We were in our local Draeger's Market the other day and sampled an oil I'd never heard of: Argan oil. Argan trees grow exclusively in southwestern Morocco and, as I found out later, are endangered and under protection of UNESCO (read more about this in Liquid Gold in Morocco). Extracting the oil is quite labor intensive. The walnut/almond-like nuts are cracked by hand with sharp stones, the seeds are then removed and slowly roasted, giving the oil its nutty flavor. Once roasting is completed the seeds are ground into a paste then hand squeezed to extract the oil. No wonder it's so expensive! $49 for the approximately 10 oz. bottle we sampled.
The oil is rich in essential fatty acids and vitamin E and is more resistant to oxidization than olive oil. It's drizzled over couscous, salads or used with almonds and honey to make a tahini-like paste called amlou. It is said to have restorative properties and is being touted as the newest anti-aging miracle by the cosmetics industry.
Regardless of it's culinary or beauty benefits it has passed sustainability tests and is providing an income to Moroccan women who otherwise would be without. Hmm...tasty, makes your skin pretty and helps the Berber women. Think I'll head back to Draeger's.