Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Extra virgin olive oil, whether it comes from California, Greece, Spain, Israel or Italy, is replete with protective qualities. A monounsaturated fat, it contains a range of antioxidants, including vitamin E. It’s also rich in polyphenols. Studies have shown that consumption of olive oil improves blood cholesterol levels. If you’re going to use extra virgin olive oil, be sure to buy oil that is marked cold pressed. This means that the oil is made from the first pressing of the olives – when the olives are still bursting with flavor – and that no heat has come in touch with the olives, which would start to degrade them.
Extra virgin olive oil can be purchased in a variety of colors, depending on where the olives were first harvested. In general, the deeper the color of the oil, the more intense the olive flavor. Some are peppery, some are extremely fruity, while others are olivey. It is wise to try different ones and then use the one that appeals to you. However, it`s important to understand some of the marketing that goes on behind the scenes. Some olive oil is currently being labelled `light`. This oil tends to come from the last pressing of the olives, has been mechanically processed and has the dubious distinction of having the least amount of flavor. So it might be `light` tasting, but actually has the same number of calories as a deeper flavored extra virgin olive oil.
Olive oil, due to its wonderful flavor and low smoking point, is best used in salads, in baked goods and in marinades. It`s not ideally suited for frying over high temperatures. Store your bottles of this elixir in a cool, dry dark place for up to 6 months. It`s best kept away from heat and direct light which can cause the oil to turn rancid. It can be refrigerated if preferred, but should be brought to room temperature before using.