Waxman. The recipe begins with slightly steaming the greens, then adding oil and seasoning. The greens are juicy, but still retain their crunchy texture.

Preparation time: 7 to 8 minutes
Serves 2 to 4

½ to 1 bunch leafy greens, washed and cut into larger pieces (approximately 2 to 3 inches in length and width). Baby greens may be kept whole.
⅛ teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil or several drops of light sesame oil.
If using olive oil, season only with sea salt.
Season with 5 to 6 drops of shoyu if using sesame oil.

Gently heat just enough water to cover the bottom of the pan.
Add the stems, cover and steam for 20 to 30 seconds.
Add the leaves, cover and steam for another 10 seconds.
Drizzle a little oil over the top, then add a little sea salt and fold to blend the seasoning.
Finish cooking the greens using a sauté method, approximately 20 to 30 more seconds. Place in a serving dish and cover with a sushi mat.
Optional: add fresh garlic, red pepper flakes or fresh ginger juice