Olive Oil Tidbit
Aristotle sentenced anyone to death who cut down an olive tree.
The single most important thing about about choosing an extra virgin olive oil is how it has been stored. Look for it to be bottled in dark glass or a container that shields it from light. While olive oil is beautiful it has been shown that when it is bottled in clear glass sitting under the harsh fluorescent lights of food markets it can begin to go rancid in as few as eighty hours! Also check for a harvest date. Most reputable producers will have their oil bottled correctly. After that start trying varieties from different regions, single varieties and blends from small and large producers. Often labels will include flavor and usage notes. In the end most extra virgin oil can be used for any type of cooking but as your palate becomes attuned to higher quality oil you will find some are better used for lighter foods, some better for grilling etc.
It's a common misconception that you can't expose olive oil to heat. Olive oil is actually the most stable fat when exposed to heat. You can do any type of deep-frying, sautéing or baking with olive oil. Additionally it does not lose its health benefits when exposed to heat. While some flavor will be lost in cooking it will remain more flavorful than other neutral tasting oils used simply as a lubricant.
Bitterness is actually a positive quality in extra virgin oil indicating both freshness and the presence of antioxidants. Some varieties, like Tuscan olive oil, have more natural bitterness. As oil ages they will mellow and the longer they sit on the shelf the more the flavor deteriorates. Because much of the olive oil available today has been in the bottle and on the shelf too long we've accustomed ourselves to thinking olive oil should be nearly flavorless. As you start eating high quality olive oil your palate will very soon be able to distinguish between good and bad oil.
Extra virgin olive oil has not gone through a deteriorating processing procedure. It is especially high in monounsaturated fatty acids and contains a great variety of antioxidants. The FDA has found a reduction in the risk of coronary heart disease when people replace saturated fats with monounsaturated extra virgin olive oil as it lowers ldl (bad) cholesterol. An Oxford University study found extra virgin olive oil to be as good for a body as fresh fruit and vegetables. Olive oil contains no more calories than other oils.
Heat and light do the most damage to the quality of an olive oil. Purchase oil only in dark containers when possible. If you do buy oil in clear glass, when you get it home wrap it in foil to keep out of the light. Store it in a dark cabinet away from heat. Refrigerating olive oil probably won't hurt it, though some people believe the condensation may, but it probably won't preserve it any longer than regular proper storage and you will need to bring it to room temperature before using and that is not always convenient.