Sunday, June 29, 2014

Olive Oil Tips

I found these tips in one of my Italian cookbooks that dates 1999.  This information was good then and is still good now so I'm sharing.  These are terms you need to know when selecting olive oil.

Extra-Virgin - This is the results of the first pressing of olives, extra-virgin olive oil has the lowest acidity, as well as superior taste, color, and aroma.  It is considered the best and has a high price to match its reputation.  It's also the most delicate:  Heat breaks it down, so save it for uncooked or lightly cooked dishes.

Fino - This word actually means "fine" and this olive oil is a blend of both extra-virgin and virgin olive oils.

Virgin - This classification has a slightly higher acidity than extra-virgin, but is also a first-press oil.

Light - This olive oil should not be misinterpreted as reduced in calories or fat.  Light, here, refers to both the lighter color and fragrance achieved through a special filtration process.  Light olive oil has a higher smoke point that results form this process and makes this class of olive oil ideal for frying, baking and cooking.

Pure - Also simply called olive oil, pure olive oil is a combination of refined olive oil and virgin or extra-virgin oil.

Cold-Pressed - Olive oils that are cold-pressed are considered the finest.  The oil is extracted by pressure - no heat or chemicals are used - and thus have a naturally low level of acidity.  By law, virgin olive oils must be cold-pressed.

Smoke Point - An important characteristic of any oil, the smoke point is the stage at which heated fat begins to smoke and emit acrid odors, imparting an unpleasant flavor to foods cooked in it.  Olive oil has a relative low smoke point compared with oils like safflower or peanut, rendering the finest olive oil inferior when used for cooking at high temperatures.  For this reason, some cooks suggest having at least two olive oils in your pantry - an extra-virgin for salad dressings and floating onto soups, and a less expensive variety, such as pure or light, for sauteing and cooking at high temperatures.

Now I know why my dishes that require hot oil sometimes comes out with a strong taste.  I also know why some of my dressings don't have that delicious, delicate olive oil flavor.  I'm simply not using them correctly.
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