"Good" olive oil?
On every cooking show I watch, the chef/host says, "now add __ Tbs of GOOD olive oil" or, "be sure to use really good EVOO for this." I'm wondering what you do with your "only so-so" olive oil? Since I use olive oil in so many things, I can't afford the pricey stuff (which may or may not be "good" olive oil anyway). I buy the big jugs of Kirkland olive oil at Costco. Should I start shelling out the extra cash for the premium stuff? And if so, how do I know what the "good" stuff is? I'm convinced it's like wine... spending more $ doesn't always get you something wildly better.
I often use "so-so" EVOO to cook with, and then I drizzle my good olive oil on top of the finished product when I'm trying to save money. The complexity of good stuff truly adds another dimension to food, and honestly I don't think I could live without it. A dash of great EVOO on top of something like a pureed vegetable soup or crostini can completely transform a dish, while a dash of cheap olive oil just makes it oily. Unfortunately I had to buy a few bottles of expensive stuff that I didn't like before I fell in love, but now I have certain brands that I like with certain foods. I can tell the difference in my food when I cook with cheaper stuff rather than doing everything with the good stuff, but on a day-to-day basis I can't be pouring $40 olive oil into a pan to sautee vegetables, especially when I can pour a teaspoon over it when I'm done and get 80% of the same effect. My favorite compromise is Frantoia. It's not crazy expensive and it's very good. A liter of Frantoia costs about the same as a half liter of most "finishing oils." Buy a bottle and use it for a while and you might not be able to go back to living without it. IMHO there is almost nothing you can add to a meal for less than fifty cents that make as big a difference as good EVOO.
I use good olive oil for eating plain on bread or making garlic bread; for salad dressing; for drizzling over fish or into a dish that many people would swirl in some butter at the end (I generally prefer olive oil in savory dishes); or for topping pasta. For cooking use the cheaper stuff.
And I agree with la2tokyo that Frantoia Sicilian oil is very good. You can often find it for about $25 a liter, which isn't as bad as many.
A hearty + 2 from me on Frantoia. Wonderful stuff indeed - terrific for finishing dishes. In fact, a drizzle of Frantoia and a pinch of coarse sea salt has become my dressing of choice for most greens (occassionally I indulge with a splash of something sour too). Hell, it's even great by the teaspoon.
That being said, I can see how it may be a bit expensive for all uses. I will typically buy the large tins of the better supermarket brands (Bertoli, etc.) when they are on sale and use that for my ordinary sauteing. Ultimately, I suppose my rule is, the simpler the preparation the better the oil.
I've tried a lot of commonly available olive oils and find the Kirkland oil to be excellent. A best buy for sure. That's what I use for sauteing or just about any cooked dish and for salad dressings. In fact, I find it's good enough to use even in those recipes that call for the good stuff. But if you want to try something better that doesn't cost a bundle, try one of Trader Joe's Spanish oils (there are a couple of them). They run about $8 a half liter.
Yes to Frantoia, which is $20/liter at Fairway--its Sicilian growers, Barbera, also make a line of less expensive EVOOs, from Sicily and/or Puglia, that would work very well for cooking. Fairway has great EVOOS for as little as $15/liter (their Greek Koroneiki is just superb at $16). I use Fairway's house EVOO at $9/liter for cooking, and a Barbera DOP Valli Trapanese at $13/750ml, for salads and drizzling. I'm never in a position to consider an expensive Tuscan at, say, $35/liter, since I don't generally like the classic Tuscan raspy style. That said, the Kirkland Tuscan EVOO ( it's regionally certified and from the latest harvest) is a steal at $12/liter, good for all uses.
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