The rich aroma, flavor, and health benefits of olive oil have been enjoyed for centuries across the globe. There are few things more pleasing to the palate than an extra virgin olive oil vinaigrette drizzled over a fresh salad, or a filet of fish expertly sauteed in this golden oil from the Mediterranean.
Types of Olive Oil
There are endless varieties of olive oil that can each add a special touch to your dish. Things like the type of olive used, where they were grown, the ripeness of the olive, the pressing technique and how they were harvested can all have an impact on the nuanced flavor of the oil. Another thing to consider is the grade of oil. Though many people pick up extra virgin olive oil out of habit, other types of olive oil may be used to better effect depending on the purpose required.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil: This oil is made from the first press of the olives. It has the lowest acidity and contains the highest concentration of cancer-fighting antioxidants. However, the inherent delicacy of the oil means that its flavor can break down under heated conditions. This oil is best used unheated over a salad, or possibly low heat cooking.
- Virgin Olive Oil: This oil is also from the first press, but it has a slightly higher acidity and has been judged to have a flavor slightly lacking from that of extra virgin oil. Its purposes are very similar, as it is suitable for salads and light sautéing only.
- Refined Olive Oil: This oil has undergone processes that eliminate the acidity level all together. Refined oil is for cooking purposes only, as its flavor and aroma is lacking from that of the virgin oils.
- Pure Olive Oil: Pure olive oil is a mix of virgin and refined olive oil. It is suitable for heavy-heat cooking, but is considered to be inferior nutritionally and in flavor to the virgin oils.
- Olive Pomace Oil: Similar to pure olive oil, olive pomace oil is great for high-heat cooking. But don’t expect the same level of antioxidants or flavor from this hearty, heat-resistant oil.
- Light Olive Oil: A fine filtering process has been applied to light olive oil to reduce the flavor for purposes of baking or cooking where the fruitiness of the oil might be disagreeable.
Uses for Olive Oil
Olive oil is as ubiquitous in the kitchen as other culinary staples like salt and butter. Its robust and fruity bouquet can be used to enliven the flavor of a vast assortment of dishes.
When used as a sautéing oil, olive oil’s savory and satisfying essence is imparted into the cuisine and enhances the goodness of any home-cooked meal. Try simmering minced garlic and shallots in a pan along with your favorite cut of meat and vegetables, or add stock and red wine to make a wine reduction sauce.
As a marinade, olive oil saturates your food items with rich flavor. Just combine the oil with an acid, such as vinegar or lemon juice, along with your desired meat, vegetables and spices. Let stand overnight in the refrigerator to let the flavors blossom.
Extra virgin olive oil is at its most flavorful and nutritious when untouched by heat. A blend of olive oil and balsamic vinegar makes an excellent dipping sauce for sliced French bread. And for salads, take this same mixture and add a pinch of garlic salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon for the perfect vinaigrette.
Olive Oil: The Healthy Habit
Olive oil has been treasured by the chefs of countless cultures for its diverse and flavorful applications, and is known by nutritionists to be of the healthiest natural food items one can regularly consume. Filled with heart-healthy unsaturated fats and brimming with delectable aroma and flavor, you can never go wrong bringing olive oil into your next meal. Make sure to keep your kitchen well-stocked with your favorite varieties of olive oil and don’t be afraid to use this wholesome oil everyday; your body and taste buds will thank you.