Olive oil is a staple in Middle Eastern cooking. Whether you use a Greek, Italian, Spanish or Californian oil is a strictly a matter of personal taste. However you should take care in purchasing and storing your olive oil. Check bottles for harvest dates — olive oil does not improve with age! Avoid any oil which is more than 18 months old. Light also has a detrimental effect on olive oil. Avoid buying oils in brightly lit supermarkets. Always store your oil in a cool, dark place — never next to the stove or in the refrigerator!
Olive oil is considered a “good fat” — one which is believed to lower cholesterol levels. You can cut the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol in your baked goods by replacing the butter in your recipes with 3/4 the amount of olive oil.
Because it remains stable at high temperatures, olive oil is ideal for frying. But since heat takes away some of its natural fruitiness, reserve your favorite or most expensive oil for other purposes.
To qualify as extra virgin, olive oil must be mechanically extracted, cold-pressed, have an acidity level of < 1% and a perfect fruity taste (based upon standards set by the International Olive Oil Council). No heat or chemicals may be used to extend or alter the oil. With the exception of centrifuging and filtering, extra virgin olive oil is completely untreated.
Pure or “100% Pure” olive oil is the most widely marketed grade. It is a combination of extra virgin and refined virgin oils. The acidity level of pure olive oil can be no higher than 1.5%.
Light or “Lite” olive oils are pure, rectified oils. They are no lower in fat or calories than any other grade of olive oil. The name refers to their light color and light taste.
Pomace oil is obtained by using solvents to extract residual oil from the olive paste left over from making virgin olive oil. Pomace oil is cheap, but you are not likely to find it in stores. It is most commonly used commercially, for frying and other cooking purposes.