Friday, March 10, 2023

Olive Oils

There are olive oils and then there are olive oils. The labels can be confusing enough. Olive oil, light olive oil, seasoned olive oil, extra virgin olive oil. Which to buy? Which to use? 

Firs of all, why use olive oil? All olive oil is high in monounsaturated fatty acids. When olive oil is substituted for saturated fats, like butter or coconut oil, those monounsaturated fats help lower your "bad" LDL cholesterol. Other health benefits are attributed to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. 

So why extra virgin? The answer lies in how different olive oils are made. Regular olive oil is manufactured using high heat, or sometimes chemical solvents. According to Howard LeWine, MD, of Harvard, these highly processed olive oils lose some of the antioxidants called phenols. He further says that "extra virgin olive oil is pressed mechanically from ripe olives and processed without high heat or chemical solvents. This protects chemicals in the oil called phenols ... experiments suggest that higher concentrations of phenols may provide extra antioxidant effects."

I always, always have extra virgin olive oil on hand. I have two current favorites. California Olive Ranch makes several extra virgin type oils all of which are delicious, and they are readily available at most grocery stores. My other favorite is the family blend EVOO from Napa Valley Olive Oil. Then have an online store, but if you have the opportunity, I recommend a visit to their store in St Helena in the heart of Napa Valley. 

You may notice I say "current" favorites? I try new olive oils all the time. Always EVOO (extra virgin olive oil). Others that I've liked in the past include Kirkland EVOO from Costco, and Trader Joe's EVOO. 

Sometimes I splurge and buy an extra nice bottle of olive oil to drizzle on top of foods. These are small bottles that I've been introduced to through an olive oil tasting. I find them when I travel, at the farmers market, when I go to small specialty markets, or even sometimes at wineries. They taste a lot like the olives they were made from and are best used in small quantities, not only because of their olive forward taste, but because of their expense! I never use them to cook with because heat burns off their delicate flavor. 

One final note on olive oils. While I do love them, you'll notice that many of the recipes in Stealth Cooking use just small amounts of oil, then add another less oily ingredient, perhaps a tasty stock, to make the cooking techniques healthier overall. While the oil from olives has many health benefits, there can be too much of a good thing! It's still important to use any oil in moderation, so you don't see depp frying, or a roux made with oil in my recipes. 

Happy olive oil shopping!

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