Olive Oil 101

I was recently invited to Brassaii Restaurant and Lounge in Toronto for an event by Flavor Your Life, and had the opportunity to taste some delicious food, and learn about olive oil. To be honest, I had no idea that we were going to learn so much about olive oil. Generally when I attend food events, the focus is on the food—as in the final product, not the ingredients. And really, how complicated can olive be? Very! Thankfully, we had Robert Beauchemin, an ex food critic at La Presse, book author, food anthropologist, and instructor at La Salle College in Montreal, share his vast knowledge of olive oil with us.

So how does one know that they are buying good quality extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)? I always assumed it was the price; the more expensive the bottle, the better quality it was. Seemed simple enough. Wrong! Robert educated us on what makes a good extra virgin olive oil and which tools are available to the public so that we are able to make an educated decision when choosing olive oil. Below are a few of the tips he offered us.

What’s in the picture?
Different countries have created an official logo affixed to EVOO bottles to certify they are 100% EVOO. If the oil passes quality control, the producer is given permission to place the COOC seal on the label. However, it does not mean that not having a logo infers that it is not good quality EVOO, but it does mean that you would be taking a chance on quality.

What’s in the percentage?
Some companies will take real EVOO and mix it with cheaper oils. However, because olive oil has such a strong distinctive taste and smell, it is able to mask the regular oils. Since the acidity of the oil should be less than 0.8%, some producers will use chemical agents to bring down the acidity levels to less than 0.8%.

Olive oil expires?
Yes, you need to look for the ‘Best Before’ date because olive oil does oxidize and it does not age well. In fact, olive oil is the opposite of wine, and it is not meant to age. Sure, you can taste the quality of the olive oil, but how often have you had the opportunity to taste olive oil before you purchased it? Exactly. So check the date!

So how much should one be expected to pay for good quality EVOO? Mr. Beauchemin established the minimum price at $15 for a 500 ml bottle. Pay less than that, and the chances of it being good quality EVOO drops.

Best part?
You can cook just about everything with olive oil! And bake! We had the opportunity to sample an array of dishes made with olive oil, and if there had been a blind test, I never would have guessed that the desserts were made with olive oil and not butter.

Want to learn more? Check out http://flavor-your-life.com/

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