Archive for the ‘Appreciating Olive Oil’ Category

Infusing Olive Oil

Infusing involves mixing items, such as herbs or fresh fruit zest, with the olive oil to make salad dressing or a dip for bread.

“I have a love affair with olive oil,” Annette Joseph says, “so I get creative with it.” The infusing involves mixing herbs, peppercorn, fresh fruit zest and olives with olive oil. “I love all the different combinations one can put together. I like to cook with infused olive oil. It’s a really quick, easy salad dressing. It’s also wonderful as a dip for bread, and a great gift. It’s olive oil — so it’s healthy.”

To begin infusing olive oil — like Annette — you will need a bottle with a cork, a skewer or some long, slender implement, a potato peeler, a funnel, fresh lemon, oregano, rosemary and peppercorns. Start with a zest of lemon.

“The zest gives the oil a beautiful but subtle flavor,” Annette says. “A lot of people think olive oil has a very distinctive taste but you can definitely enhance that flavor by infusing.”

Annette uses a wooden skewer to poke the zest down through the neck of the bottle. Pushing the peel down into the bottle will coat the inside and add additional lemon flavor as you pour the oil.

Into a mortar, place a generous handful of peppercorn, some fresh oregano and a sprig of rosemary. Using the pestle gently pound the mixture, giving it a nice bruising. The oregano and rosemary add flavor and scent as well as create visual texture within the bottle. Place the bruised rosemary into the bottle, followed by the oregano. Using a funnel, pour in the peppercorns followed by the olive oil.

“The olive oil is not cooked,” Annette reminds, “so it must sit with the mixture for it to properly infuse. It’s fine to use it immediately if you want to, but it will taste so much better if you give it two weeks to properly infuse.”

As for the shelf life of the infused oil, Annette says that depends on what type of ingredients you place in the bottle.

“It’s good for about six months, although I’ve had some infused oils for over a year. If you use fresh fruit in the bottle, like kumquats or olives, after a while the mixture may get a little cloudy. It’s still okay to use because the olive oil preserves the items that you’ve put into the bottle. It just won’t look as pretty.”
Annette is always on the prowl for unusual bottles for her olive oil. As an added touch, she will seal the cork on her newly infused oil by dripping wax from a scented candle to seal the bottle.

Infusing olive oil is a simple process that anyone can do — and it’s fun.


Sweet Role for Olive Oil

Posted on January 10 2011

By Laura Rose
Olive Oil Times Contributor | Reporting from Milan

Not so long ago, olive oil was an exotic ingredient in New World kitchens, little understood and sparingly used for occasional forays into Italian dinner courses, but all of that has changed rapidly as olive oil has been recognized for its health benefits and its virtuoso qualities. And while top quality extra virgin is now essential in any decent restaurant, perhaps the full embrace of olive oil is most poignantly revealed in its surprise role: as dessert. In this respect, it is not merely a supporting actor either. The subtle complexity of EVOO, with fruity and nutty hints, has become the star of gourmet desserts, defining a new trend in sweet finishes.

Olive oil has always played a part in desserts in the places where you might expect – in Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Greece, where olive oil is part of the culture and a kitchen fundamental. For the French and American palates, however, desserts usually involved a lot of butter. Now with the growing taste for high quality, fresh extra virgin olive oil, it’s maybe not such a surprise that top chefs have embraced the flavor as a central and surprising dessert ingredient. With an overall trend towards salty sweet desserts like salted caramel, olive oil’s slide into dessert territory seems almost obvious.

At New York’s famed Hearth restaurant, renowned for its exuberant twists on traditional, robust cooking, the olive oil and orange zest cake that helped spark the trend has become its signature dish. Pastry chef Safia Osman uses EVOO for its particularly fruity notes, and serves it with seasonal fruit compote to
keep things current with this consistent favorite.

