When most people hear "canola oil," they no doubt think of the cheap, flavourless cooking oil their mothers used for deep frying. But the homegrown product, which was developed by Canadian farmers in the 1970s and is short for "Canada oil, low acid," is enjoying new life as a trendy ingredient.
Its resurgence lies in a new cold-press process that allows the oil, which is created from a hybrid version of rapeseed, to retain its flavour.
Traditionally, canola oil had been produced through a high-temperature process that removed most of the flavour from the seed, but farmers across Canada are foregoing that method for the more laborious (and effective) cold-pressing.
The result is a finished product that is tastier and more refined than its previous incarnation - and a delicious new ingredient for meals and entertaining.
One of the simplest ways to use this extra-virgin canola oil is in bruschetta: Top toasted baguette halves with fresh chopped tomatoes, minced garlic and shredded basil and drizzle with the oil. Having a subtle nutty flavour, it is also ideal for salads and stir-frying.
While it may not completely replace more popular oils any time soon, extra-virgin canola oil is a good option for those looking to start the year off healthily or observe Heart Health Month in February. In addition to being a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, it also contains the lowest amount of saturated fat among cooking oils (seven per cent compared to 12 per cent in sunflower oil, 15 per cent in olive oil and 19 per cent in peanut oil).
And now it can compete flavour-wise with these rich and tasty counterparts.
Sebastien Centner is the director of Eatertainment Special Events in Toronto ( www.eatertainment.com).