Know your extra virgin olive oil
Along with lemons, onions and garlic, olive oil is a mainstay in most kitchens. With more than 700 types of olives grown around the world, there is a huge variety of olive oil on our shop shelves; the different characteristics partly determined by where the fruit has been harvested and their use influenced by whether or not that oil has been processed. It pays to know what you are buying.
Grown in sunny south Spain, the olives in Harvest’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil are cold pressed and the fresh oil is bottled raw without going through any heat or treatment. It is suitable for medium-to-low temperature cooking such as pan frying, marinades and salad dressings. Harvest Extra Virgin Olive Oil is rich in flavour and aroma with no preservatives.
While extra virgin olive oil is not what you’d choose to deep-fry your fish or to stir-fry at high heat, it is still suited to most everyday cooking needs. It’s the smoke point of a particular oil (the temperature at which it begins to produce a continuous, visible bluish smoke) that also affects its use. Extra virgin olive oil has a smoke point of 190C-215C, lower than oils like sunflower. However, it’s still the oil for you if you are sauteing vegetables for a casserole or soup, or cooking a tomato-based sauce where you want its Mediterranean flavour to add to the dish. Along with salad dressings, it’s a delicious (and one could say healthy) idea to drizzle extra virgin olive oil over a finished dish or use it to make raw sauces like the pesto, right.
Olive oil falls into two groups — refined and unrefined (like Harvest’s Extra Virgin). Unrefined oil is pure — it is not treated with chemicals or heat. Refined types are treated to remove sediments and may be mixed with other oils to raise their smoke point. They have little olive flavour, aroma or bitterness and they lack the important antioxidants and anti-inflammatories for which extra virgin olive oil is so widely respected.
When buying, choose an olive oil sold in a dark glass bottle to protect it from light. Exposure to light causes a substantial loss of nutrients and an increase in rancidity, making it a good idea to store that bottle in a dark cupboard or pantry, never beside the stove where the heat can change its flavour and aroma. Olive oil is not like a good wine — it doesn’t age well and exposure to light and oxygen promotes rancidity so use those half-full bottles up before you buy more.
It is helpful to know that, while appealing, colour is not a reliable indicator when buying olive oil. Good oils can come in varying hues, from straw-coloured to dark green.
Cooking with Harvest Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- As well as being almost irresistibly good drenched over flatbreads like focaccia, olive oil is a great baking ingredient where you want a Mediterranean flavour. See the recipes for apple and olive oil loaves, rosemary and honey olive oil cake and olive flatbread on bite.co.nz
- Harvest Extra Virgin Olive Oil can be used as a butter substitute. If a recipe calls for melted butter, substitute extra virgin olive oil for the butter at ¾ of the amount (butter has 80 per cent fat and the rest is water; oil is 100 per cent fat). Do not use oil where a recipe calls for the creaming of butter and sugar.
- For homemade mayonnaise, use around one-third Harvest Extra-Virgin Olive Oil to two-thirds bland oil such as sunflower. The olive oil provides moreish flavour but won’t overwhelm.
Fresh basil pesto
Makes 1 cup
2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed (for variation, try replacing half the basil leaves with baby spinach)
1/3 cup pine nuts (or chopped walnuts)
3 garlic cloves, minced (about 3 tsp)
½ cup freshly grated parmesan
½ cup Harvest Extra Virgin Olive Oil
¼ tsp salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- Place the basil leaves and pine nuts into the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times.
- Add the garlic and parmesan and pulse several times more. Scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula.
- While the food processor is running, slowly add the Harvest Extra Virgin Olive Oil in a small, steady stream. Adding the olive oil slowly while the processor is running will help it emulsify and help keep the olive oil from separating. Occasionally stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor.
- Stir in salt and freshly ground black pepper. Adjust seasoning according to taste.
- Toss with pasta for a quick sauce, dollop over baked potatoes or spread on to crackers or toasted slices of bread.