From star-chef Mario Batali’s olive oil gelato at his acclaimed New York restaurant Babbo, to the Catalan olive oil sponge cake served with olive oil ice cream and topped with an olive oil sablée for good measure at the elegant Huntington Hotel in Los Angeles, the flavor is taking over as the signature confectionary ingredient of the era. Even Paris’s current cooking sensation – the young chef from Chicago, Daniel Rose, is bringing the American trend to his adopted city, ending his meals at the beloved Spring restaurant (for which there is currently a six-month waiting list) with olive oil ice cream.

Often these epicurean delights are prepared with other ingredients borrowed from the savory cabinet. Rosemary, thyme, and basil combine as beautifully with olive oil in ice creams, cakes, and chocolate dishes as they do in more familiar fare, but in the world of desserts the result is refreshingly new. Clearly, this is olive oil’s moment in the sweet sun.


Tasting Olive Oil

By Katherine Reseburg

Olive oil tasting is a sensory experience similar to wine tasting. The two often go hand in hand at the dinner table, so the next time you’re cooking up a feast, don’t forget to select an olive oil that is complimentary to your choice in cuisine as well as a bottle of vino.

Not sure how to taste olive oil? The process is quite simple to learn, and pleasurable to master. Each olive oil has its own unique character, which varies according to numerous factors, including the varietal, or type of olives used, where the olives are grown, their ripeness when harvested, the type of climate and soil in which they grew, and the handling and care of the fruit from their growth as young olives to their storage in the form of an oil.

First, you should pour about 1 tablespoon into a small wine glass. Place one hand over the top of the glass while holding it at the stem with your other. Gently swirl the glass to release the oil’s complex aroma. Notice the color of the oil – is it a lighter, yellowish green color, or a deeper mossy color? Olive oils vary in color and quality oils will not be too light, or clear.

Next, you will sniff the oil. Lift the rim of the glass under your nose and take short, deep sniffs. Is the smell mild or very aromatic? You want to detect the fruitiness of the oil. It may smell like freshly cut grass, olive fruit, vegetables, herbs, nuts, flowers – there is quite a range of aromas to pick up on both when you sniff and swallow the oil (see our Glossary of Tasting Terms for more info).

When you smell and taste the oil, you should also pay attention to pick up any flavor defects. Defects can be caused by bruised fruit, freezing, improper handling, or a number of other factors. An alcoholic smell indicates that the oil is rancid, and should be discarded.

Finally, it’s time to taste! You will “slurp” the oil by sipping a small amount and allow some air in as you sip. You might make a bit of noise – properly sipping olive oil requires that you make slurping noises because it emulsifies the oil in your mouth and allows you to taste every little nuance.

The oil’s flavor should erupt out of your throat, and the taste will linger in your mouth, releasing all sorts of flavor profiles. Bitterness is a positive attribute – it is indicative of olive oil’s healthy wonders, polyphenols. High-quality olive oil should have a pungent taste.

No two olive oils are created equal. Tasting allows you to discover which oils you like best, and which ones you prefer in your favorite recipes, or with your favorite bread or vegetables. Salute!


Glossary of Olive Oil Tasting Terms

International Olive Oil Council | Sensory Assessment Tasting Terms

Positive Attributes or Defects in EVOO
Almond - nutty
Artichoke - A flavor which reminds one of artichoke.
Astringent – A puckering sensation in the mouth created by tannins
Bitter – Characteristic of oil obtained from unripe (green) olives, this is perceived on the back of the tongue. Note that bitterness is an important part of an oil’s balance of flavors.
Fresh - Good aroma, fruity, not oxidized
Fruity - Set of olfactory sensations characteristic of good (unspoiled) fresh olive fruit, either ripe or unripe. This attribute is perceived by smell, either directly or retro-nasally.
Grass – The taste of grass – seen often in green olives or those crushed with leaves and twigs
Green – A young, fresh, fruity oil. Often mixed with bitter.
Spicy – Bitter cough sensation at the back of the throat.
Green leaf – A sensation obtained when in the press a small quantity of fresh olive leaves are added. This is a trick which is done to approximate the genuine green taste of green olives
Harmonious – All the qualities of the oil blend and work well with each other
Hay – Dried grass flavor
Melon – Perfumy (ethyl acetate)
Musky, nutty, woody – Trace characteristics which are very pleasing when not overpowering.
Pungent - Peppery sensation perceived at back of the throat that is indicative of the oil’s freshness. Also a characteristic of pressing unripe olives.
Rotund – Is said of an oil with a pasty body to it which fills and satisfies without aromatic character – always from mature olives.
Soave – Mature olives can produce this characteristic.
Sweet - The opposite to bitter, stringent or pungent. Found in mellow oils.
Negative Attributes or Defects in EVOO
Unfortunately many things can go wrong when producing olive oil, and some defects are only detected through sensory (organoleptic) assessment. The most common defects are:

