Tuesday, November 11, 2008

And this from the fans of olive oil

The Ins and Outs of Olive Oil

According to the American Dietetic Association (ADA), olive oil is beneficial to the heart. It contains monounsaturated fat, which can help lower LDL, or bad, cholesterol. Additionally, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises that consuming just two tablespoons of olive oil per day may reduce the risk of heart disease. With all the health benefits to using olive oil, there’s just one thing left for consumers to figure out – which one to use.

“When you stand there in the store, looking at the rows of olive oil, people are not sure what to buy and what to expect,” explains Enzo Febbraro, co-owner and executive chef of Washington D.C.-based D’Acqua Ristorante. “Olive oil is a wonderful ingredient to use when cooking and baking, but different flavors will alter the tastes.”

While olive oil comes in a variety of types, the most popular are light and extra virgin. All of them have the same fat content but, depending on the type, the acid level varies, and that changes the flavor. Here’s what to expect from the two most popular types of olive oil, and where they are best used:

· Light. This is ideal for baking and cooking when you don’t want a strong flavor but still want all the health benefits. Light olive oil has undergone a filtration process that leaves it with a lighter appearance and flavor, although the calorie count remains the same.

· Extra virgin. If you only plan to have one olive oil on hand to use as an all-purpose type, this would be the one. It’s low in acid and has a fruity flavor and aroma. It provides a lot of flavor, even when only using a minimum amount. This type of oil works well for sauces, frying, marinades, meat, fish, pasta, vegetables, and baking. It’s also the variety most commonly used when consumed cold, with salads or for dipping bread.

When it comes to storing olive oil, it’s best to keep it either in the refrigerator or in a cool, dry place. If it’s being stored in the refrigerator, it may thicken and it will need to sit out for a few minutes before being used, so that it can liquefy again. Olive oil is sensitive to heat and light; exposure to them can speed up the process of turning it rancid, so it’s important to store it in a dark area that is temperature-controlled.

Shelf life once it is opened varies, but most manufacturers recommend three to six months. Olive oil can be used as a substitute in most recipes that call for vegetable oil, shortening, or butter.

“When choosing an olive oil, the main thing to keep in mind is flavor. Some have a more pronounced flavor, and you have to determine whether you want that in your dish,” adds Febbraro. “The best olive oils come from Italy. Using a good one will go a long way toward adding flavor to what you cook, as well as providing many health benefits.”