In collaboration with our friends at Domenica Fiore
We often think of olive oil as a building block in cooking – a fundamental item, not the star of the show. We toss vegetables and meat with olive oil before roasting or grilling. It is the basis of most dressings and vinaigrettes. And almost every sauté recipe mentions two tablespoons at the beginning.
That’s all right, of course, but just using olive oil as a building block – and using just any olive oil – could be a missed opportunity. High-quality olive oils can have a wide variety of flavors, depending on the olive variety and growing region. They can be buttery, peppery, fruity, bitter, or grassy. And they can help balance and nuance your dishes when used in different ways.
There are several reasons why you may not be using high quality olive oils yet. One is that staring at the wall of a bottle in the grocery store can be difficult to find your way around. Another is that olive oil can be expensive because olives are a labor-intensive crop that must be grown, harvested, and processed. So some olive oils are more of an investment. To get the most out of each bottle, do a label check, store them wisely, and use recipes that will make the olive oil shine.
The first thing we are looking for is: extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). That means it is of higher quality and cold-pressed.
If possible, find a bottle with a harvest date and the specific names of the varieties of olives used to make the oil. When manufacturers share this information with consumers, it is usually a good sign (similar to how top coffee companies put a roast date on the bag).
Look for oil that is packaged in very dark glass, aluminum, or ideally stainless steel. These materials help block light from the oil, which helps preserve it.
CURRENTLY IN OUR KITCHEN
Domenica Fiore’s organic olive oils are something special. Not only are they delicious, but every part of the process – from harvest to packaging – is consciously designed to preserve the taste and health benefits of extra virgin olive oil.
The Reserva is a blend of olives grown on the Domenica Fiore estate in Umbria. It’s smooth with a long, peppery finish and we use it to dress salads or drizzle over grilled fish.
The Novello di Notte is one of the most innovative products we have come across. It’s an early harvested olive oil (“novello” means “new” in Italian) – historically a favorite of olive pickers, traditionally enjoyed with bread under the trees. The special thing about this oil is that it is harvested at night – hence the name Novello di Notte (“notte” means “night”). Since the early harvest season can be quite warm, Domenica Fiore harvests and presses the olives at night, protecting the product from light and heat at every step of the process, creating the purest and most potent Novella olive oil. It tastes light, grassy and almost herbaceous. It goes well with burrata, grilled steak, and honey ice cream.
Domenica Fiore Reserva Extra Vergine Bio
Olive Oil Goop, $ 48
Domenica Novello Fiore by Night Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, $ 74
WHERE TO STORE YOUR BOTTLES
When it comes to storage, olive oil has four enemies: light, heat, air and time. These elements negatively affect the taste of the oil, make it rancid faster and, over time, can lower the levels of some antioxidants in your oil.
If you receive olive oil that is bottled in very dark glass, aluminum or stainless steel, your oil should be protected from light. Even with the protective bottles on, however, it’s best to keep your olive oil bottle away from sunny parts of your kitchen, such as window sills. Many of us store olive oil right on the stove, which is convenient but detrimental to the oil itself. Protect the oil from the ambient heat emitted by your stove and oven by keeping it completely off your hob and storing it in a cool, dark place.
Air and time both play a role in oil spoilage. Olive oil shouldn’t age like wine – it should be used timely and liberally so don’t feel like you need to save it. Some manufacturers use high-tech bottling processes that can extend the life of your olive oil. Domenica Fiore uses nitrogen to seal its stainless steel bottles. This means that they can be kept for years unopened and in a cool place, and once opened they can be kept for eight to ten weeks.
APPLICATION OF OLIVE OIL
The taste of high-quality olive oil is best experienced in simple applications in which it can really shine. First, dip some crusty bread in it or sprinkle flaky sea salt over some old tomatoes. You will likely find that its taste is more pronounced than that of the everyday oils you’ve used to cook with before. It can be grassy and vegetable, peppery, fruity, even slightly bitter. The bitterness is usually a sign of polyphenols, which are some type of antioxidant (you may experience a similar feeling from the tannins in red wine, another source of polyphenols). While this is one of the most valuable health attributes of extra virgin olive oil, it can take a minute to get used to. Instead of fighting this bitterness, embrace it and use it to balance out rich foods like meat, cheese, and beans, or sweeter foods like fruits.
Our preferred way of using olive oil is to stop using it. “Finish” sounds like a chef term, but you probably finish your meal with one last drizzle, sprinkle or squeeze of something before you serve it: flaky sea salt, cracked black pepper or fresh citrus fruits, for example. And almost everything can be refined with olive oil. Try anything that’s grilled – the char and the grassy olive oil taste go so well together. Olive oil is a wonderful way to end soups, stews, beans and pasta. Even a little bit about something as simple as soft scrambled eggs can be instructive.
Also, it’s a common misconception that you shouldn’t cook with olive oil, but you definitely can, even the fancy things. It’s not the most straightforward way to taste the taste of an olive oil or its health benefits, but olive oil has a smoke point of 500 ° F so you can do some great cooking.
Creamy, greasy and rich, these dishes are beautifully balanced when flavored with a grassy and peppery extra virgin olive oil.
Extra virgin olive oil in a dessert: it’s light and fruity, and that slight bitterness cuts through the sweetness.