Beautiful. Good. Healthy. That extra virgin olive oil is an elixir served at Italian tables is well known, but why is it so good?
How do you recognize, taste, and pair it in the best possible manner?
Together with ISMEA we have prepared a small guide on EVO Oil. Here you'll find the basic concepts, and at FICO, every month, an Extra Virgin Tour to experience (or better, taste) the wonder of this symbol of the Mediterranean diet.
- EVO: Why Extra Virgin?
The attribute "virgin" with regard to oil indicates that the extraction process is carried out by physical and mechanical methods only, without the use of solvents. If the olive oil also has an acidity of less than 0.8% then it earns the moniker of Extra Virgin!
- EVO oil like mother's milk
Why is EVO oil good for you? First, because it's made from a fruit and not from seeds, and in the fruit all the nutrients are present in a biologically active form without the need for metabolic processing, thus providing the body with immediate benefits. Then, because extra virgin is an easily digestible fat, with a composition similar to that of human fat and even breast milk.
It is primarily made of triglycerides, formed largely from oleic acid, known for their beneficial effects on the cardiovascular system. These are followed by polyphenols (antioxidant and anti-inflammatory), beta carotene (useful for the skin and eyesight), vitamin E (essential for cell renewal), and hydroxytyrosol (which seems to increase cells' ability to repair their genetic makeup).
- Yellow or green?
The color of an Italian extra virgin olive oil can range from yellow to green, with an infinite array of intermediate shades. While a green color indicates a younger, less ripe olive, yellow shows a prevalence of carotenes. A different oil but equally good. The only color that should be avoided is reddish-orange, indicating possible oxidation.
- That slight tingling sensation
Young, freshly squeezed oil tickles your throat. The light tingling does not mean it's acidic, quite the contrary. Once again, the rule is simple: the more acidic the oil, the lower quality it is.
- How much to consume
Situated on the second level of the Food Pyramid, the Mediterranean Diet recommends consuming at least 50-60 grams of Extra Virgin Olive Oil per day. That's about four spoons, to be divided among vegetables and first and second courses.
- How to taste Extra Virgin Olive Oil
In its "Oil on the table" campaign, ISMEA recommends four fundamental steps for tasting EVO oil.
With your hands: Pour a little oil into a glass and warm it by capping it with one hand and twisting it on the palm of the other.
With your nose: The fragrance should include notes of herbaceous, vegetable, or nutty aromas. Unpleasant smells are not the sign of a quality oil.
With your mouth: Sip a small amount of oil. Before swallowing it, breathe in some air to spread the oil throughout your mouth. This operation is called stripping and the resulting post-nasal sensation is similar to smell.
With your eyes: Green and yellow are blended in infinite shades. However, the color of the oil is of no importance when assessing its quality.
- How to pair extra virgin olive oil
In Italy there are more than 500 cultivars of olives that are used to make unique and extraordinary varieties of extra virgin olive oil. Each has its own flavor and, of course, preference for pairing. Learning the art of oil-food pairing is therefore complicated, but in an attempt to simplify things we'll give you two simple rules to start with: pair by similarity of flavors and pay attention to territorial relevance. Because every traditional dish of each region has its oil./li>