Food & Cooking

Why One Good EVOO in Your Kitchen Is Not Enough

Olive oils, like wines, should be chosen to produce the ideal combination with the foods you're preparing.

Oct. 1, 2018
By Lisa Radinovsky

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First, let us assume we need extra vir­gin olive oil. We need it for the unique accents it adds to our food and for its antiox­i­dant, anti-inflam­ma­tory, anti-can­cer, and car­dio­pro­tec­tive effects. But why do we need dif­fer­ent kinds of it in our kitchens, din­ing rooms, and restau­rants? We need them for vari­ety, opti­mal food pair­ings, and dis­tinct pur­poses.

In an ideal sit­u­a­tion, every­one should be able to sea­son the food on their plate with the oil that best fits their taste.- Gio­vanni Bianchi, Argali

There are lots of dif­fer­ent taste buds out there,” as Maria Guadagno Kat­se­tos of Loutraki Oil Com­pany empha­sizes, so we need lots of good, dif­fer­ent deli­cious olive oils to fit those needs. One olive oil is never enough.”

As William Cow­per wrote in his poem, The Task, Variety’s the very spice of life, That gives it all its fla­vor.” You may not think of extra vir­gin olive oil (EVOO) as a spice, and some of it is more fruity than spicy, but a good EVOO will cer­tainly add its own unique accent to just about every dish you eat. (Yes, that includes desserts.)
See more: The World’s Best Olive Oils

Ioanna Dami­anaki of Nature Blessed points out that it is good for every­one to know the olive oils of all the dif­fer­ent areas in Greece,” for exam­ple. Once we start sam­pling them, we will dis­cover a won­der­ful array of fla­vors even in this small coun­try, thanks to the numer­ous micro­cli­mates, olive vari­eties, har­vest times, and cul­ti­va­tion and pro­duc­tion meth­ods used. (It is much more than a ques­tion of the region.)

Greek extra vir­gin olive oils can range from quite mild and fruity to con­sid­er­ably spicier. Imag­ine, then, how much more vari­ety we can enjoy when we add olive oils from the rest of the world!

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Dif­fer­ent olive oils pair well with dif­fer­ent foods

We can think of olive oils as we think of wines, except that most of us do not drink our olive oil in a glass. Gio­vanni Bianchi of Argali advises that olive oils, like wines, should be cho­sen to pro­duce the ideal com­bi­na­tion with the food you want to con­sume.”

As Gior­gos Kar­it­si­o­tis of Kasell reminds us, each type of olive oil has a dif­fer­ent tast­ing pro­file which can be com­bined with dif­fer­ent types of food.” Panos Kloutsin­i­o­tis of Ladolea adds that the inten­sity of olive oils also varies, so our choice of olive oil should depend on the final taste that we want to give the dish.”

The North Amer­i­can Olive Oil Asso­ci­a­tion pro­vides a sum­mary of pop­u­lar pair­ings of del­i­cate, medium inten­sity, and robust extra vir­gin olive oils with cer­tain milder and more strongly fla­vored foods, with the inten­sity of the olive oil typ­i­cally match­ing the inten­sity of the dish. As a start­ing point, these are use­ful sug­ges­tions, and Olive Oil Times also offers a pair­ing app.

More­over, Bianchi sug­gests, the per­sonal taste of the con­sumer” can play a role in olive oil selec­tion. In an ideal sit­u­a­tion, every­one should be able to sea­son the food on their plate with the oil that best fits their taste (so not nec­es­sar­ily with the clas­sic com­bi­na­tions — del­i­cate oil for fish, etc.).” In other words, feel free to exper­i­ment with an assort­ment of EVOOs and make your own choices.

Dif­fer­ent olive oils are bet­ter for dif­fer­ent pur­poses

Emmanouil Karpadakis of Terra Creta explains that a good extra vir­gin is suit­able for most uses in the kitchen; how­ever, you may want a very good and fruity oil for the salad, while you have a sim­ple medium to low organolep­tic pro­file oil for cook­ing or fry­ing” — that is, an extra vir­gin olive oil with a milder fla­vor.

In addi­tion to organolep­tic char­ac­ter­is­tics, Nikos Sakel­laropou­los reminds us that some olive oils are organic or fla­vored, while oth­ers are not, and some offer more health ben­e­fits than oth­ers (although all EVOOs are very healthy). Hav­ing dif­fer­ent types of olive oil allows you to do more, and mainly use the right olive oil for each occa­sion.” Which one is right will depend on your pri­or­i­ties as well as your pref­er­ences: health ben­e­fits, organic prod­ucts, blend­ing fla­vors, or adding a bold fla­vor accent when stew­ing, sautéing, fry­ing, bak­ing, or fin­ish­ing dishes.

For exam­ple,” Sakel­laropou­los explains, only extra vir­gin olive oil of the high­est qual­ity should be used for fry­ing, due to its higher resis­tance to high-tem­per­a­ture degra­da­tion, com­pared to sun­flower seed oils and cheap olive oils.”

Finally,” con­cludes Sakel­laropou­los, fla­vored olive oils, when cooked, lose most of their aroma and fla­vor; thus they should be used in low-tem­per­a­ture cook­ing or as raw food ingre­di­ents.” Many also pre­fer to save the finest unfla­vored extra vir­gin olive oils for fin­ish­ing dishes, in order to fully appre­ci­ate their unique aro­mas and tastes.

So allow your­self a wide range of olive oil choices, as you allow your­self a vari­ety of drink options. Select sev­eral of your favorites, and exper­i­ment in your kitchen and at your table. The results may sur­prise you.


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