Wednesday, August 1, 2007


Raw olives waiting for processing

Come the hot days, I think fondly of the shores of Italy, Greece, Spain, Turkey and France where I have spent so many wonderful times. The memories also reinforce my love of olive oil in all of its diversity and complexity.
Olive oil can be made from black or green olives and there are many different kinds that make as much difference to the finall taste as grape varieties do to wines. Unfortunately, the variety is almost never given and the rules about place names are almost non-existant. As far as I know, only Italy's Puglia has a rule about the use of their location name. About seventy-five percent of Greek olive oil is exported to Italy; you never see an olive oil in or from Italy that has any mention of Greece.
I tend to like the clearer, aromatic oils with a minimum of acidity and bitterness particularly on the back of the tongue. I tend not to like the dark green, intense Tuscans which seem to me to overwhelm tender salad greens and cooked food.
The only answer is tasting and a wardrobe of oils in the cupboard to be chosen according to use.
Don't be snobs. Try the Greek kalamata oil--superb--as well as some of the Spanish oils. French oils tend to be lighter. My favorite used to come from the Cotes-du-Rhone. Sadly, the age gentleman who made it had to retire and his children refused to carry on. the olives were small and ripe and gave very little juice, oil--a labor of tradition and love.

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