Flavors of the Mediterranean: Olive Oil Tasting
A short post today. One of my favorite things at culinary school is tasting things. That can be anything from desserts to meats to sauces to wines to olive oils!
Since olive oil is such a major cooking and flavoring ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine, our class got to taste various types of olive oil. First: some facts.
Extra virgin olive oil doesn’t necessarily mean that it is from the first pressing of the olives. It is a measurement of the level of acidity (no more than .8%), taste, and processing, and is generally judged to be the best kind of olive oil. Major producers of olive oil are Spain and Italy, and they are also major consumers of the oil.
We tasted from left to right, six oils in all. The one on the very left is the one we use most commonly in the kitchen. We also use it to saute, at least in this class. (Contrary to popular belief, you CAN saute with olive oil.) The better quality olive oils are used to “finish” dishes; in other words, a drizzle or couple of drops are added to a salad or main dish to give it an extra level of flavor and texture.
Much to my surprise, the oils all tasted quite different. Some were bland or mellow, some had a grassy flavor, some were a little spicy, and some bitter. You can also see in the photo how the colors vary from pale yellow to grass green.
We also tasted some balsamic vinegars.
In all, we tasted five different vinegars. Again, they ranged quite a bit in texture and flavor. Some were more watery and bland, and some were quite tart and syrupy. You can also see the color variations. Again, like with the olive oil, some vinegars are used in dressings and cooking, and some are used for finishing dishes. Some aged balsamics have really rich flavors, and are used sparingly to garnish dishes.
Next time: a look at the kitchen and some more dishes.