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#1102 - Olive Oil
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September 18, 2012 #1102 Olive Oil
One of the most commonly found ingredients in a kitchen is also one of the most important. Today, we cannot begin to imagine cooking without olive oil, but there was a time a few decades ago when it wasn't at all easy to find in the American kitchen. The popular Mediterranean cuisine centers on olive oil, and thousands of recipes that we Americans love require it.
We often see the term "extra virgin olive oil" in recipes or on store shelves. In Europe the term means something very specific; in the US it is much less so. In the olive oil industry, debate rages as to just how stringent the American definition of "extra virgin" should be.
Essentially, the term "extra virgin" applies to oils that are mechanically pressed, that have no chemical additives, nor undergo any chemical refinement. The nominated oils must also pass tests that insure that they are within exact standards in terms of acidity and organic compounds essential to olive oil, and they must pass a tasting panel to insure quality on the palate.
Today, premium extra virgin olive oil is a relatively small part of the market. It is the hands-down choice for an oil that is used to finish a dish, or be a principal ingredient, as in a sauce. If you are going to saute, you can and should use a lesser quality oil, since its primary function is to act as a lubricant and a heat transfer medium. But when the actual taste of olive oil is critical, it pays to use high grade extra virgin oil.
Baltimore has an important olive oil connection. Pompeian Olive Oil is a local business, and they were the first to import (in 1906) high quality extra virgin olive oil into the United States. The top of their line, the extra virgin, is a very good olive oil that toes the line on carefully monitored production techniques and taste evaluations. The company is planning to open a new tasting room and museum at their Pulaski Highway site in coming months.
And Radio Kitchen now has a very important connection to Pompeian: our own Chef Jerry Pellegrino has been named a national spokesman for Pompeian Olive Oil, and is already producing a television series with the celebrated actress and health enthusiast Suzanne Somers.
You can visit the Pompeian website at www.pompeian.com.