OLIVE OIL AND FOODS
The extra-virgin olive oil is an essential part of the Mediterranean diet. It has some important organoleptic and nutritional qualities since it is extracted from the fruit, not from seeds, and has a high concentration of A, E, D and K vitamins, easily assimilable even when consumed raw.
Olive oil is probably the most common ingredient in the mediterranean cuisine and can be used in many different ways. It is suitable for cooked dishes or even for frying, since it decomposes at highest temperature, that is around 250 celsius degrees. It is a suitable ingredient for every type of dishes, ranging from appetizers to first and second courses, to soups and salads. It is also used to preserve foods, among which worth-tasting are the vegetables in extra-vergine.
Olives, in their several varieties, are also much consumed in our cuisine. Greens’ are usually used to make the “caponata”, the “ghiotta” and rice salads. Black olives are more often served with cod, pizzas, salads or used for filling traditional pies, like the “scacciata di broccoli” and the “mpanata di cavolfiori”. But they can also be eaten on their own.
Olives cannot be eaten raw since they contain the bitter glucoside oleuropein, which must be neutralized.
They are processed in several ways. The preservation is a particular process that varies according to olives’ variety. For example the Nocellara olives from the Belice Valley are usually soaked in a caustic soda solution and then washed and salted. They won’t lose their characteristic green color.
Olive oil is a major ingredient for sauces and dressings too, such as mayonnaise, that was created by a chef of Cardinal Richelieu in the mid-1700’s and is made by combining extra-virgin olive oil with lemon juice, vinegar, fresh egg yolks and salt. The “Salmoriglio”, made with olive oil, lemon juice, parsley, salt pepper, garlic and oregano, is a favorite dressing for grilled meat or fish. Other renowned olive oil dressings are the “tartara”, the “tonnata”, the “andalusa” and the “cocktail”.