While it can be argued that every day is Extra Virgin Olive Oil Day, this year the miracle that is “Liquid Gold” marks its very own, very special day, Sunday, September 30th.
Because Sunday is so often heralded for its big, family dinners, punctuated by a varied menu; accompanied by avid conversations with family and friends, it’s only natural that Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) is commemorated on a day set aside for eating.
Plus, it’s now harvest season - when thoughts turn to getting the best ingredients from nature’s bounty to the table.
Olives, too, are harvested this time of year in Italy and Spain -- Mediterranean regions that can boast of their premium, quality EVOO lovingly tended by local farmers -- many from family-run farms that have cultivated olives for centuries.
It’s no secret that a Mediterranean diet is recognized as promoting wellness and good health. According to the Mayo Clinic, the Mediterranean diet emphasizes: “Eating primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts.”
Underpinning the region’s good health and good taste is quality EVOO.
But with all the different olive oils at the market -- along with a spectrum of costs, how is one to know which olive oil is best - and why? Answers to all questions about olive oil taste, storage, and cooking are readily answered by the region’s quality olive oil experts.
Further building on their Mediterranea heritage and pedigree, the Consorzio di Garanzia dell'Olio Extra Vergine di Oliva di Qualità - Quality Extra Virgin (CEQ) was established in 2001 to support the principle of providing correct information to consumers, as well as to protect and guarantee the quality of extra virgin olive oil released on the market.
The Consortium - now 37 members strong - also aims to demonstrate and promote the culture of quality extra virgin olive oil quality through its education and sampling outreach efforts to culinary professionals and home cooks alike.
Likewise, QvExtra! International - QvExtra! - was founded in early 2013 as a result of the work of 15 Spanish producers who were convinced of the need to promote extra virgin olive oil on both a national and international level.
Together, the Italian and Spanish producers and brands are committed to the high-quality EVOO consortium. CEQ Italia and QvExtra! lead campaigns that strive to increase the awareness of the nutritional, sensory, and health benefits of extra virgin olive oils of the highest quality.
Led by experts, the Consortium offers lectures for student chefs; special trainings for gourmet store staff including buyers and workers in the trade industry; and conduct in-store workshops and tastings with cooking demonstrations for consumers at local gourmet stores.
If you’re not exactly sure what makes a quality EVOO better than another, the Consortium is dedicated to help explain the properties - from the olives and their best growing practices to the processing and distribution - so that you can choose your EVOO with confidence, authority, respect, and love.
The International seal of quality between producers is a guarantee that you can trust you are cooking and baking -- and drinking - with the very best olive oil nature has bestowed to us.
For oil producers, the quality production represents a code of conduct. For consumers, it represents a guarantee for characteristics of oil and modes of production.
We invite you to schedule an interview with president of Monini USA, Marco Petrini - one of the Consortium’s member brands, and/or with Iron Chef, Mario Rizzotti. Rizzotti is a passionate advocate for cooking with the taste of EVOO.
Tasting a raw oil allows the detection of its highest bitter-spicy fragrance which, during cooking, tends to dissolve.
A quality oil is characterized by the intense taste of olives, together with more or less intense bitter and spicy sensations, that gives the olive such fresh flavor.
EVOO is best for drizzling on plated dishes, ready to serve.
Tips: What the Positive Attributes of a Quality EVOO Are:
Bitter: Characteristic primary taste of oils obtained from green olives or olives turning in color.
Spicy: “Biting” tactile sensation of oils produced at the beginning of a crop campaign from still unripe olives. Such a sensation may be particularly intense in oils rich in healthy antioxidant substances.
Fruity: a combination of sensory characteristics, depending on olives varieties, pertaining to oils
obtained from fresh and ripe fruits (green fruity/ripe fruity).
Grass: Distinctive shade of fruity oils that may recall the smell of cut grass.
Apple: Flavor recalling the taste of apples.
Artichoke: Flavor recalling the fresh and pleasant raw artichoke.
Sweet and Bitter Almond: Characteristic aftertaste flavor recalling almonds.
Floral: Very pleasant sensation recalling flowers; penetrating fragrances.
Green Tomato: Flavor recalling the fruit.
Woody: flavor recalling the smell of brush woods.
Green Leaf: flavor recalling the leaf slightly bitter fragrance.
According to the Consortium, combining food and oil is best made “in harmony.” For example, light fruity oils pair with delicate dishes, while medium - intense fruity fragrances generally pair with richer and flavored dishes.
Cooking over low heat is the best way to enhance its characteristics.
Once cooking is completed, the original fruity and herbal notes of the raw oil will lightly turn in terms of intensity, according to cooking modalities and ingredients used.
After the food preparation, the oil and its presence may also contribute to the formation of new aromas, as well as retain its original flavor.
Recommended EVOO Storage:
The Consortium suggests that proper storage is key to maintaining safe and intact extra virgin olive oil qualities. Light, air and heat can damage oil, thus a suitable storage is required since these factors can affect the quality.
Storage Tips for EVOO:
- Keep out of direct light.
