If almonds bring you joy, gourmet almond oil will make you swoon. Almond oils labeled "gourmet" or "French" are cold-pressed, which means that no heat is used as the oil is pressed from the nuts. The less expensive "refined" almond oils use heat during pressing. This makes for a speedier process, but often destroys the delicate toasted-almond flavor you'll find in gourmet almond oil. For that reason, gourmet almond oil's ideal uses differ from those of plain almond oil.
Plain and Fancy
In general, refined oils can take more heat than cold-pressed oils. As a class of fats, both refined and cold-pressed almond oils are suitable for medium-heat cooking, because they have a smoke point similar to olive oil. That smoke point means that they can perform over medium-high heat for sautes and browning without producing smoke and becoming inedible. Neither of the almond oil types is stable enough for the high heat needed for pan-frying or deep-frying.
Skipping the Skillet
You can use gourmet almond oil to stir-fry or saute foods -- but that doesn't necessarily mean that you should. This more expensive almond oil is prized for its subtle taste of toasted almonds, which is destroyed by heat. Reserve your cold-pressed almond oil to dress cold foods or to drizzle over a cooked dish after it has been taken off the heat. For the cooking itself, use lower-grade almond oil or other cooking oil, such as canola.
Driving Salad Nuts
As a dressing ingredient, gourmet almond oil enhances the taste of chopped or sliced nuts contained in the salad itself. Cold chicken and nuts have a natural affinity. If you're dressing a cold chicken salad, whisk almond oil into the dressing at a ratio of three parts almond oil and four parts red wine or balsamic vinegar. Alternatively, use almond oil, blended with apple cider vinegar in the traditional three-to-one ratio to top a fall salad of apples, pears and walnuts on a bed of greens.
The Finishing Touch
A drizzle of gourmet olive oil over steamed, sauteed or roasted foods brings out depths of flavor in the dishes that butter or olive oil won't. Using it to top roasted Brussels sprouts, for example, enhances the nutty flavor lurking in the often-reviled vegetable. An obvious topping for "amandine" side dishes, gourmet almond oil goes over foods like fancy creamed spinach after it comes off the heat and is topped with toasted almonds. Likewise, the cold-pressed nut oil adds a gourmet touch to formerly ho-hum green beans and almonds.