Fusty- Characteristic obtained from olives that were stored in piles prior to pressing, which causes an advanced stage of anaerobic (without oxygen) fermentation.
Musty – Moldy flavor in oils obtained when a large quantity of the olive fruit has developed fungi and yeast as a result of its being stored in humid conditions for several days. This defect is detected retro-nasally (through the back of the nostrils after swallowing).
Winey-Vinegary – Flavor that is reminiscent of wine or vinegar. This defect occurs due to aerobic (using oxygen) fermentation in olives which leads to the formation of acetic acid, ethylacetate and ethanol.
Muddy Sediment – Characteristic of oil that has been left in contact with sediment in tanks and vats. This defect occurs from storage conditions after the oil is pressed.
Metallic - Flavor that is reminiscent of metals. This occurs when the oil has been in prolonged contact with metallic surfaces during crushing. Nowadays it is unusual to find this defect because modern presses are made from stainless steel and do not react with the olives.
Rancid – Flavor in oils which have undergone oxidation. This is the most common defect; it can occur either before or after bottling and if a bottle, either opened or unopened, has been exposed to light and heat.

Other Defects, Which Are Less Common:
Heated or burnt – Occurs when oil is exposed to excessive and/or prolonged heat during processing.
Hay-wood – Flavor of oil produced from olives that have dried out.
Greasy – Flavor reminiscent of diesel oil, mineral oil, or mechanical grease.
Vegetable water – Flavor acquired by prolonged contact with the vegetable water that is a by-product of pressing olives.
Brine –Obtained from olives that were brined (such as table olives) before pressing.
Esparto – Flavor obtained from using new mats made from esparto (a type of grass) when pressing olives.
Earthy – Flavor obtained from olives with dirt or mud on them that have not been washed prior to pressing.
Grubby – Flavor obtained from olives that have been attacked by the olive fly, which causes disintegration of the olives before they are harvested.
Frozen – Flavor obtained from olives that experienced heavy frost or prolonged cold temperatures before being harvested and pressed.


How to Store Olive Oil

Because of olive oil’s high monounsaturated fat content, it can be stored longer than most other oils — as long as it’s stored properly. Oils are fragile and need to be treated gently to preserve their healthful properties and to keep them from becoming a health hazard full of free radicals.

When choosing your storage location, remember that heat, air, and light are the enemies of oil. These elements help create free radicals, which eventually lead to excessive oxidation and rancidity in the oil that will leave a bad taste in your mouth. Even worse, oxidation and free radicals contribute to heart disease and cancer. Try keeping small amounts of olive oil at room temperature for easy use,
and the rest in the refrigerator.

Rancidity can set in long before you can taste it or smell it. Rotten oils harm cells and use up precious antioxidants. Even though rancid oil doesn’t pose a food-safety type of health risk, the less you consume, the better.

The best storage containers for olive oil are made of either tinted glass (to keep out light) or a nonreactive metal, such as stainless steel. Avoid metal containers made of iron or copper because the chemical reactions between the olive oil and those metals create toxic compounds. Avoid most plastic, too; oil can absorb noxious substances such as polyvinyl chlorides (PVCs) out of the plastic. Containers also need a tight cap or lid to keep out unwanted air.

Keep It Cool
Temperature is also important in preventing degradation of olive oil. Experts recommend storing the oil at 57 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature of a wine cellar. Aren’t lucky enough to have a wine cellar? A room temperature of about 70 degrees Fahrenheit will be fine. If your kitchen is routinely warmer than that, you can refrigerate the oil.

