Olive oil is an acquired taste, just like wine. It takes some experience to know which foods to use olive oil on so the flavors will complement each other. There are times, too, that you can experiment towards contrasting flavors instead. Each kind of olive oil and each brand for that matter, has its own character, and you have to learn how not to overpower flavors and how to bring out different tastes.
Cooking with meat
One of my favorite processes that involve olive oil is sous vide cooking, particularly with the premium cut steaks. This is a method of cooking where the meat is mixed with flavors and seasonings, placed inside a food bag, vacuum-sealed to seal in the goodness and finally given a water bath in controlled temperature. This method absolutely brings out the best in the meat. It is tender and juicy because of the water bath that thoroughly cooks it inside and out without drying it up and it is full of flavors because vacuum-sealing locks in the tastes of the olive oil and herbs, infusing the meat so each bite is tender and delicious. The cookbook for sous vide will give you best guide about the method.
Pairing with vegetables
Vegetables make a good side dish for any main course, particularly if you are having the flavor-infused steak that has been cooked sous vide. You can give the vegetables a quick stir-fry in olive oil, or you can broil them and drizzle some olive oil on top before serving. You can also make barbecue vegetables and use olive oil to brush on top of it while being cooked. Or very simply, use olive oil as a dip for vegetable appetizers. To make the dip, combine in a container the olive oil, olives, red pepper flakes and garlic.
Pairing with fish
You can sous vide a big fish, or broil it. Use olive oil to brush on top to keep it moist and to infuse the flavors in. You can also opt to deep-fry in olive oil or poach it in a skillet.
Pairing the different kinds of olive oil
- Light and delicate olive oil is slightly fruity, slightly bitter, and more buttery. It pairs great with salad, fish, eggs and used for baking;
- Medium-flavored olive oils are fruity, bitter and a bit peppery. You can pair them with avocadoes, artichokes and nuts. You can match them with grilled vegetables, grilled meats, or use on pasta or as a dip;
- Intense flavored olive oil is spicy, bold, grassy, and peppery, with hints of herbs and tomatoes. These are best enjoyed with strong cheese, seafood, potatoes, in soups and stews, as a pasta sauce and in spicy dishes.
Tips in buying olive oil
There are so many kinds and different grades to choose from. Here are tips when buying your olive oil:
- Know the source. Most of the olive oil in the US is imported from Spain, Italy and Greece. For domestic source, California produces the most olive oil. Olive oil from Spain and Greece tend to be fairly mild. Italian has more flavor.
- Consider the price. The most expensive is the extra-virgin olive oil. Choose the mid-range. The cheaper ones can be oil blends, and not pure olive oil. Check the label that it says 100% olive oil.
- Go for smaller size. You want your olive oil as fresh as possible so keeping a big bottle for longer time is not recommended. If unopened, the olive oil can stay for a year. If opened, it has to be used within 8 weeks. Keep your olive oil away from light and heat.