Where does olive oil come from?
In North America, Italy may come to mind but that is not the only country to consider when preparing a Mediterranean dish.
Wikipedia tells us:
Olive trees have been grown around the Mediterranean since the 8th millennium BC. Spain is by far the largest producer of olive oil, followed by Italy and Greece. Per capita consumption is however highest in Greece, followed by Spain, Italy, and Morocco.
Why use Olive Oil?
Olive Oil is a staple in the Mediterranean diet. Consumption of olive oil is thought to positively affect cardiovascular health and long-term ingestion may be responsponsible for the low incidence of heart disease.
Subsequently, whether eating at home or dining out, a good Chef knows to prepare excellent food one must use high-quality ingredients. Olive oil is the heart of Mediterranean cuisine!
What makes good Olive Oil?
- EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OIL. The International Olive Oil Council based in Spain, regulates and tracks olive oil production worldwide, monitoring authenticity and grading quality. Subtle flavor variations result from soil composition, climate and ripeness of the olives at harvest time. Extra Virgin Olive Oil, like Mediterrano EVOO, comes exclusively from virgin oil production. It contains a 0.8% acidity or less, and it is considered superior tasting. It is ideal for dipping bread, drizzling on salads, and for cooking. In sum, it is the gold standard of taste and quality.
- VIRGIN OLIVE OIL. also comes from virgin oil production. It features an acidity of 2% (or less) and has acceptable flavor.
- PURE OLIVE OIL. typically blends virgin and refined, chemically-treated oils to neutralize their strong taste and high acidic content.Olive Oil blends mild-tasting, refined and virgin oils with no more than 1.5% acidity.
- OLIVE-POMACE OIL. combines refined, chemically extracted paste (pomace) oil with virgin oil. It is rarely sold at the retail level but is used in some restaurant kitchens.
- REFINED OLIVE OIL. comprises more than half of all Mediterranean olive oil production. It utilizes charcoal and other filtrates to remove impurities and render it edible.
What can I prepare with Olive Oil?
Perhaps the question is “What can’t I prepare”.
Olive Oil, as is, is a perfect flavor enhancer to many dishes such as a Greek Salad. Just drizzle or mix it into the salad as a dressing. The Olive Oil will enhance the flavor of the lettuce and give an extra kick to the vegetables and feta cheese.
Use Olive Oil instead of a tomato based spaghetti or other pasta sauce. Once the pasta is a perfect al dente toss, heat some thinly sliced garlic in a pan until it’s a pale golden color, remove it from the heat and add some spices like parsley, salt and pepper. Now gently stir the oil mixture into the noodles. Top it off with Greek Myzithra or other parmesean type hard cheese.
Avoid the hydrogenated vegetable oils like margarine and use Olive Oil as a dip for your bread or whipped into mashed potatoes.
Finally, brush it on your meats before grilling or broiling. The layer of Olive Oil will seal in the meat flavor and it’s a great medium to hold any dry spices or rub.
Where can I find a good Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil?
Greek Olive Oil maintains its prestige among it’s peers. When shopping for it, you may have to look between the lower quality bottles from Italy and Spain. Or you can order it online from a known and respective purveyor like Roumanis Imports or simply drop into Mediterrano and pick up a 750ml bottle or 3ml can. (hint: using some of the methods above, you’ll want the can!)