The word “profile” can have a multitude of implications. Its use extends from someone’s Facebook page to food’s specific taste and all the way to the signature of a suspect being tracked by the stars of Criminal Minds. Despite the various applications of the word, they all have the same purpose: to describe something unique and particular. My use of the word “profile” is strictly in terms of food – more specifically, the flavor profiles of olive oil.
Walking into a grocery store and seeing the vast number of bottles of olive oil on the shelves may be overwhelming. The following information is intended to clarify how to best interpret the labels on each bottle. Under the umbrella of olive oil is light, pure, virgin, and extra virgin olive oils. Each of which can be further differentiated by the type of olive tree, region, and harvest time.
One difference between olive oils is the quality of the oil. Extra virgin and virgin olive oils are classified as unrefined, meaning extraction from the fruit did not involve any use of chemicals or heat. Light and pure olive oils, on the other hand, are considered refined and thus are less expensive.
When should each type of olive oil be used?
- Cooking – you should use pure olive oil because of its higher burning point
- Baking, Sautéing, Grilling, Frying –go with an inexpensive light olive oil
- Extra virgin olive oil can also be used when frying because its fatty acids and polyphenols prevent it from burning or breaking down under the intensity of the heat
- Dressings (i.e. vinaigrettes), Dips, Cold or Light Meals – virgin or extra virgin olive oil is ideal.
- Extra virgin olive oil is pricier, but may be worth the cost given its flavor. It is also rich in monounsaturated fats and contains antioxidants such as vitamin E and polyphenols (both of which have been linked to longevity). It tends to compliment dishes better than other oils.
Do not be discouraged if you had no idea about all the differences between olive oil. It can be confusing. But, thanks to Zucchi Olive Oil, the European Union, Italian Embassy and Quartino’s Restaurant for hosting an evening of olive oil education called Flavor Your Life, we are more informed and sharing what we learned. At this event, we were educated on all things olive oil by a Blendmaster – which is basically a fancy way to say the person is a master of olive oil and the science behind blending it.
The event primarily focused on blending our own extra virgin olive oils. What I found fascinating about this event was that every attendee had his/her own taste palette. Some liked certain blends, while others were preferred a different taste. Furthermore, which types of extra virgin olive oil were used and the amount of each hinged upon it use (i.e. what was its purpose? Which dish was it going to be used with?).
Since my style of cooking and eating is a bit lighter, I chose to create a blend that allowed the food I was preparing to shine through. The olive oil enhanced the dish rather than was the flavor of the dish. For me that meant a dash of the green apple, a splash of the sweet almond and a touch of the banana with a bit of tomato scented oils. Just amazing to understand that the flavors were coming from where the olives are grown and what was grown in the soil previously. Fascinating, too, to know that each location within Italy, Spain and Greece all play a part in the flavor profiles.
When the Blendmaster sampled my creation, she first wanted to know what my goal was. For cooking? For seasoning? For dressing? My answers helped her to determine if I was on the right track to get the combination that would most benefit my use. I am proud to say, she liked what I created!
This event was a fascinating education on how blended olive oils are created. So much learning on a product I use every single day in my cooking. Once we finished our blending experience, we saw first hand how olive oil and cooking go hand in hand with Chef John Coletta’s pairing of Quartino’s Italian creations.
Although I said this post was not about a dating profile, I could not help but allude to a parallel between it and extra virgin olive oil…
Extra virgin olive oils each have their own story and personality. Some are bitter or spicy, while others may taste similar to apples, almonds, or tomatoes (which are all considered good attributes). The color of the oil may vary based on its origin too. So instead of judging a book by its cover, I suggest you to try a couple different kinds of extra virgin olive oil to find out what suits your unique food palette and personal preferences. Try Zucchi Olive Oils next time you are looking to explore flavor profiles. Your palette will thank you.