- Keep away from heat.
- Once a bottle is opened it should be carefully resealed as to prevent contact with air.
- Bottles of oil should be kept away from sunshine and heat (stoves or ovens) as well as from cold places.
- If poured into smaller containers from a larger can, aim to reduce contact with air.
- Bottles need to be clean and dry.
- Best temperatures for olive oil storage are from 15 to 10 degrees centigrade or around 50 degrees fahrenheit.
- Olive labels display the preferable consumption date that reads: “Best Before” date and not the expiration date - noted as “Use By” date.
- This is easier to accommodate than you might think. Like good, quality wine, use your olive oil daily for best taste and freshness.
- Re-use once used for cooking is not recommended.
- It’s best that once you open your bottle of “Liquid Gold” to enjoy it’s unparalleled taste - and consume the contents within two weeks or so.
With an ever-burgeoning pursuit of wellness and healthy living, EVOO is the go-to natural ingredient that supports a healthy lifestyle and high quality food, especially from Europe’s Mediterranean diet.
Olive oil contains a greater percentage of monounsaturated fat acids, if compared to other oils. These fats are healthy, indeed, for human beings. They help reducing LDL (bad cholesterol) and help increasing HDL levels in a significant way. Furthermore, antioxidants such as polyphenols and tocopherols contained in extra virgin olive oils, play a purifying action on blood - restraining the free radicals production.
A diet rich in extra virgin olive oil may:
1. Strengthen the immune system;
2. Have an anti - inflammatory effect;
3. Prevent cardiovascular diseases;
4. Reduce cholesterol levels;
5. Decrease the formation of free radicals and cellular aging correlated infarction;
6. Reduce the risk of thrombosis and atherosclerosis;
7. Lower blood pressure;
8. Reduce the incidence of some cancers;
9. Improve the operating capacity of the pancreas;
10. Have a positive impact on the emergence of adult diabetes.
Besides being an excellent dressing to enhance the flavor of foods, olive oil is a complete food and essential for keeping fit at any age. Rich in antioxidants and beneficial substances, it has a high nutritional value and helps preventing many diseases, increasing life expectancy.
It facilitates the intestinal absorption of vitamins, aids digestion and regulates the amount of cholesterol in the blood: for this reason it has been scientifically proved that a diet rich in olive oil
reduces the incidence of cardiovascular diseases, atherosclerosis and cancer.
All healthy properties are particularly enhanced in the EVOO, the highest category of quality in the family of olive oils. EVOO is a true, natural “functional food.”
EVOO is a useful food for all ages. It is suitable for the nutrition of infants and children because it is highly digestible and helps a harmonious development. It also helps adults to stay young. Indeed, it is recommended for the elderly diets, not only for its high digestibility but because also because it promotes the assimilation of minerals and vitamins. And last, but not least, thanks to its high nutritional value, it is also suitable for athletes, because EVOO promotes the high energy inputs necessary to high performers.
EVOO is the healthiest of all fats because it is the only vegetable oil extracted simply through the milling of the fruit without using solvents or industrial refining processes. Other oils or vegetable fats are generally blended and over-processed.
All the natural health-giving properties are retained through the simple “squeeze of olives.”
EVOO Recipes from Chefs: Mario Rizzotti, Antonio Ortuno are available upon request.
Recipe from Chef Antonio:
|Photo courtesy Chef Antonio Ortuno
Leek with Chickpeas Cream, Leek leaf chips, toasted Pine Nuts, Orange zest and Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 leek per person
- 100g Pine nuts
- 2 oranges
- Boiled chickpeas
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Steam the leeks for 20 minutes.
- Clean the leeks of hard leaves and cut them very thin and fry them in a pot with extra virgin olive oil/EVOO
- Remove and set aside in paper towel.
- Sauté the pine nuts in a frying pan without oil until they are golden, reserve.
- Add into the food processor the chickpeas, the orange zest of one orange, salt and EVOO until it is creamy.
- Sauté the leeks both sides in a pan with a little bit of olive oil.
- Cut each one in small pieces.
- Serve the leek on top of the chickpeas cream, season with drizzle of EVOO and salt, add the orange zest and the toasted pine nuts on the top and finally the crispy leaves.
|Photo courtesy Chef Antonio Ortuno
Some Fun Olive Oil Facts
- Did you know an olive tree can live for more than 200 years; some live a century or more.
- PDO oils are a precious product able to supporthe Italian quality productions since they own several sensorial, healthy and nutritional virtues
- The variety details and distinctive traits of cultivation areas give rise to a wide range of fragrance and tastes, quite precious to safeguard the Mediterranean cooking fame in the world.
- The fatty acid ratio of olive oil is similar to mother’s milk and this means that it is very well tolerated by both infants and elderly.
- EVOO is the best ingredient for deep frying, as it contains more stable fat acids, if compared to those contained in seed oils, and its temperature is definitely higher than the usual ones.
- The only rule that one should strictly observe concerns the deep frying duration. If the oil starts smoking means it’s overheated.