Fresh Fridays

August 22, 2014
Vol. VI No. 16

In This Issue
Olive oil has been the hallmark of the healthy Mediterranean Diet for over 2,500 years. It adds vibrant flavors and textures to Mediterranean foods and is high in healthy, monounsaturated fats along with antioxidants. Simply drizzle it on cooked fish or vegetables, or use it as a dip for bread. Vegetables roasted, grilled, or sautéed in olive oil are simply tastier - so you'll find yourself eating more of them!

Olive Oil Flavors
Olives are the fruit of the olive tree. Soon after being picked, they're cleaned in a water bath and then crushed into a mash. This mash has three unique parts: olive solids, olive water, and olive oil. First, the olive solids are separated. Next, the olive water and oil are quickly separated to keep the olive water from changing the oil's taste and odor. Finally, the oil is bottled.

The best quality olive oils are obtained from the first pressing of the olives and are "cold pressed." This means they're not heated during the pressing process. Heating produces larger amounts of oil, but decreases important flavor and healthy compounds, including flavenols and polyphenols, abundant in extra virgin olive oil (EVOO).

Olive Oil Grades
Olive oil is graded on taste, acidity level, and processing method. The table below lists the main types of olive oil in order of decreasing quality.





Extra Virgin

Highest quality oil made from the first pressing with no heat or chemicals


Dips, salads and drizzled on fish


Lacks perfect taste of extra-virgin, but not refined


Frying, grilling and roasting


Blend of virgin and refined (chemically-treated) oils

Lacks Flavor

When flavor is not needed


The word "light" means the oil has been refined, not that it is lower fat.

Lacks Flavor

When flavor is not needed


Lowest quality made by blending virgin and pomace

Lacks Flavor

Frying or cooking

Buying and Storing Olive Oil
The four foes of olive oil are age, heat, air, and light. When you buy olive oil, make sure it is no more than 18 months old. (Look at the bottling date on the label.) At home, store olive oil in a cool, dark place.

Tasting Olive Oil
Is the idea of an olive oil tasting daunting? Fear not. The North American Olive Oil Association has a great "do-it-yourself" olive oil tasting on their website. The website explains, "While professional panels focus on detecting defects, the rest of us can focus on the fun part - appreciating the multitude of positive nuances in extra virgin olive oils! Anyone can practice olive oil tasting, even a simple comparison at home or with a group of fellow EVOO-appreciators (like wine, group tasting gives you more variety at a lower out-of-pocket cost!) Groups can also help you learn more quickly, as easily-named flavors will be reinforced while some individuals will inevitably pick up notes others missed on the first pass. Whether going solo or at a gathering, all you need are a few oils, a few tasting supplies and then follow the tips at this link.

Where Does Olive Oil Come from?
The basic tenet is that olive trees grow where grapes grow. Wineries and olive oil mills go together. That means olive trees can be found all around the "Old World" Mediterranean. Spain, Italy, France, Greece, Lebanon, Israel, Turkey, Morocco, and Tunisia all produce olive oil. The New World has plenty of olive oil, too. Chile, Argentina, California, New Zealand, and Australia are all big producers of olive oil. In the US, you might be surprised to find olive oil also being produced in Georgia, Texas, Oregon, Washington, Virginia, Arizona, and New Mexico!

Cooking with Olive Oil
Sautéing: There's no better way to bring out the flavor of vegetables and seafood than sautéing. It's an easy, healthy way to prepare your favorite dishes. To sauté, pour olive oil into a cold skillet or sauté pan and heat over low heat. When the oil is heated through, add the food item. Stir, toss, or turn until cooked, and enjoy!

Baking: Baking with olive oil instead of butter, cuts the amount of cholesterol and saturated fat in your favorite recipes. Olive oil produces lighter-tasting breads, brownies, biscotti, and cakes. Even more good news - you need less olive oil than butter when baking! See chart below.

