By Anna Wallner and Kristina Matisic,
Olive oil isn’t a no-brainer.
Flavors change a great deal from one region to the next, with Spain being the world’s largest producer, which makes a big difference in the way your dishes taste. Keep the following shopping tips in mind when in a store, and you’ll have your guests coming back for more of your fabulous cooking:
- A bottle labeled “extra virgin” means the oil has been made from the first cold pressing of the olives and has less than 1 percent acidity. It is the most labor-intensive to produce and considered to be the best. As a result, it’s usually the most expensive. Save extra-virgin oil for raw dishes, like salads, or drizzled over meats and vegetables after cooking, where you’ll really be able to appreciate the flavor.
- “Light” olive oil is a good choice for cooking and baking because it has a higher smoking point than regular olive oil and can, therefore, be used for frying. But the “light” refers only to color, fragrance and taste. It has the same amount of fat and calories as regular olive oil.
- Color is an indicator of the type of olives used and the flavor. It is not an indicator of quality.
- Italian olives have a deep, robust flavor and color with a peppery finish and are intended to stand up well when drizzled over tomatoes, meat and pasta dishes. Spanish olives tend to be more subtle with a buttery finish, which makes them great for sauces. California olive oils have a green-grass flavor with a mild finish, handy for sautéing.
- Olive oil’s natural enemies are air, light, heat and age. So keep olive oil in a cool, dark place. Don’t store it above the stove. Remember that olive oil should be consumed within 12 to 18 months of purchase, and within 3 months of opening. Eat up!
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