Questions and Answers About Olive Oil with Theo Stephan
1. How do olives fit into the Caliterrean way of eating?
a. Caliterrean Living is about eating local, in season, and knowing where your food comes from. If you can't pronounce it, don't eat it! Olive oil helps with that mind and body connection.
2. How is olive oil like wine?
a. The pollination for wine grapes is the same for olives. Just as terroir, or the environment of the area in which the fruit grows, climate, soil composition, sunlight exposure, drainage, elevation, etc…, affects wine grapes, so do they affect olives.
b. Just like wine, olive oil has a range of flavor profiles from fruity, grassy, peppery, to an array of herbs.
3. How does olive oil get made?
a. Certified Organic olives are hand harvested, they are washed, and then cold pressed on granite stones. The pressed olives are then put through a series of mixers and centrifuges until all of the available oil is expressed.
4. What does "cold pressed" mean?
a. Pressed without a heating element. Warmer oil is thinner and is done to increase yield, but affects the quality.
5. What does "Extra Virgin" mean?
a. It's the first cold press, and must be 0.8% in acidity. The majority of olive oils on grocery shelves that say they are Extra Virgin are not. The FDA is cracking down. 69% of olive oils on grocery store shelves have been found not to be Extra Virgin.
6. How can you make sure you are buying true Extra Virgin?
a. By taste, really, and reputable brands. I like California Olive Ranch.
7. Is there such thing as Lite Olive Oil?
a. No! "Lite" olive oil is altered oil. It may even be a different kind of oil slightly flavored by olive oil. It is flavorless, has none of the cooking and health qualities of true olive oil, and it's actually very bad for you.
8. How do we store our olive oil?
a. Always store your olive oil in a cool, dry pantry with no sunlight. Never store near a heat source, like a stove. Placing in a refrigerator will coagulate the oil. If your oil has become foggy, throw it away.
9. Olive oil is 80%-85% fat, but it's the good kind of fat. Are olives really that good for you?
a. Olive oil is high in monounsaturated fat that lowers LDL cholesterol, which decreases risk of cardiovascular disease. It also decreases blood pressure.
b. It acts as an anti-inflammatory, which helps in overall anti-allergenic diets.
c. Olive oil also contains a nutrient called, "Hydroxytyrosol," which prevents bone loss.
d. Olive oil is full of phytonutrients, which are nutrients found in plants that help protect themselves from germs, fungi, bugs, etc., but are really good for us, too:
i. Prevents oxygen damage to cells.
ii. Protects against damage to nerves.
iii. Protects DNA from damage, which prevents the mutations that cause cancer.
e. Olive oil is notoriously good for skin and hair. Since 6,000 BC, civilizations have used olive oil for their beautification properties.
10. Just like wine, olive oil has proper food pairings. What are those pairings?
a. There are as many varietals of olives as there are grapes for wine. Here are just a few examples of olive oils and their proper pairings:
i. Koroneiki from Crete: perfect for breakfast dishes, eggs of all types. Use it with your Fry Baby (yes, frying with olive oil is best. It has a higher flash point (380-300° F), but doesn't saturate foods the way other oils do. If you fry veggies with olive oil, you end up using 2 tablespoons for 4 people. Not bad.
ii. Ascolano: grassy, but with fruity/tropical notes, sautés, stir fry, (mushrooms, esp), braising, any kind of meat.
iii. Mission: bright with a mild green peppercorn finish—perfect California everyday for salad dressings, pastas, condiment—particularly nice with seafood.
iv. Arbequina: Super fruity & buttery—perfect for baking and you can actually bake a pie with absolutely no butt.