Using olive oil is a surprisingly cost-effective way to make our menus heart-friendly.
This summer while on vacation in Modesto, California, I chanced upon a delightful Farmers Market. I met this simply marvelous 90+ year old gentleman named Nick Sciabica. He is the founder and owner of Nick Sciabica & Sons California Gourmet Varietal Olive Oils. Thanks to his charming wife Gemma (also over 90), I got a real eye-opening education about this wonderfully healthy oil and some new and interesting ways to use it.
I decided to share some unique ideas for using olive oil because so many of us desire to serve our "special needs" clientele with "heart-healthy" food options on our menus.
I am including what "The New Food Lover's Companion" (a culinary dictionary available within the "Books" area of our website) tells about olive oil:
OLIVE OIL: Pressing tree-ripened olives extracts a flavorful, monounsaturated oil that is prized throughout the world both for cooking (particularly in Mediterranean countries) and for salads. Today's marketplace provides a wide selection of domestic olive oil (most of which comes from California) and imported oils from France, Greece, Italy and Spain. The flavor, color and fragrance of olive oils can vary dramatically depending on distinctions such as growing region and the crop's condition.
All olive oils are graded in accordance with the degree of acidity they contain. The best are cold-pressed, a chemical-free process that involves only pressure, which produces a natural level of low acidity. Extra virgin olive oil, the cold-pressed result of the first pressing of the olives, is only 1 percent acid. It's considered the finest and fruitiest of the olive oils and is therefore also the most expensive. Extra virgin olive oil can range from a crystalline champagne color to greenish-golden to bright green. In general, the deeper the color, the more intense the olive flavor. After extra virgin, olive oils are classified in order of ascending acidity. Virgin olive oil is also a first-press oil, with a slightly higher level of acidity of between I and 3 percent. Fino olive oil is a blend of extra virgin and virgin oils ("fino" is Italian for "fine"). Products labeled simply olive oil (once called pure olive oil) contain a combination of refined olive oil and virgin or extra virgin oil.
The new "light" olive oil contains the same amount of beneficial monounsaturated fat as regular olive oil...and it also has exactly the same number of calories. What the term "light" refers to is that because of an extremely fine filtration process, this olive oil is lighter in both color and fragrance, and has little olive-oil flavor. It's this rather nondescript flavor that makes "light" olive oil perfect for baking and cooking where regular olive oil's obvious essence might be undesirable. The filtration process for this light-style oil also gives it a higher smoke point than regular olive oil. Light olive oils can therefore be used for high-heat frying, whereas regular olive oil is better suited for low- to medium-heat cooking, as well as for many uncooked foods such as salad dressings and marinades.
The International Olive Oil Institute recommends using pure olive oil for frying, since the flavor of extra virgin olive oil tends to break down at frying temperatures, making the added expense a waste.
Olive oil should be stored in a cool, dark place for up to 6 months. It can be refrigerated, in which case it will last up to a year. Chilled olive oil becomes cloudy and too thick to pour. However it will clear and become liquid again when brought to room temperature.
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Now for some fun learning new ways to use olive oil:
You can still use your favorite recipes but simply use egg whites instead of whole eggs. Then all you need do is substitute a mild or "lite" olive oil for the animal fat or margarine called for. You will use one-half to one-fourth the amount of animal fat or margarine called for. You will need to experiment a little with your personal recipes here. This is where the use of olive oil can prove cost-effective. I have found my venders seldom offer the best price for olive oil. This is one item for which I head to the nearest "warehouse store" to buy. I find I can buy very good quality olive oil at Costco, for example. For my specialty olive oils, I now buy mine through the Sciabica's Web Site.
The cookbook I bought from Nick Sciabica is wonderful! It is full of very "old" family recipes. It is called "Cooking with California Olive Oil, Treasured Family Recipes". It is available on their web site (link at end of article). With their permission, I am going to share some handy hints from Gemma Sciabica and some easy baking ideas.
Handy hints with olive oil:
Saute frozen vegetables in olive oil until crisp tender, spoon over pasta ~ sprinkle with Romano cheese.
Drizzle a little olive oil on toast.
Baked Potato: Cut in half lengthwise, drizzle with a rich flavored olive oil and sprinkle with Romano cheese and pepper.
To make a wonderful "Herb Brush", tie stem ends of several sprigs of rosemary, basil, sage, mint, or thyme together. Dip in bowl of olive oil & minced garlic. Brush over meats or vegetables while grilling.
Some samples of baking with olive oil are included below in the recipes section of this newsletter.
Well, I hope this has piqued your interest to try more ways to use olive oil.
You can find lots of interesting facts about olive oils and the varietals by checking out the Sciabica Web Site: http://www.sciabica.com