Fall marks the annual olive harvest in Spain, the world’s leading producer of olive oil. Though a secret to many, Olive Oil from Spain has long been the favorite choice of leading chefs and culinary experts around the world.
Karen MacNeil, one of the nation’s most sophisticated palates and noted food and wine pairing expert, believes that using Olive Oil from Spain is an affordable way to elevate the flavor of everyday meals. And, it is an easy way to bring a top secret of professional chefs to your dinner table.
“Olive Oil from Spain provides versatile flavors ranging from bold and spicy to subtle and rich, making it a great addition any cook’s kitchen – whether a five-star chef or a foodie at home,” said MacNeil, author of The Wine Bible, and host of the PBS show, “Wine, Food & Friends.”
Incorporating Olive Oil from Spain into your menu
Ready to try Spain’s best kept secret? Karen MacNeil has created a variety of delicious dishes that are easy to prepare and sure to impress family and friends. Baked Rice with Butternut Squash, Spanish Jamon and Two Cheeses is a delicious rice dish inspired by both paella and risotto, but it’s easier and faster to prepare. Chicken Thighs with Black Olives and Red Peppers is a Mediterranean-inspired dish where extra virgin olive oil acts as a flavorful bridge between rich dark chicken meat and the bold flavors of black olives, red peppers, leeks and herbs. (Recipes follow.)
The world’s leading producer of Olive Oil
Similar to wine varietals, defining factors of the land such as climate, soil and altitude, provide Spain’s olives with a variety of unique tastes – smooth, vibrant and bold. All these factors greatly enhance each oil’s taste. From the northern valleys of Catalonia to the southern region of Andalucia, Spain’s olive oils offer flavors that distinguish them from any other in the world. With more than 300 million olive trees growing in a territory the size of Massachusetts, Spain is the leading producer of olives, and the world’s leading producer of olive oil. The country generates on average one million tons of olive oil annually – enough olive oil to fill approximately 400 Olympic-size swimming pools.
There are a number of brands of Olive Oil from Spain available. Some popular and affordable ones include: Carbonell, Goya, Pompeian and Star, which can be found at your local supermarket.
Discovering the delights of Olive Oil from Spain
Intrigued, but not sure where to begin? MacNeil recommends experimenting in order to discover what types of olive oil suit your taste. To demonstrate the range of Olive Oils from Spain available, she put together some simple guidelines to help get you started:
• Extra Virgin Olive Oil: This olive oil is the finest and is of the highest quality. Producers press the olives immediately after they are picked from the tree. The oil is therefore referred to as the “first press.” Extra virgin olive oil has a natural low level of acidity. It is ideal for drizzling, salad dressings, marinades, sauces, stews and soups.
• Virgin Olive Oil: Also made from the first press, this oil shares extra virgin olive oil’s rich flavor, but has a slightly higher level of acidity. It is not mixed or refined, which conserves the flavor and vitamins of the fruit. This olive oil is best used for grilling, sautéing, drizzling, salad dressings, marinades, stews and soups.
• Olive Oil: A much milder oil that is better suited for cooking. Olive oil is developed by combining refined olive oil (oil that has been processed to extract undesirable characteristics) with virgin olive oils. It is best used for baking, frying, grilling and sautéing.
• Light Olive Oil: Provides the mildest olive taste. The color and flavor of this oil is far less intense than traditional olive oil. Therefore, it is best used for baking, frying, grilling and sautéing.
To make sure you’re stocking your pantry with quality oil made from Spain’s famous olives, MacNeil suggests looking for the “Olive Oil from Spain” label or checking the back of the bottle for the country of origin – to ensure that you’re getting quality oil made from the world’s most famous olives. She also suggests storing your Olive Oil from Spain in a cabinet or pantry away from heat and direct sunlight to maintain the best flavor.
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