I get frequent questions on olive oil. If you read my blog, you probably noticed that I use it daily. I grew up in New Orleans in a Sicilian family so olive oil was part of life for as long as I can remember. Let’s assume you are brand new to this joy of nature, perhaps one of the people that is switching from margarine. BTW. a whole generation was raised to use margarine because butter was “bad”. Come to find out, butter is better for you than margarine, but we do still need to be tracking our fat intake. The big question for some is “why olive oil”? Cooking shows and the media gives the impression that we “should” use it, but why? The big two reasons are that it contains a mono-unsaturated fat, instead of saturated fat, which is good for you. The second reason is that it tastes great.
If you are a newbie, you might just run to the local supermarket and grab a bottle. That is perfectly fine, but in terms of the “good-better-best” paradigm, we can do better. The low grade oil’s are actually not regulated in the good old USA (tightly regulated in Italy/spain, etc.) so they can use pretty low grade oil that would be considered fit for use in lighting only. BTW. a bit of trivia, the candle that burned for 8 days in Jewish culture (the Menorah) was fueled with Olive oil, and that use has been pretty common for centuries.
To move up a notch, use an extra virgin olive oil that is from a brand name. you can research on the web and get more info on the rating. If you are in Little Rock (or many other cities) you can visit an olive oil retailer (Strippaggio in promenade mall) and taste various oils.
a few top tips:
-Cooking with olive oil is great. just be aware of the smoke point of the oil, keep your flame/burner off “high”
-Olive oil has a shelf life. about 6 months for a good oil, MUCH less for cheap oil. some cheap oils are actually rancid by the time you open them.
-You get what you pay for.. don’t try to get the cheapest. not saying you need to spend $50 a bottle (i have a few of those but not for day to day), but get what you consider a mid range oil.
-Taste if you can, find one you enjoy. the more hearty ones have more anti-oxidants.
-For more frequent users. I keep at least two olive oils. I have a mid-range (for me its about $20 a bottle) that i use for every day cooking, and a premium oil that i use for salads, etc. (where you can taste the rich flavors of the oil.
-Change up the dance partners. for salads, try olive oil and lemon, or olive oil and balsamic, etc.