Then there's olive oil. Remember that moment in the 1990s when the Mediterranean diet captured headlines here in the U.S.? When all of a sudden we were told that dousing our pasta with olive oil was not only chic, but good for our health? I brimmed with sophisticated thoughts at that moment. Thoughts like: Wait, WHAT?!?
Olive oil and I have been friends ever since.
Happily, when I was in Israel, I had the chance to visit a family-owned olive press called Rish Lakish. Our visit took place during the fall harvest festival known as Olive Branch Days. According to Dr. Adi Naali of the Israeli Olive Oil Division, about 30 producers participate in this annual celebration. (There are 110 high-quality olive oil producers in Israel as a whole.) My profile of Rish Lakish, and the family that runs it, just went live on the Etsy blog. I hope you'll click over to read it there.
1. When possible, buy oil in cans or green glass bottles. Some clear plastic bottles may contain colorants that mask poor quality oil.
2. Store olive oil in a cool, dark spot, away from both light and heat.
3. For everyday cooking, use small containers of olive oil. Oxygen is olive oil's enemy, and every time you open a large bottle the oil degrades. So transfer the contents of larger bottles into smaller ones, and cook daily from the smaller vessels.
4. Always check the production date. Ayala says good olive oil has a shelf life of about two years. Mass-produced factory oil lasts about one year.
5. Expect to pay for quality. Cheap olive oil should trigger alarm bells. NPR recently ran a story that revealed just how rampant the mislabeling of cheap, imported olive oil really is.
As an incentive to check out the Etsy piece, you'll get to see in the final photo that Hugh Acheson has a potential future career as a hand-model in the unlikely event that the whole chef/restaurateur/TV thing falls through for him.
It's always good to have a back-up plan.
(Mine is to be a prima ballerina.)