10 Things to Know About Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

The Olive Oil Consortia from Italy and Spain came to Providence to teach us about high-quality EVOO.

Olive Oil Consortium dinner at Sarto.

Last week we learned all about extra-virgin olive oil at a special dinner hosted by the Olive Oil Consortia, QVExtra! International of Spain and CEQ Italia of Italy. The dinner, held at Sarto, involved two special guest chefs, “Iron Chef America” judge Mario Rizzotti of Italy and Antonio Ortuno, a private chef and artist from Spain who lives in New York City. Experts from the Olive Oil Consortia shared tips and facts about extra-virgin olive oil while guests enjoyed a five-course meal that used the oils as major ingredients, from an octopus appetizer and pumpkin soup with prosciutto, to pasta and cod, and all the way through to dessert, a pistachio panna cotta with hazelnuts.

Here are 10 things we learned about extra-virgin olive oil at the dinner:

  1. What is extra-virgin olive oil? Extra-virgin olive oil is the oil that comes from first pressing of olives when the oil has less than 1 percent acid. The oil is extracted from olives using only pressure in a process known as cold pressing. The Olive Oil Consortia set the standard for acidity for high-quality EVOO at .4 percent.
  2. Olive oils, like wines, have different flavor profiles. They can taste different, depending on the varieties of olives that they are made with and the climate of the terroir where the olives are grown. Flavors might be bitter, grassy, fruity or nutty depending on tasting notes. The important thing is to choose quality olive oils from quality producers, who follow certain practices in production, extraction and storage.
  3. Don’t be afraid of what people tell you about olive oil. It’s a great product for everyday use from frying to desserts. Cooking does not drastically change the chemical compounds unless you are cooking with heat beyond its smoke point, and you will still retain the benefits of antioxidants, Vitamin A and Vitamin D.
  4. You can use olive oil every single day. Use it in cooking, for dressing and for frying.
  5. It’s a very delicate product. Extra-virgin olive oil ages and oxidizes very quickly from contact with oxygen, heat and light. To prevent oxidization, before serving, wipe the top of the bottle clean, where it pours from the neck of bottle. You can prevent rancidity if you clean the bottle before you serve it.
  6. Make sure extra-virgin olive oil is stored properly. It should be kept in dark green bottles, away from heat and light, to prevent it from oxidizing. Do not transfer to clear glass unless you use it right away. And do not store it next to your stove.
  7. Olive oil binds flavors together. Italian food is so simple, and you just need a few ingredients, including extra-virgin olive oil, for good flavor.
  8. When tasting olive oil, taste it in its pure form. Pour a tiny bit in a shot glass and sip it and suck it between your clenched teeth to experience the true grassy, sometimes spicy, flavor.
  9. Be sure to use a bottle of olive oil quickly. It’s not meant to age like a wine, so the sooner it is consumed, the better.
  10. Extra-virgin olive oil has a best buy date. Be sure to use it before that date. But if you go beyond it, the oil is still good, it just won’t have the same fresh flavor.

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