Someone asked me recently, what are my top three pantry items?
The first was easy: great extra virgin olive oil. The second: infused extra virgin olive oil. The third: kosher salt.
We cook and drizzle and bake and drizzle some more with olive oil, every single day and even more when we’re cooking for a crowd. This healthy fat is actually a fruit juice, so rich, thick and complex in flavor that it’s no wonder extra virgin olive oil is not just my top pantry staple, but an essential part of everyday healthy eating. . . one of the foundations of the Mediterranean diet.
But olive oil fraud is almost as old as olive oil itself. Even today with modern techniques and technologies, still the big olive oil companies can’t be sure without lab testing that what they buy or blend is actually olive oil, much less extra virgin.
So the best way to ensure that you’re getting a fresh, delicious, authentic bottle of extra virgin olive oil is to buy from a small producer who is generally milling homegrown olives. This is so important to me to share with you that my sister Peggy and I are committed to curating and offering a phenomenal and rare selection of Lebanese and other extra virgin olive oils from family farms (it’s all at MaureenAboodMarket.com here).
I like to think of my selections and purchases of extra virgin olive oil a little like buying decent bottles of wine: you get what you pay for. I’ll spend a little more on a special bottle of olive oil and use that for finishing. Even my everyday olive oil has to be high quality, extra virgin, and taste great. How unexpected and exciting for gift recipients, too, to receive a great bottle of olive oil rather than (or in addition to!) a great bottle of wine. Plus, the value is there with a bottle of extra virgin olive oil; it lasts a good bit longer than a bottle of wine, which is gone in one sitting!