Discovering Olive Oil

Olive oil is one of the main ingredients of the Mediterranean diet.  It’s often described as “liquid gold” not only for its taste but also for its health and beauty benefits. Here are a few tips on how to choose and preserve your olive oils.

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  1. Good quality olive oil is generally made from olives that are pressed within hours after picking. The oil can then be stored for up to 2 years and then bottled and used within 6 months to a year. If you are buying a high-end olive oil from a speciality store, you should be able to find out the date the oil was pressed or bottled.
  2. When choosing a non-flavored olive oil, be sure it says “extra-virgin olive oil” on the label.  Extra-virgin olive oils carry an incredible amount of antioxidants and vitamins that contribute to longevity and living a healthier lifestyle.  A label that says “light olive oil” is olive oil that has been chemically altered or heated to modify the flavor and therefore doesn’t have all of the good qualities of an extra-virgin olive oil.
  3. Pay close attention to how the oil is stored.  Is the olive oil packaged in a clear bottle that can cause the oil to be damaged by the sunlight or in a dark bottle or tin that protects the oil from sunlight?
  4. Once you’ve chosen an extra-virgin or flavored olive oil you should store it in a cool and/or dark place in your kitchen.  Sun, air and heat will cause your olive oil to begin deteriorating.
  5. Try to use you more delicate oils with delicate dishes.  For example, a lightly flavored Arbosana extra-virgin olive oil from Chile may be used on tender lettuces or sweet peas.  A much stronger extra-virgin olive oil, such as an Hojiblanca from Spain, may be used in a Caesar salad or for adding to a pasta dish with a Pecorino-Romano cheese.
  6. Have fun experimenting with flavored oils.  Don’t limit yourself to salads.  Create your own recipes by cooking, baking and drizzling your olive oils in all your dishes.  Try a Meyer Lemon or a Blood Orange olive oil on your roasted chicken, or a Chipotle flavored olive oil on your baked potatoes or a Truffle olive oil in your mushroom risotto.

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Understanding how to choose and use extra-virgin olive oils and flavored olive oils will give you wisdom in the kitchen to create and enjoy your dishes while providing your body with the health benefits of anti-oxidants and vitamins every tablespoon you use.  There are so many varieties to choose from and the possibilities are endless.

Mercedes Wall is an owner and partner of  the Carter & Cavero Old World Olive Oil Company, which specializes in award-winning extra-virgin olive oils, specialty and infused olive oils, aged balsamic vinegars, gourmet foods, olive wood tableware, imported ceramics and olive oil based cosmetics. For more information visit www.carterandcavero.com.

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