Olive oil is extracted from tree-ripened olives and is a rich source of monounsaturated fats. Olive oil, its flavor and color is synonymous with Italian cooking. It forms an intrinsic part of the cuisine of France, Greece, Italy and Spain. From the Middle Ages, olive oil has occupied pride of place as a food and medicine. From curing earaches and gastritis, from ulcers to calluses, the medicinal benefits of olive oil have been much hailed.
A rich source of monounsaturated fat and antioxidants, olive oil is probably the only vegetable oil that can be consumed fresh. In fact the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has allowed olive oil manufacturers to list out the health benefits. Find out what exactly is extra virgin olive oil and how it scores over other grades of olive oil.
Olive oil made from green olives picked before maturity has a rich and fruity flavor. Extra virgin olive oil is that which is extracted from the first pressing of olive mash. Virgin olive oil is marginally inferior to extra virgin olive oil with a higher acidic level. Regular olive oil comes from the second cold pressing or chemical extraction of olives. This happens after the first pressing.
Olive oil is best used raw on salads, spicy dishes and acidic food items. It is ideal for making sauces and dressings. Combine olive oil with onions, herbs and garlic for pasta sauces. Use olive oil to marinade as it allows better penetration of the flavor into the food. You can substitute olive oil in many a baked dish. Adding olive oil to the bread flour helps create moist dough with reduced gluten content. Olive oil has a high temperature threshold.
Usually a blend of extra virgin and regular olive oil is used for sautéing or frying. It is essential to store olive oil away for heat and light to prevent it from turning rancid. Ideally, olive oil must be stored at around 14 degrees C or 57 degrees F. Seal your olive bottles tight. Store olive oil in tinted glass, porcelain or stainless steel containers. If you have purchased olive oil in large quantities, pour some in a smaller container for regular use.
Extra virgin olive oil
Extra virgin olive oil is extracted sans heat and chemical processing. The flavor of extra virgin olive oil is far superior to regular olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil is the least processed of the different grades of oil. It therefore retains high levels of antioxidants and polyphenolics found in olives. Choosing the right olive oil is not always simple.
Olive oil from the southern Mediterranean region has a flavor of herbs while that from the central areas has a fruity flavor. Good quality olive oil must be fresh and light. Typically a 500-ml bottle of extra virgin olive oil costs around $28 to $32. Extra virgin olive oil is best for salad dressings and vinaigrettes. Drizzle some over crusty bread or baked potatoes.
Brush it on grilled fish or meat. Extra virgin olive oil is the first result of the cold-pressed process with a low acidity level of about 1% oleic acid. Extra virgin olive oil comes in colors ranging from greenish golden to bright green. This grade of olive oil is not so well suited for frying as it is likely to burn or smoke. Extra virgin olive oil tends to contain small particles of olives and sediment.
Flavored olive oil
Olive oil can be flavored with dried wild herbs, garlic, lemon peel or fresh peppers for a heady flavor. In fact, you can pick up flavored oil in different options for salad dressings. Check out whether the bottle of flavored olive oil that you have bought needs refrigeration. You can opt for subtle flavoring of olive oil with basil, parsley, cilantro or tarragon.
You can make flavored olive oil with rosemary, thyme, fennel, garlic and juniper berries. This flavored olive oil can be stored in the refrigerator for about a fortnight. For a woodier flavor to the olive oil dressing, add lemon verbena.
Benefit of olive oil
The primary health benefit of olive oil lies in its high levels of monounsaturated fats. Recent studies have indicated that as olive oil contains oleocanthal, a substance with anti inflammatory properties similar to the drug - ibuprofen, it may be indicated for alleviating the symptoms of inflammation.