We received an invitation from a colleague to a hands-on cooking demonstration and information session about Extra Virgin Olive Oil around the start of the holiday season last year. And being the cooks and foodies that we are, we jumped at the chance! With the controversy still swirling around the authenticity of EVOO, we were intrigued to learn more about what a true Extra Virgin Olive Oil really is and how to properly choose one for our pantry.
We made our way to Rustico Cooking (a cooking loft in New York City), and were immediately excited – there were other members of the media there and we were warmly greeted with crisp, white aprons to don for the interactive part of our afternoon – that is, the cooking! We were divided into three groups, with each group preparing parts of our lunch – the common theme was EVOO as our “cooking fat” of choice. We prepared (and later enjoyed!) prosciutto wrapped asparagus, frittata wedges, spicy chorizo cups, Tuscan bean tuna crostini, black pepper oven fries and savory olive oil. Everyone had a chance to contribute, no matter your level of cooking skill, as each group was guided by chef/instructors.
After we finished all of our prep and while the lunch was cooking, we moved to a large communal table for the educational phase of the afternoon. We were treated to a very informal lecture from Steve Jenkins of Fairway Market, who was passionate about all things EVOO and who peppered us with many facts, lots of history and important information about one of the staples of my pantry and probably yours! Below are some of the facts we discussed:
· Olive oil should not be fruity – should taste bitter
· Olive oil is about bringing out the flavors in your food
· Olive oil is a condiment not a food
· Look for monocultivars, not blends – the best olives are early harvest when green
The afternoon was sponsored by the Flavor Your
Life campaign an E.U.-funded campaign, and the reason we
were all gathered together at Rustico Cooking. It was created to educate consumers
about the latest in olive oil industry news. One of its missions is to explain
the advantages of adopting a traceability system that allows consumers to track
the olives used to make a given bottle of olive oil.
One of the advantages of adopting a traceability program, for both businesses and consumers, is that the products produced would be obligated to meet all legal requirements. This system could allow the tracking of the origin of a product, process parameters, and strict management of quantities produced, which would aid in reducing production waste and could be used as a potential marketing tool.
Many consumers would feel more confident about buying a bottle of olive oil if they could trace its origins and determine exactly what they’re getting. It gives the product its own story that people can partake in. In this way consumers are more informed and aware of the choices they have and the different prices available on the market.
We’re hoping there are more “workshops” like this in our future – for now, we’re going to the market with a better understanding of how to cook with EVOO and how to purchase the right one for our home.