In fact, refrigeration is best for long-term storage of all olive oils except premium extra-virgin ones. Consider keeping small amounts of olive oil in a sealed container at room temperature — perhaps in a small, capped porcelain jug that keeps out air and light. This way, your olive oil is instantly ready to use. Keep the rest in the refrigerator, but remember that refrigerated olive oil will solidify and turn cloudy, making it difficult to use. Returning it to room temperature restores its fluidity and color.

Freezing Olive Oil
If you need to store your oil for a long period of time, stick it in the freezer. Believe it or not, olive oil freezes well, retaining its health properties and flavor. However, its complex mixture of oils and waxes prevent it from freezing at exactly 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Folk wisdom says you can tell the quality of an olive oil from the temperature at which it freezes, but this is not true.

Another option is to store olive oil in a wide-mouth glass jar in the refrigerator. Even though it solidifies, you can easily spoon out any amount you need. A clear jar is fine because it’s dark inside the refrigerator most of the time.

If you don’t want to refrigerate your olive oil, keep it in a dark, cool cupboard away from the stove or other heat-producing appliances. Olive oil connoisseurs recommend storing premium extra-virgin olive oils at room temperature. If refrigerated, condensation could develop and adversely affect their flavor. Refrigeration does not affect the quality or flavor of other olive oils.

Olive oil will keep well if stored in a sealed container in a cool, dark cupboard for about one year. If unopened, the oil may keep for as long as two years.

Older Isn’t Better
Unlike wine, oil does not improve with age. As olive oil gets older, it gradually breaks down, more free oleic acid is formed, the acidity level rises, and flavor weakens. Extra-virgin oils keep better because they have a low acidity level to start with, but you should use lower-quality oils within months because they start out with higher acidity levels. As oil sits on your shelf, its acidity level rises daily, and soon it is not palatable.

You’ll get the best quality and flavor from your olive oil if you use it within a year of pressing. Olive oil remains at its peak for about two or three months after pressing, but unfortunately, few labels carry bottling dates or “use by” dates, let alone pressing dates.

More is at issue than flavor, however. Research shows the nutrients in olive oil degrade over time.

In a study that appeared in the May 2004 issue of the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, Spanish researchers tested virgin olive oil that had been stored for 12 months under perfect conditions.

What they found was quite surprising: After 12 months, many of the oil’s prime healing substances had practically vanished. All the vitamin E was gone, as much as 30 percent of the chlorophyll had deteriorated, and 40 percent of the beta-carotene had disintegrated. Phenol levels had dropped dramatically, too.
Instead of stashing your olive oil in the cabinet, why not unleash its flavor on your favorite foods?

Bright Lights and Olive Oil
Light destroys oils, and unfortunately, many olive oils are sold in clear glass containers. Most grocery stores have bright lights that beat down on shelves throughout the day, and oils sold in stores that are open 24 hours never get a reprieve from the light. In a busy store, oils sell quickly and are not subjected to all that light for very long, but that might not be the case in stores that don’t get much traffic or don’t rotate their stock very often.

Avoid choosing bottles covered in dust (that’s a sure sign they’ve been on the shelf for quite a while). Bottles on the top shelf or in the front of a display are also subjected to more of the damaging rays. When shopping, grab a bottle from the back of the display, where direct light doesn’t reach. Some olive oil producers use green or brown bottles to keep out the light; these are the wisest choice.


Olive Facts, Selection & Storage

About Olives
Olives are the fruit of a tree native to the Mediterranean area. They must be cured before consumption and cannot be eaten raw. Olives are eaten as a finger food as well as in recipes. Olives are pressed to extract healthy olive oil.

Common and Other Names
olive, olivea, oleaster

Olive Availability
Many markets and ethnic specialty stores have deli departments with a variety of brined olives available in small and large amounts. Olives are also readily available canned and jarred. If you have an olive tree, you can try brining your own.

Olive Selection
Select olives based on your own personal tastes or the recommendation of your specific recipe. When selecting bulk olives, avoid any that are soft and mushy.

