EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL – A Way of Life
Extra Virgin Olive oil has always been strongly associated with the daily life and dietary habits of Mediterranean cultures. Over the past few decades its popularity has grown far beyond the sun-drenched regions of Southern Europe to every major continent. The secret of its success is understandable. olive oil’s numerous benefits, uses and universal appeal, including cooking, religious rituals, ancient traditions, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics make it, in our opinion, one of nature’s greatest gifts.
In the writings of Hippocrates (460-370BC), the father of modern medicine, he references using olive oil over sixty (60) ways, from medicinal uses to personal cleanliness using pure olive oil soap. From the Minoans to modern times, olive oil has been used as a nourishing moisturizer and nutritional mask for skin and hair.
The olive is actually a fruit and natural, fresh olive oil can be enjoyed from the moment it is pressed. This contributes to its delicate aroma and preserves all of its nutritional elements. It needs no chemical processing, as many other vegetable and seed oils do just to make them palatable.
Using fresh, extra virgin olive oil
- Use liberally straight from the bottle on fresh salads and sautéed, stewed or grilled vegetables.
- Use as a light vinaigrette with fresh lemon, red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar, oregano, salt and pepper as dressing for vegetables and salad.
- For breakfast or a healthy snack, mix together olive oil, lemon, a pinch of salt and dried oregano or other fresh or dried herbs as an excellent, cholesterol-free alternative for bread instead of butter.
- A good quality extra virgin olive oil is essential for making fresh pesto with basil, garlic, lemon zest, grated cheese and pine nuts.
- As an appetizer, serve bread, olives, and Feta cheese drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with dried, Cretan oregano for a classic and simple Greek-inspired accompaniment to wine.
- The consumption of fresh, pure, unrefined olive oil is the best choice, not only for its many uses, but also its myriad of health benefits. Olive oil supports better digestion so that the body may absorb all the nutritional elements it contains.
Cooking with olive oil
One can cook almost anything with olive oil. Olive oil may be substituted for butter in most recipes, including baked goods, cakes, biscuits etc.
Use 3/4 cup of olive oil in place of 1 cup of butter.
We invite you to try these options for cooking with olive oil:
- Oven-roasted dishes, such as potatoes, vegetables, meat, poultry or fish
- Rice will have a lighter, Mediterranean flavor when cooked with olive oil rather than butter. Try adding some fresh squeezed lemon for a delicious Cretan-style pilaf.
- Cretan cooks have been using olive oil both in cooked dishes and as a finishing oil for centuries on cooked lentils, beans, vegetables and greens such as dandelion, chard, spinach and other wild greens.
- Adding olive oil to soup and stew enriches the flavor together with fresh and dried herbs, such as oregano, parsley and thyme.
Frying with Olive Oil
Contrary to popular belief, it is better to fry with olive oil than with vegetable or seed oil. When exposed to high temperatures, most vegetable and seed oil begins to oxidize and becomes unhealthy for consumption exposing the body to harmful substances. However, at the proper temperature, olive oil resists this phenomenon due to its high levels of antioxidants and unsaturated fats. Using olive oil for frying is the healthiest option.
It is estimated that extra virgin olive oil’s smoke point is roughly between 365ºF to 400ºF (185ºC to 204ºC), depending on its free fatty acid content. Here is what the International Olive Oil Council (IOOC) has to say about frying food with olive oil:
When heated, olive oil is the most stable fat, which means it stands up well to high frying temperatures. Its high smoke point (410ºF or 210ºC) is well above the ideal temperature for frying food (356ºF or 180ºC). The digestibility of olive oil is not affected when it is heated, even when it is re-used several times for frying.
Preserving and Marinating with Olive Oil
- Olive oil has been used in food preservation for millennia, as discovered by archeologists researching the Minoan civilization on Crete and substantiated in many other Mediterranean cultures. Covering food with olive oil forms a protective layer from the surrounding environment thereby delaying oxidization and spoilage.
- Olive oil is a perfect choice when used as a marinade for meat, poultry, fish or vegetables and is especially recommended if you are going to barbecue. When we barbecue meat, harmful carcinogenic substances are sometimes formed, but olive oil can neutralize them thanks to its high antioxidant levels. For an even better result you can use olive oil infused with garlic, onion, lemon and herbs such as oregano, thyme, or rosemary.
Three or four tablespoons of olive oil per day can change your taste and protect your health!
So we ask you…what kind of oil is on your table?
How should we preserve olive oil?
The flavor, aroma and all of the nutritional elements of olive oil can remain stable, if one is mindful of some simple storage guidelines. Light, oxygen and high heat should be avoided.
- Olive oil must not be exposed to light and should be stored in a dark cupboard.
- Olive oil must not be exposed to temperatures higher than 20⁰C (68° F). Otherwise the total quality will be affected.
- If storage temperature is lower than 5⁰C (41° F), clouds and/or sediments may appear in the bottle that is normal, and will dissapear when the product will be placed in room temperature for at leats 24 hours. This condition does not affect the quality of the olive oil.
- It must be stored in a dark glass bottle, a stainless steel or ceramic carafe, or the original closed tin can. Always avoid using plastic containers as they may contaminate the delicate olive oil with harmful substances detrimental to human health.
Nutritionist – Dietitian
Member of the Board of Cretan Gastronomy Network
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