Olive oil has been a part of
Mediterranean life for over 3000 years. The Greeks prized it not just
as food, but for many other things. In fact, anyone who cut down an
olive tree, was punished by death. Olive oil is rich in vitamins E
and A and is a great antioxidant.
Today, olive oil is the most essential
and basic key to most Sicilian and Italian foods. In Italy, over 93%
of the population use it. In the United States, the right olive oil
tastes so good, people eat it by dipping bread in it. Others flavor
and season it with cracked pepper, hot pepper, basil, garlic and rosemary.
The deeper the color of the olive oil, the heavier the taste. You
generally want to use lighter oil for frying (as it takes on the taste of
the oil) and the extra virgin olive oil for salads, dipping bread and vegetables.
No kitchen (Italian or not) should be without it. While it is
said that the greatest Italian olive oils come from the region of Tuscany,
Sicily can rival many of those with its consistent gold medal winning olive
oil from the Radiva Estate.
Italians and the Greeks are not the only
great producers of Olive Oil. The Spaniards and even the French have gotten
in on the action. And of course, California now rivals Europe and
the rest of the world when it comes to olive oil and wine as
Keys to Selecting, Buying & Using Olive
Colors don't always matter (unless
it is very very light), oils from different grades, qualities and regions
will vary in color
Choose one with a recent date, after a year
on the shelf or in your pantry, it will deteriorate. Don't bother to buy
an olive oil if its 2 years old unless its a very high quality oil (say
$40/bottle) and you can get a great deal on it (something less than
Buy only those in a darker bottle, as sun
and light effect the color and quality
Always wipe the neck of the bottle of the
olive oil, as the oil left on the neck and exposed to air/light can effect
the taste and quality of the rest of the oil in the bottle. If you
can find one of those bartender pouring spouts from your local liquor store,
this is helpful.
Estate bottled extra olive oil will always
be superior to and 'supermarket' or name brand extra virgin olive oil
If you can, buy olive oil from the same region
as the dish you are cooking. For example, if you are cooking risotto,
use an olive oil from Tuscany. If you are making a Sicilian dish, use
olive oil from Sicily. Again, this is not always possible, and you
may not have room on your shelf for 25 different olive oils from all the
different regions, but its something to consider if you want to buy a small
bottle of olive oil from Sicily, and make a nice spread of Sicilian foods
for a dinner party and such.
Frying foods: While they often say
that you should fry foods in the lightest oil possible, olive oil adds the
most flavor, it is also the fat that deteriorates least when frying.
'Supermarket' Olive Oils