Olive oil: It’s one of the oldest and most widely used foods in the world, except most people’s knowledge of this flavorful oil probably only scratches the surface of its potential uses. Enter Cooking Techniques and Recipes With Olive Oil, the new gold-medal-winning cookbook by the “Two Extra Virgins,” Laura Bashar of Family Spice and Mary Papoulias-Platis of California Greek Girl. This beautiful book gives you more ideas (and information) on the topic than you ever dreamed possible.
For example: Did you know that…
- Olive oil isn’t just for savory dishes; it’s a great choice for baked goods too, especially if you’re looking to lower your saturated fat intake.
- You can use it to make ice cream that has a smooth and creamy and totally unique flavor.
- A splash tastes great in a drinks, too! You’ll be a convert when you try Laura and Mary’s Watermelon Shooters with Persian Mint Syrup and Olive Oil – their most popular recipe.
We had a chance to ask Laura and Mary some questions:
Where is the best place to buy olive oil?
Laura: The biggest “fear” about the oil you find in the grocery store is in the print. You will find labels stating “pure” or “light,” all of which is NOT extra virgin olive oil. Many times they are chemically processed or they are mixed in with lesser quality oils. Plus, any extra virgin olive oil in a clear bottle exposed to light (as you find in the grocery store) is most likely rancid. You can find good quality oil in the grocery store, just read the labels and choose something in a dark bottle. Let your taste buds be the judge as you sample and taste different oils.
Mary: I prefer a retail store that specializes in olive oil. Look them up in your area, they are popping up everywhere! If you are going to buy it in the store look for a”harvest date” to guarantee freshness. Make sure the label says EVOO and no such words as “refined oils” listed on the back.
Do you ever cook with any oil besides “extra virgin?”
Mary: No, I just cook with “extra virgin.”
Laura: I periodically cook with canola or corn oil, especially when I am grilling on high heat. But I have been using butter and other oils less and less, especially as I fall in love with the many flavors and profiles of EVOO out there. When it comes to olive oil, I only use extra virgin in my cooking.
What do you say to people who are reluctant to cook with oil because they are worried about the fat content?
Mary: The fat is only 100 calories per tablespoon, and a monounsaturated fat which is a heart-healthy fat.
What’s the biggest mistake people make when cooking with olive oil?
Laura: I think the biggest mistake that people make is that they are afraid to cook with it. There are many misconceptions about cooking extra virgin olive oil with high heat. The fact is you can cook with temperatures of 385ºF and in some cases 400ºF. You CAN bake, roast, poach, braise and even fry with it. Just don’t choose a strong flavored olive oil for a cake or brownie, for example, unless you want that strong flavor to come through in your baked goods.
If you had a bottle of your favorite olive oil, and a free day to cook what ever you like, what would you cook?
Mary: My favorite cooking technique is poaching garden tomatoes in a great extra virgin olive oil, and scooping them up with a big loaf of fresh bread.
Laura: If it’s peppery and strong, I love it drizzled over steamed vegetables or I’d make a chimichurri sauce for a steak. If I have a buttery flavored oil, I will probably bake a cake with it or use it in general cooking. The flavored oils are fantastic, too. My personal favorite is a blood orange olive oil and I love using that to bake sugar cookies or make ice cream! YUM! I’m getting hungry!
P.S. Want to try a recipe that illustrates some of Mary and Laura’s ideas? Check out this California Orange Olive Oil Cake.
Blogger disclosure: I paid for my own copy of the book and did not receive compensation for this post. All opinions expressed are my own. All photos are courtesy of Two Extra Virgins.