Known and used since ancient times, the olive oil is the most used condiment in Mediterranean diet. At the top of the summit we find extra virgin olive oil, the only oil to be produced with the sole mechanical pressing of the olives. It has a great fat balance and is perfect for nutrition. Besides, it looks good on everything.
But how to choose it? Oil is a bit like wine, using it is a matter of "Combinations": the best criteria must be identified for an appropriate choice to the chosen dish. Just like when we decide to uncork one bottle over another.
One rule to start with is that of concordance. Opt for delicate oils when dealing with dishes with not too robust flavors, so as not to override the flavor of the oil over the main ingredient. While yes, indulge yourself with oils with stronger and stronger aromas when it comes to tastier dishes. Or opt for a particularly harmonious product, without bitter and spicy peaks, which goes well with everything.
And then there is the personal taste. Oil is a matter of sensation, of choice, of breaking the rules. There are those who like to hear it, taste it and those who prefer it harmonized with the overall flavor of the dish. If, for example, you love the strongest notes of this product, such as a strong bitterness with a very spicy aftertaste, there is no one who forbids you to highlight them even with the most delicate dishes, and vice versa. A very spicy but not very bitter oil in one cream of legumes will remember closely chilli, which in this case, not being fundamental, can easily leave the scene.
What then distinguishes it from wine, which on the contrary can also be tasted alone, is that oil cannot be just an accompaniment to the dish. Rather. It must be cataloged as a ingredient real, to be chosen with care and concern, the same that reserves the other ingredients of the recipe, if not more, precisely because it is useful to give that extra touch of magic, enhancing its aromas and characteristics.
Therefore, taking these assumptions into account, we can say that in order to make the best use of it, it must be taken into account as the main criterion the intensity of the fruitiness (this is the definition of the distinctly perceptible hint of olive, the fruit from which the oil is obtained) of the bitter and spicy notes, playing a little with aromatic scents. For thegreen salads, boiled or raw fish, mayonnaise, but also biscuits and donuts having a light structure, which tends to be sweet and fresh, oils from light fruity and without bitter notes, having all these products, a light structure, basically sweet and fresh. An ad hoc example? DOP Riviera Ligure Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Taggiasca. This as well tells its ideal origin also for the pesto.
The dishes instead of medium structure and balanced flavors such as legume soups, grilled vegetables, cooked shellfish, blue fish or stewed fish, fresh cheeses, they will want oils from medium fruity, soft on the palate and with a good balance between bitter and spicy, probably a blend in which the varieties are well harmonized. An oil that is perfectly suited to these sensations is Extra virgin DOP Colline Pontine from Itrana. This is characterized by a distinct hint of tomato with pleasant herbaceous and sometimes balsamic notes, ideal for dressing a panzanella of late summer and why not gods lily porcini mushrooms.
Finally, when in the kitchen we decide to indulge ourselves with dishes from more robust structure, perhaps with bitter elements, we will opt for a more intense fruity, ideal for salads with rocket and wild herbs, chicory or grilled meats decorated with very tasty sauces. Checkmate here does the DOP Umbria from Moraiolo. Powerful but elegant, with a typically balanced taste, characterized by strong vegetal notes such as artichoke. If you want to risk something more "extraterritorial" you can use it to prepare a dish of spaghetti with anchovy sauce: its strong taste will support the spiciness of the chilli and the flavor of the colatura.
Tips for a good purchase
Since oil is now a product of daily use, it can be found everywhere. The easiest place is the supermarket, which is often preferred for convenience but not for quality. We can say that in recent years, however, even these have taken care to include higher quality oils from qualified producers on the shelves. But this is not the first choice. To keep a quality oil at home, even if perhaps at a higher price, it is always good to contact a trustworthy crusher. You will say… difficult for those who live in the city. This is why they exist online sites specialists who refer to certified shops or better yet oil libraries which ship throughout Italy.
By Elena Strappa
Consulting by Luciana Squadrilli: journalist specialized in food, communicator and gastronomic critic, every month she edits a column dedicated to the culture of extra virgin olive oil in Sale & Pepe Magazine.