Baking Substitutions


Olive Oil

1 tsp

3/4 tsp

2 tsp

1 1/2 tsp

1 Tbsp

2 1/4 tsp

2 Tbsp

1 1/2 Tbsp

1/4 cup

3 Tbsp

1/3 cup

1/4 cup

1/2 cup

1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp 

2/3 cup

1/2 cup

3/4 cup

1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp 

1 cup

3/4 cup

Frying: Frying in olive oil leaves food less greasy, and crunchier, than frying in other fats. Also, foods fried in olive oil have less cholesterol and saturated fat than foods fried in most other fats. Here are some tips when frying with olive oil:
  • Deep fry at 350 to 365ºF, (Heat the oil slowly.)
  • Use enough oil to properly cover foods.
  • Avoid putting too much food in the oil at once.
Place food on wire racks after cooking to drain excess fat

Cooking!  Now, it's time to get cooking with olive oil. While you may not be ready for olive oil on your cereal like some culinary stars, there is no shortage of fantastic recipes using olive oil. Check out the recipes below, or the wide variety in Oldways' database of Mediterranean recipes, or from the three books in this week's Fresh Friday. Also check out Oldways' 12 Ways to Use Olive Oil

Click on a photo or recipe title below to link to the full recipe. 
The secret to this dish is the marinade. Forget the pre-marinated meats you might buy from supermarkets, this will take you right back to your favorite Mediterranean restaurant.

Recipe, content and photo courtesy of Positively Good for You.
This quick and simple dish is a flavorful way to get extra kid-friendly vegetables on the table at dinner time.

Recipe, content, and photo courtesy of the North American Olive Oil Association.

An easy to prepare and light pastry based on a traditional Mediterranean staple - meant to be shared with friends.



Recipe, content, and photo courtesy of Mediterra.
This recipe includes everything you would expect from a classic Mediterranean dish - tangy olives, fresh herbs, and not forgetting the white wine, and is an ideal post-workout meal.

Recipe and content courtesy of International Collection.  Photo:
Manakish is a popular flatbread from the Eastern Mediterranean region. The dough is made with yeast and rolled flat, and topped with herbs. The most common form is one with za'atar, a blend of spices, usually thyme, toasted sesame seeds, ground sumac, and salt.

Recipe and photo courtesy of Al Wadi Al Akhdar; content courtesy of Oldways.

Fresh Fridays is a bi-weekly celebration of Mediterranean eating and living. We hope our Friday recipes will remind you just how easy and delicious eating the Mediterranean way can be. 

To find even more delicious Mediterranean recipes please visit:     

 Mediterranean Foods Alliance (MFA)        





Let the old ways be your guide to good health and well-being.       



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By Peggy Knickerbocker with photographs by Laurie Smith 

In this photographic journey through the world's olive groves, acclaimed food writer Peggy Knickerbocker and photographer Laurie Smith trace the origins of the oil of the gods. Traveling to the orchards of Greece, Spain, Italy, North Africa, and California, they explore the process of harvesting the fruit and extracting its essence.

By Mort Rosenblum

Winner of the James Beard Award. Until one stops to notice, an olive is only a lowly lump at the bottom of a martini. But not only does a history of olives traverse climates and cultures, it also reveals fascinating differences in processing, production, and personalities. Aficionados of the noble little fruit expect miracles from it as a matter of course. In 1986, Mort Rosenblum bought a small farm in Provence and acquired 150 neglected olive trees that were old when the Sun King ruled France. He brought them back to life and became obsessed with olives, their cultivation, and their role in international commerce.

By Ari Weinzweig

Hailed by the New York Times, Esquire, and the Atlantic Monthly as one of the best delicatessens in the country, Zingerman's is a trusted source for superior ingredients -- and an equally dependable supplier of information about food. Now, Ari Weinzweig, the founder of Zingerman's, shares two decades of knowledge gained in his pursuit of the world's finest food products: oils, vinegar, and olives; bread, pasta, and rice; cheeses and cured meats; seasonings like salt, pepper, and saffron; vanilla, chocolate, and tea.

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