How to Evaluate Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Extra virgin olive oil is a staple of healthful Mediterranean cuisine.

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Extra virgin olive oil is a staple of healthful Mediterranean cuisine. A glance at olive oils in the supermarket reveals a bewildering array of choices. How do we choose the best oil for each use? On a recent afternoon at Anassa, guests were treated to a seminar by Tassos C. Kyriakides, Ph.D., an olive oil sommelier certified by the Olive Oil Education Lab of the International Culinary Institute; he is also a research scientist at Yale University School of Public Health researching the health benefits of olive oil. 'The variety of olive oils and their complexity can enhance a cook’s culinary curiosity, while its addition to cuisine can have a positive impact on consumer health parameters,’ he says. To begin, pour oil into a glass and warm it with your palms to room temperature; a good olive oil should have fruitiness and a balance between spiciness and bitterness. As the group sipped six oils, cleansing the palate with green apple between tastings, a sense of the variety and complexity of the flavours emerged. The cultivar, terroir, and even adjacent foliage can affect an oil’s taste. Mild oils pair well with grilled fish and seafood, while more robust oils pair well with red meat, aged cheeses, and stews. Direct sunlight, heat, and oxygen all degrade the quality of olive oil, so Kyriakides recommends storage in a cool, dark space with the cap tightly sealed. Indeed, as your appreciation of the variety of olive oils increases, you may find yourself adding bottle after bottle to the pantry!