October 30, 2015
Vol. VII No. 22
In This Issue
EVOO - A Mediterranean Tradition

Olive oil is an essential ingredient of the Mediterranean diet. Olives have been grown and harvested in the Mediterranean for thousands of years to make olive oil, and Spain, Italy, Greece, and Tunisia are still the top producers in the world. In ancient times, it was an extremely important commodity; in addition to its value for cooking, it was used to fuel oil lamps, as a base for perfume, and for medicine. Olive oil has also long been recognized as part of a healthy diet

Starting in the 1990s, Oldways helped popularize olive oil outside of the Mediterranean through a series of scientific conferences, cultural and culinary symposia in Mediterranean countries, and other Mediterranean Diet educational programs. One important program focused on the scientific consensus around dietary fat, concluding -- at a time when low-fat mania reigned -- that a moderate fat diet was best for disease prevention and weight control. The Mediterranean diet uses a fair amount of fat, but it mostly comes in the form of plant-based unsaturated fats like olive oil, fats that are associated with a lower risk of inflammationheart disease, diabetes, stroke, and cancer

What is Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)?
According to the North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA), the olive oils closest to nature are "Virgin Olive Oils", which offer the most health benefits and a wide range of quality and flavor profiles, similar to wine. "Extra Virgin Olive Oil" is by far the most common form on the market.

EVOO is the highest grade of olive oil. It is naturally extracted from olives without using heat or chemicals, and, as a result, retains heart-healthy polyphenols from the olives. Although more processed "Olive Oil" and "Pure Olive Oil" maintain some heart-healthy benefits from monounsaturated "good" fats, they lack the high polyphenol levels of EVOO. 

EVOO also stands out among the olive oils because of its vast flavor profiles: it must have zero flavor flaws when assessed by a panel of 8-12 professional olive oil tasters. Olive oil flavor is affected by many factors including the olive type, where the olives are grown, when the olives are harvested, the weather during the growing season, and its processing. 

Using EVOO
Almost everywhere you can use butter in your cooking, you can use extra virgin olive oil. It can be drizzled on salads, heated in the pan, and used in baked goods. Many of the aromatic compounds that give premium oils their distinctive flavors evaporate into the air during cooking, so it's a good idea to keep a variety of olive oils in the pantry - inexpensive olive oil for frying, an EVOO for cooking and baking, and pricier EVOOs for drizzling. Age also matters; a traditional practice is to use last year's oil for cooking and this year's oil for drizzling.

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 a small amount of 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!
OO conversion chart

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

Frying in olive oil leaves food less greasy, and crunchier, than frying in other fats. On those rare occasions when you enjoy fried food, 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, and 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.
Buying and Storing EVOO
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 it in a cool, dark place.

One special way to experience the great taste of EVOO is by making a traditional Mediterranean salad dressing: mix together olive oil, some lemon juice or vinegar, salt and pepper for your leafy greens and enjoy. It's that simple! Good EVOO has enough flavor to make a salad irresistible. Click here to find 12 Great Ways to Use Olive Oil or read an Oldways Nutrition Exchange interview with an NAOOA olive oil expert. And, be sure to try the recipes below for more great ways to use EVOO.

Click on a title or photo below to go to the recipe. 

Here is an example of how extra virgin olive oil can be substituted for butter in baked goods. The EVOO gives this cake a distinctively smooth and light flavor. Add chopped pistachios and lemon zest for even more Mediterranean flavor.

Recipe and photo courtesy of FoodMatch

EVOO Smashed Potatoes and Parsnips

It's easy to get caught up in the same recipes year after year. They're classics for a reason, right? Add a different twist to a menu mainstay - mashed potatoes - with extra virgin olive oil, garlic and parsnips.

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


Hummus is easy to make at home, and the fresh taste will pleasantly surprise you if you are used to buying it prepackaged at the store. In this recipe, baked garlic cloves, marjoram, and extra virgin olive oil elevate classic hummus flavors. 

Recipe and photo courtesy of GAEA.

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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Virgin Territory Book
by Nancy Harmon Jenkins 
This book not only contains a collection of hearty and healthful recipes, but also covers the history and culture of olive oil as well as how to buy it and cook with it. A thing of beauty with stunning photographs of Jenkin's own Tuscan olive tree grove, Virgin Territory captures the delights of making and cooking with olive oil.

by Peggy Knickerbocker
The New York Times included this in a list of "most stained" favorite cookbooks, as chosen by a miscellany of chefs, authors, shop and restaurant owners, stylists and bloggers. Acclaimed food writer Peggy Knickerbocker and photographer Laurie Smith trace the origins of the oil of the gods in a photographic journey through the world's olive groves.

by Ari Weinzweig 
Zingerman's deli is a trusted source for superior ingredients - and an equally dependable supplier of reliable information about food. In this fascinating resource guide, Ari Weinzweig, the founder of Zingerman's, tells you everything you need to know about how to choose top-quality basics that can transform any meal from ordinary to memorable, with an entire chapter devoted to olive oil.