Updated 2009-08-30 16:34:53 ID=479:0

© 2009 The Romantic Table
©2008 The Romantic Table, Susan McGourty's Table Talk, a California Central Coast Lifestyle blog. 2011-06-09 16:33:16:80
©2008 The Romantic Table

Susan McGourty's Table Talk

Extra Virgin Olive Oil --How to Cook with It and Store It.


Cooking and using Extra Virgin Olive Oil is highly beneficial whatever your age or lifestyle! The health benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil in your diet include prevention of cardiovascular disease and slowing the signs of aging. And when you base your meals on the Mediterranean Diet recipes, such as ours, you'll maintain your health, weight and food tab better than most other cooking styles! This article will answer some of the most frequently asked questions.

After manning the Central Coast Olive Growers booth at the annual Paso Robles Olive Festival (as well as being one of the judges for the Celebrity Chef Cook-off), I realized that there are a lot of people out there that really don't know all that much about using Extra Virgin Olive Oil. A lot of people are still hesitant about using it on a daily basis in cooking, and don't realize the healthful benefits of incorporating it into their diet.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil and the Mediterranean Diet

Many of the most common diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and digestion problems can be prevented or lessened by eating what is known as the Mediterranean Diet which is based upon Extra-Virgin Olive Oil. It is called the Mediterranean Diet because it originated in the countries that surround the Mediterranean Sea.

People in these countries eat a diet that’s rich in vegetables, low in red meat, high in seafood, regular use of olive oil, grains and low-fat cheeses, fruit and wine. Most of the food is prepared using Extra Virgin Olive Oil as the cooking fat.

Even the conservative American Medical Association has recognized the benefits of the Mediterranean Diet and olive oil. They currently recommend a daily diet of two ounces extra virgin olive oil per person a day. Just by substituting extra virgin olive oil for butter will help your cholesterol and give you an added source of antioxidants.

Fortunately for us in the California Central Coast with our Mediterranean Climate, we have a wide selection of great olive oils and produce. This year, in the nation's largest Extra-Virgin Oil competition, The Los Angeles County Fair, our local group won over fifty-five medals!

Shelf Life and Storing Olive Oil

First of all, extra virgin olive oil DOES have a finite shelf-life. Unlike wine, olive oil does not improve with age. The older it gets, the more it oxidizes, so you want to use your olive oil within a month of opening it. Although Extra-virgin olive oil keeps the best because it has less acidity to begin with, after a year of proper storage of even an unopened extra virgin olive oil, you might not want to make it "the star" of the meal, or use it for dipping with bread as an appetizer.

In order to keep your olive oil at its best, you need to store your extra-virgin olive oil in a cool, dark room or place.(Just like wine storage.) When we buy in bulk, we use a wine storage closet that we keep cooler and darker than the kitchen. ( Ideally seventy degrees or less.)

Different Types and Grades of extra-virgin olive oil and how to use them

The taste of high-end extra-virgin olive oil has a stronger flavor than those you find in a grocery store. High-end extra-virgin olive oil very similar to wines in this respect: the flavor of these oils vary considerably and a particular oil might be suited well to accent a particular dish. Depending on the olive type (there are many varieties such as Mission, Tuscan and Spanish just to name a few)the flavor in the mouth is as different as different wines are.

In our kitchen, we have three types of extra virgin olive oil: low cost commercial, mid priced range and boutique.

The low cost commercial is the common type found in grocery stores. We use this type for coating vegetables and meat that are going to be exposed to high temperatures such as barbecuing. After grilling, you can always drizzle a little bit of boutique extra virgin olive oil on top to give it a real extra virgin taste.

We use a "mid-priced range" extra-virgin olive oil for low-temperatures sauteing, light frying and quick grilling, We also use this in vinaigrettes and pestos that we do not want a very strong extra virgin olive flavor --such as in a basil pesto where the olive flavor may overpower the basil flavor. Classic Basil-Walnut Pesto with Linguine.. If necessary, we add a bit of a high end olive oil to peak the taste a bit.

Then finally we use "boutique" extra virgin olive oil solely for flavoring recipes after they've been cooked, or as a dipping oil for breads and on some fresh salads Caprese Salad with Heirloom Tomatoes.

Don't overheat the extra virgin olive oil

When any olive oil is heated above four hundred twenty degrees, the oil starts to smoke and changes taste. It is not a bad high temperature cooking oil, and interestingly it does not lose all its health benefits. But, its taste quickly degrades, so why waste the money?

If you're doing barbecuing or sauteing, use just an average "store-bought" lower-priced extra virgin olive oil to coat your vegetables and or meat. Save the "good-stuff" for salads, appetizers and recipes that specifically call for higher-grade extra-virgin olive oil and in recipes that the better oil's flavor will accent the final flavor of the meal Swordfish with Sage and Wine Reduction.

Finally, you do not want to overheat a top quality extra virgin olive oil. The phenols and esters in the extra virgin olive oils which give it its taste are volatile and start evaporating and breaking down at temperatures over two hundred degrees. Again, why waste the money?

Try Olive Oil Tasting

When you find a good extra-virgin olive oil, it's absolutely delicious and you realize how much you may have missed by not trying it sooner! So, the next time you have the opportunity to taste some different extra virgin olive oils, do so! Most extra-virgin olive oil producers in our area offer tastings weekly. It will open a whole new world of flavors and health for you!

Incorporating extra virgin olive oil in to your daily diet will not only help your health, but also your grocery store's food tab. You'll find that you'll want to use more vegetables as a main course. When vegetables are flavored properly by sauteing with extra virgin olive oil and then seasoned, properly, you'll realize that the Mediterranean Diet is one delicious way that you can improve your whole family's outlook on health!




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A tip from Sue!

Mark perishable ingredients

When ever you bring home a brand new spice, oil, vinegar, flour, sugar or other perishable ingredient, mark the bottle/container with the day’s date with a felt tip pen. Most "permanent markers" will write on just about any container.

That way if you don’t use it very much, but it’s been opened, you know how fresh it is. For an important meal don’t “submarine yourself” by using past expiration ingredients that have long lost their fresh taste and flavor.