Oil for All of Your Needs
By Nancy Finch, Food Columnist
Sometimes I am truly startled at how various foods have
changed. As I gazed at about 50 kinds of olive oil in a specialty food
store, I was struck with the vast change in this latest “trendy”
explosion. It has probably been going on for some time and I just was not
I guess we first caught the trend when we were served
little bowls of very tasty olive oil with our dense, crusty bread in some
restaurants. I dipped and I liked — a lot. Much more interesting than the
The selection in the store with the wide variety of
colors, labels and bottle shapes and sizes was much like selecting a bottle
of wine. But why is one bottle $15 and another, bigger bottle, $5 or $6?
Time of harvest, the olive type, weather and the region
of origin contribute to the taste of olive oil and, like wine, to the price.
Some fine oils from Tuscany, Southern Italy or Catalonia in Spain have a
peppery finish. Some have a fruity flavor. These nuances affect the range of
prices for olive oil.
And why use olive oil — instead of corn, soy or
As for “why” olive oil, several characteristics
make it attractive for some uses over other oils. First, of course, is the
flavor. Dipping bread in corn oil would not be tasty. Also, olive oil,
authorities say, tends to make baked goods stay moist-textured longer.
Nutrition-wise, olive oil is high in monounsaturated fat — the “good
fat” that reduces LDL (the bad cholesterol) levels.
Interestingly, a few years ago, Colavita, an olive oil
producer, prepared a cookbook, Cooking with Olive Oil American Style. The
book assumed that many Americans are uncertain how to use olive oil and
whether it can be used in favorite recipes. The book’s recipes show how to
use olive oil in daily American cooking.
The tips include, if you are substituting olive oil for
butter or margarine, use less. A cup of butter or margarine would be
replaced with 3⁄4 cup of olive oil. As a guideline, olive oil can be
substituted for butter or margarine in all recipes except those where the
butter flavor is important, such as pound cake or Hollandaise sauce.
For frying or sautéing, olive oil works well. But at
high heat, olive oil loses its flavor. Thus sauté garlic or onion at a low
temperature to retain the olive oil taste.
Olive oil is an essential ingredient in some recipes
such as Caesar salad. This treatment of Caesar salad — especially the
croutons — is a delicious combination. Fresh green beans become much more
distinctive when seasoned with olive oil. This is a nifty method of cooking
Green Beans with Lemon Zest and Parsley
make croutons: Heat a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Mince garlic cloves.
Combine garlic and oil. Toss bread with one half of the garlic and oil (2
T). Add salt. Add the bread cubes to the skillet. Toast, turning the cubes
often until crisp and golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Cool while breaking
lettuce into pieces. Dressing: Whisk lemon juice, mayonnaise, Worcestershire
sauce, and the remaining garlic and oil. Place Romaine in a large bowl,
drizzle with the 5 tablespoons of olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Drizzle lemon mixture. Add Parmesan cheese and toss. Add croutons and toss
again. Sprinkle top with additional Parmesan. Makes 6 servings.
Not in the
fridge! But in a cool, dark place, will keep for at least two years.
grade. Best for bread, salads, on vegetables for robust olive oil flavor.
A blended oil
product made of lower quality virgin oil. Sometimes called “pure” olive
oil. An all-purpose oil, can be used for frying, baking, basting. Has a mild
or Mild Olive Oil
Less flavor but
good for baking as an alternative to butter or margarine. The best for high
heat cooking, remains stable and won’t burn. (May be harder to find.)