Olive Varieties and Forms
Olives are available in many forms: oil-cured, water-cured, brine-cured, dry-cured, lye-cured, pitted, unpitted, stuffed, and unstuffed. The most popular black and green olive varieties are: manzanilla, picholine, kalamata, nicoise, liguria, ponentine, gaeta, lugano, sevillano.

Olive Storage
Unopened cans and jars should be stored in a cool, dry place up to one year. Once opened, canned olives should be removed from the can to a glass container and covered in the canning brine. Refrigerate and use within two weeks. Bulk olives in oil should be stored in the refrigerator, where they will last for up to two months. Discard any that become soft.

Miscellaneous Olive Information
The only difference between green olives and black olives is ripeness. Unripe olives are green and fully ripe olives are black. Olives must be cured before eating. Fresh olives from the tree are unbearably bitter and inedible.

Junk Potato Chips, Eat Black Olives Instead
It’s a misconception that olives are fattening. If you have a serving of 25gm a day, you can benefit from the cholesterol-lowering and cancer-preventing qualities of oleic acid. But black olives are healthier than the green ones because they contain less salt, more iron and fewer calories, writes Raquel Castello of Spain Gourmetour.

Table olives are not only good to eat but also have excellent nutritional qualities. The oil they contain is mostly made up of unsaturated fatty acids, especially oleic acid, which, like olive oil, helps prevent cardiovascular diseases. They are also very easy to digest because of their fiber content and contain a good proportion of minerals such as calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and iodine.

Olives are widely believed to be fattening; however, 100gm of green olives have 154 kcal and the same amount of black olives has 143, compared with 564 kcal from 100gm of potato chips or 557 kcal from 100gm of fried corn kernels, according to a study carried out in 2006 by the Fat Institute in the Spanish town of Sevilla.

Dr Carmen Gomez, President of the Spanish Association of Basic and Applied Nutrition, says, “Black olives contain less salt, more iron and fewer calories – about 25 kilocalories per serving, compared with 40 in green olives And not all green olives are the same. Generally speaking, Manzanilla contain more salt and more vitamin E, and Hojiblanca more fibre.”

Dr. Gomez recommends about 25gm of olives a day. “The amount can be decreased for overweight people or for those with high blood pressure, or increased for people needing a higher energy and mineral intake, such as athletes,” she says.

These nutritional aspects are perhaps not very well-known, but the same cannot be said about the gastronomic qualities of olives. In Spain they are the standard ingredients in tapas, whether served alone or in combination. A Gilda, named after the eponymous heroine of the North American movie, is a famous appetiser comprising an olive, an anchovy and a chili pepper on a stick, excellent at any time of the day. Plenty of other tapas include olives – from Russian potato or tomato salad to anchovies in vinegar to canapés. And where would the classic Martini be without the addition of an olive?

Olives have become something of a cultural emblem and appear in many traditional Spanish dishes – in Andalusian fish and meat stews, salads, with eggs, in the Catalonian and Majorcan cocas or flat cakes, in gazpacho, in stuffings and in certain cold cuts, such as Italian bologna. But Mediterranean cuisine in general also offers many dishes in which olives are essential, such as French tapenade (a paste made from black olives, anchovies and capers), Greek salad (in which the two definitive ingredients are feta cheese and olives), and pizza and pasta in Italy. In Turkey and the Middle East, too, olives are irreplaceable.

They may be used as an accompaniment to dress up a dish, from starters to desserts, or to provide a contrast with their bitter, acid, sweet or salty notes. Many contemporary cooks have focused on olives in their creations. A good example is Ferran Adria, widely acknowledged as the world’s most inventive chef. In his 2005 menu, he offered the “spherification of olives.”

These looked like olives but burst in the mouth to reveal their true nature, releasing a pure, delicate, delicious olive juice – the result of culinary technology working magic with Spanish olives.

Like him, many other chefs, including Dani Garcia, have given added dignity to the table olive, featuring it in ice-cream, sorbet, jam cream and chips, bringing out its flavour and personality (Source: Spain Gourmetour, May-August 2007. Go to )

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