Olive oil is a key ingredient in the Mediterranean diet which is considered to be one of the main reason for the low incidence of cardiovascular disease in Mediterranean countries.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil is incredibly versatile when used in cooking and can be used across a range of cooking techniques. Whilst the use of olive oils is often associated with cold dishes such as salads and starters, its high smoke point also allows it to be used at relatively high temperatures.
Olive oil can enhance the flavour of almost anything you eat. It balances the acidity in high-acid foods, such as tomatoes, vinegar and wine. Because of their purity and freshness, Extra Virgin olive oils introduce quality flavour and have a very distinct aroma which can play an essential role in your cuisine. Here is a guide to its use across a range of cooking techniques.
FRYING WITH OLIVE OIL
There are lots of myths surrounding the use of olive oil in cooking. The biggest of these is that you cannot fry with olive oil. This is of course not true as olive oil has a higher smoke point (the temperature at which oil smokes when heated) than most other oils.
Any oil is ruined when it reaches its smoke point (this is easy to recognise as the point at which the oil starts to smell unpleasant and becomes burnt). Olive oil has a low heat capacity and needs little energy to reach a high temperature, therefore you should take special care if heating oil on its own before adding other ingredients. Depending on the variety and composition of the oil, the smoke point of extra virgin oil is between 185° and 204° C, the lower limit of this range is generally considered the maximum recommended frying temperature. The only exception is with unfiltered olive oils as they contain solid particles which burn and turn bitter at lower temperatures, making them unsuitable for frying.
Although olive oils do stand up to heat remarkably well, they do lose flavour as they're heated so it is best to test to see if your particular oil retains flavour after frying. Olive oil combines well with a wide range of ingredients and should contribute to the overall flavour and experience of the dish.
It is not recommended to fry with oils which are exceptionally aromatic as they are likely to lose too much of their aroma and flavour during cooking. Instead, try a less pronounced oil which will retain its qualities throughout this process.
USING COLD OIL IN COLD DISHES
The aromatic extra virgin olive oil is perfect for cold cuisine and you can do more than simply drizzle it over a salad or mix it into a salad dressing. It is ideal for preparing cold Spanish soups (gazpacho, ajoblanco, salmorejo ), creating delicious cold sauces and dips (mayonnaise, aioli) or on a simple appetiser. In fact, most of the Michelin star-rated restaurants in Spain serve extra virgin olive oil with freshly baked bread as a starter.
COLD OIL ON COOKED DISHES
This is a brilliant way to add a whole new and unexpected taste dimension to many dishes. Try adding a drop of olive oil to a cooked recipe just before serving. The hot food will gently warm the oil, releasing a burst of aromatic flavour. This not only compliments the sensory impression before eating but delivers an additional taste-aromatic experience during consumption.
This technique is often used with Grilled fish or seafood, but surprising results can also be achieved by using cold oil on a range of cooked dishes. Olive oil makes a delicious substitute for butter in mashed or baked potatoes and can be drizzled over cooked pasta, roasted vegetables and even grilled meats to elevate the taste.
COOKING WITH OLIVE OIL
In Spain, olive oil is practically the only oil used for cooking, frying and baking and it has been like this since the ancient Romans. Olive oil can be used almost universally because it is healthy, has a high smoke point and when cooked has a gentle flavour which goes well with most of the world cuisines. Olive oil is the primary option for northern African, Mediterranean European and middle eastern cuisine. Use it with lemon and fresh herbs for marinades, use it as a base for meat and vegetable stews, drizzle olive oil over meat or fish before roasting, for roasted potatoes with garlic and parsley, roast peppers, tomatoes, aubergines, prepare the famous gambas pil pil in an olive oil bath, try the delicate bacalao al pil pil with an olive oil emulsion.
In Mediterranean cuisine, olive oil is considered a liquid gold and there is always a surprising abundance of it in most of the dishes. Because of its health benefits do not be afraid to use a lot of it as the Spaniards do.
BAKING WITH OLIVE OIL
People don't always think of using olive oil when baking but it's a great way to get more monounsaturated fat and polyphenolic compounds into your diet. Because of the filtration process used, olive oil can withstand high-heat cooking methods and are great in baking, especially savoury breads and sweets such as cakes, cookies, and other desserts. Olive oil is the primary fat used in most of the traditional baked sweets in Spain.
Substituting olive oil for butter dramatically reduces the amount of saturated fat in your baked goods. And of course, olive oil does not contain any of butter's cholesterol.