Extra virgin olive oil, Evo oil, is a worthy of consideration. I have nurtured love for this precious condiment for a long time, that has been growing gradually over the many years living in Italy.
This spring I decided that I wanted to get to know it more deeply. When there is a person or a place that you are particularly fond of, you would like to get to know it more closely, and understand who that person or place is, all its peculiarities and characteristics.
I chose a course on the Italian Levante Riviera, at Recco, organized by L‘Associazione Italiana Sommelier dell’Olio
The miracle of life and its biodiversity
The course has the duration of 3 months, weekly lessons, where 6 oils are analyzed and tasted, and the lessons cover all aspects of olive history, cultivation, production, nutritional facts, food combinations and much more. In the end of the course a diploma is released by the Italian Sommelier Association.
In Italy alone there exist about 538 olive cultivar (varieties), to give the idea of the vastness of the topic and the incredible variety of oil that is to be discovered on the Italian territory.
Going there was for me at the same time an opportunity to stay close to my beloved sea while admiring the olive groves of the Ligurian hills, posing on their terraces (terrazze, typical of the Ligurian landscape) almost embracing nearby vine branches. A true love store, a miraculous story, that make one reflect on what a great help man can give to nature in order for it to “express” the best of the territory, in benefit of both.
At lunchtime I stayed in local theme and alternated my “Slow Food” lunches from mare to terra dishes, but Liguria offers a great variety of seafood obviously, but also a big selection of traditional country plates, where vegetables, vegetables, herbs and extra virgin olive oil are dominant ingredients.
I devoured a cone of fried “catch of the day”, fritto misto directly from the boat of the Fishermen’s Cooperative situated in Camogli’s old harbor, 5 minutes from Recco, or the typical focaccia al formaggio di Recco, which is known as the gastronomical capital of Liguria, renomated for this delicate cheese filled focaccia bread, served often with raw prosciutto ham or culatello on the side. Sometimes accompanied by a glass of the rossese of the house mixed with other local grapes. I highly recommend both as a delicious, typical and cheap lunch in front of the sea.
The vital issue of maintaining agricultural biodiversity
Every time I see the Ligurian olive groves, I think of how resistant nature is, and of its immense generosity.
The olive cultivation can teach us so much about existence and the importance of trying always to express ourselves in the best way, choosing our most suiting terroir, as we were a vineyard or an olive grove.
The olive tree is a very strong and resisting specie, but it expresses itself at its best in certain microclimatic conditions.
We can just imagine all the various tastes and “tonalities” that it acquires in the different regions of Italy.
Luckily, in midst of a big confusion of various oils of different qualities and origins, and a general, increasing inexpressive and “flat” taste, there is a great awakening regarding the value of extra virgin olive oil, EVO.
Now is the moment to strengthen the thoughts of people that keep at heart this valuable and essential aliment, and to comunicate and deepen the topic of this Italian excellence, both from a gastronomical- as nutritional point of view.
Slow Food has launched a vital message for quite a long time that goes: “Preserving biodiversity, preserving the planet”
It most certainly is a strenuous fight, but a fundamental one, that of safeguarding agricultural biodiversity, and only with great effort and awareness, changing consumption style will we have satisfying results.
Olive growing can teach us so much about existence itself
Italy is in possession of a an immense flavor patrimony, that is incomparable as unique, given to its fantastic geographic position, history, and a great general passion of its inhabitants for agricultural matters and to keep the culinary traditions going strong.
The 538 olive cultivar on Italian ground, are an extraordinary example of this background and passion, and a unique invitation for us to rediscover and maintain in life, through their thousands of perfumes and qualities, the real taste of Life’s aliments and elements.
In those months, and now after having completed this wonderful course, my mind continues to give birth to various aphorisms, metaphors as ideas for how to combine it in the best ways to various plates, from the most simple and humble ones to more complex dishes. It is a big and fascinating adventure that I recommend to all, which aim is to choose the extra virgin olive oil most suiting your to your food, so it may exalt at its best both the flavor of your plate, your oil….. and as consequence your senses.
The tastiest diploma of my life so far. With president of Fondazione Italiana Sommelier Liguria, Giovanni Valentini and fellow “diplomateurs” (4 missing at the ceremony)
Enhancing the most simple taste
The olive oil cultivar “wood” is immense, and it is an incredible experience for the tastebuds and senses “get lost” in it and discover its many flavors and the most appropriate food combinations.
To perceive through our senses, how the nectar of these fleshy fruits expresses itself in different ways on various plates is really a tastebud experience not to be missed.
To get started, in order to understand and appreciate this magnificent golden green Mediterranean liquid, it is useful start keeping in your kitchen (in the most dark and cool place, because light and heat is one of the oils biggest enemies, and for that reason it is generally sold in dark bottles) one of each 3 main extra olive oil categories:
1) Lightly fruity, 2) Medium fruity and 3) Intense fruity
In this way slowly you will learn to make the most suitable food & oil combinations and to avoid making the less fortunate.
One of the biggest virtue of EVOO oil (EVOO standing for Extra virgin olive oil), is its capacity to give off and enhance the flavors of your dish’s ingredients…. as it can also cover them if the wrong combination is chosen.
You often hear saying that extra olive oil is expensive respect of many other oils on the market. It is necessary we create a little bit of clearness about the argument and ask us some important questions. Why do we add an oil condiment to our food?
Most certainly not just to give it a “fatty” effect and make it “flat” and “boring” in taste and texture.
Our metabolism needs oils and fats in the diet in order to function properly, and to maintain our health it is vital to choose well the fat we introduce in our diet.
The olive tree, by nature and because of its often “antique” contact and relation with the terroir, is able to concentrate various perfumes, tastes and nutrition at maximum in its fruits, and transforming them into oil, those spread out onto our even more simple dishes, and exalt their best qualities as the one of the oil itself.
Simple Fried egg in lightly fruity EVO oil
Mild extra virgin olive oil, f.example a Ligurian oil from Taggiasca olives, is perfect for frying your breakfast egg. Click HERE for recipe.
Bacon wrapped grilled salmon with lemon pepper
Wild Salmon is one of my favorite fish, and it reminds me of the impetuous Icelandic salmon rivers and smell of the bright Icelandic summer nights, with its grill -perfumed windy air. In this very simple recipe there is a pleasant and intense play between contrasts. The slightly fatty salmon meat and the bacon, are contrasted by the freshness of the lemon slices & lemon pepper, and the whole exalted by a medium fruity EVO oil. Click HERE for recipe.
Zesty ciambella with extra virgin olive oil inside out
Many people connect the use of Extra virgin olive oil exclusive for salty preparation, but EVO oil is very suitable for being used in various cake and dessert recipes, and also in that case, we will choose the oil suiting the ingredients of the recipe. For this lightly zesty ciambella (bundt cake), with yoghurt, a mild olive oil would suit well, but on the other hand we can then add a drizzle of a more intensely fruity oil on to it before serving to exalt the zest and aromas. Click HERE for recipe.
EVO oil sites:
Websites where to buy extra virgin Italian olive oil:
Directly from producers:
Information sites concerning olive culture, various cultivars, history and food combinations :