Let's jump right back into the world of Italian extra-virgin olive oil, as we were exploring in Part 1.
WHERE WAS EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL PRODUCED HISTORICALLY?
Thanks to the wandering nature of the olive oil-loving Spanish, wherever they went oil production followed, with olive oil produced in all the corners of the world where the climate is favorable: Italy, Greece, Morocco, Spain, Turkey, United States, Argentina, Tunisia, Australia, and more. EVOO seems to have found a good home and good use in many different kinds of cooking, and honestly, it’s not hard to understand why people love it. Usually the rule, as we know, is something that tastes good can’t be good for you, but EVOO is the exception to that rule.
WHY SHOULD I USE EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OIL?
Not only does it work its mojo on your tastebuds, but it's also one of the best cooking aids you can have in the kitchen. The force is strong with EVOO - it’s marvelous with sautès and raw use like salad dressings, and is even enriched with vitamins and antioxidants. EVO is also pretty reliable and won’t go rancid when heated and used for frying at lower temperatures, unlike other vegetable-based oils. Good stuff, you guys!
WHAT IS THE NUTRITION PROFILE OF EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL?
- Polyphenol - Antioxidant that helps prevent cardiovascular diseases and cancers
- Vitamin E - Antioxidant that helps fight free radicals
- Oleic Acid - Monounsaturated fat that brings down cholesterol levels
- Squalene - Skin emollient that helps absorb harmful solar radiation
- Weight control - Fatty acids aid with feeling fuller and more sated after eating
HOW CAN I SELECT THE BEST OLIVE OIL?
While I do love it and I’d be tempted to use it everywhere, there are places where I use my expensive, top-shelf EVOO and places where I use the less-expensive but good stuff. Some of my purist friends might disagree, but imported oils can be expensive, so use your judgment on where you want to splurge, my preference is premier oils for salads and oils used as condiments, and good-level oils for sautès and similar recipes.
I’m actively trying to keep my body healthy and cleaned up - I’m looking to promote good gut bacteria instead of the bad. The great news that EVOO has been known to help the inner fight against Helicobacter pylori, a stomach-based bacteria that has been known to lead to ulcers. The amazing thing is that three strains of this bacteria are antibiotic resistant, and EVOO has been proven to successfully fight eight strains of this bacteria...natural health for another fine win.
I know it's not exactly cutting-edge technology given the popularity of the Mediterranean diet, but I want to be sure you're getting the real deal and not the cheapo supermarket version.
Together we’ve already gone over some of the specifics, but if your memory is like mine….you might have forgotten some fundamental points: genuine EVOO is made from the very first pressing of olives collected from individual Italian areas (the real deal sticks to olives JUST from Italy - cheaper versions include olives from other EU countries).
When shopping, be on the lookout for labelling that's deceptive, and colors of your EVOO that seem off - check out my guide on how NOT to buy fraudy oil in your grocery, and while you’re at it, you might also want to check out my recommendations on how to shop for overall great ingredients.
"The pesto and angel hair are warm in the bowl on my lap, the fragrances of olive oil and basil blending the exotic and familiar, equal parts sunny Tuscan hillside and hometown dirt. A meal like this makes you want to live forever, if only for the scent of warm pesto in January." Michael Perry
THE EVO WRAP-UP: OTHER OILS COME AND GO, BUT EVOO IS ETERNAL
A stable ingredient that maintains flavor and health benefits even during cooking, you can count on your quality extra-virgin olive oil to do you no harm, and add stupendous flavor to your dishes whether they are Italian or not. If you’re looking to adjust your diet more around the Mediterranean approach, this is the obvious building block ingredient that you must have. You can purchase reliable, top-quality oils directly from your supermarket shelves, and actually, I’d recommend testing and tasting a few different kinds to find the one you like the best. However I recommend oils that are from Italy - I’m actually rather biased but if you do find one you love that’s not Italian, let me know in the comments below so I can check it out as well.
Let's make sure your EVOO gets put to good use and soak up the benefits as you enjoy its sublime benefits and aromas. With even a small investment in a bottle of EVOO from your grocer, you’ll be able to bring a little piece of Italy into your kitchen. With all the health benefits associated with using extra-virgin olive oil, you might think you’ve got the inside track on the benefits of cooking and eating with EVOO. But believe it or not, there’s even more that I love about the oils procured with Italian olives. You don’t necessarily have to to cook with extra-virgin olive oil - in fact, if you’re planning on frying, definitely look for the lower-price point Light Olive Oil (or just Olive Oil) and help your wallet stay a bit fuller.
What's your favorite EVOO bottle? If you're positive you're using your special oils to their finest abilities, be sure to head over to the Mamablip Recipe files for even more ways to use up your Italian EVOO. In all of our Live Cooking Classes, EVOO plays a major role, so if you've got that on hand, you've already got a major player - come sign up for your favorite class and learn some new tricks!
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