We all have our go-to favorite meals for a quick dinner or a simple way to entertain guests, and mine certainly includes olive oil. An arrangement of antipasto with oil for dipping is a simple, beautiful, and delicious way to end a hot summer day or feed guests without turning on the oven or stove. My husband and I (but especially my husband!) love to try new olive oils, so creating a simple meal with fresh foods and different olive oil varieties is something we do regularly. Besides being good for the soul, olive oil has the added benefit of being good for your health. Extra virgin olive oil has more monounsaturated fatty acids than other oils and also contains more polyphenols, which may have benefits for your heart.
Choosing an olive oil from the many varieties at the store can be a little overwhelming. What’s the difference between virgin and extra virgin? Do you want cold press or first press, and what about light olive oil? Generally speaking, extra virgin olive oil is the highest quality oil, made from olives that have been pressed to extract the oil without using any chemical means. Cold press indicates the oils have been extracted without any added heat, and first press is a rather meaningless term because olives are only pressed once. Virgin olive oil is produced the same way as extra virgin, but with a slightly higher acid content. For dressings and dipping, extra virgin olive oil is the way to go. Light olive oil is lighter in color with little flavor, making it a better choice for cooking. You don’t necessarily need to buy the most expensive olive oil to enjoy the best quality, but you do typically get what you pay for. I’d suggest choosing a light, less expensive oil for cooking and a higher quality extra virgin olive oil for everything else. When stored properly, away from light and heat, a bottle of olive oil will keep for about a year, so go ahead and splurge on a decent bottle!
If the thought of choosing a good olive oil is still intimidating, try looking for a shop that offers olive oil tastings. One I keep hearing so much about and can’t wait to visit myself is Olivette in Darien, Connecticut. Olivette carries over 20 varieties of high quality olive oils which are all available for tasting. When you find the perfect olive oil for your needs, it is bottled for you right there in the store. Olivette also has everything you need to complement your olive oil, such as fine balsamic vinegars, breads, olives, and other treats such as preserves, honey, and sea salts. It’s the perfect way to experience different oils and choose the right variety for your tastes without committing to an entire bottle up front.
Do you have a favorite olive oil or a preferred way to use it?