The origin of Olive Oil begins with a story in Greek mythology, which told of a competition between the gods Poseidon and Athena for patronage over the city of Athens.
They each had the task of giving the city the most precious gift. Athena, the goddess of wisdom, gifted the city an olive tree. This gift was so precious to the citizens that she became the patron god of Athens. A symbol of wisdom and peace, people have revered the olive tree for centuries and all that it produces, most of all, olive oil. But what makes olive oil valuable enough to deem it “the most precious gift”?
“Liquid Gold,” this is what ancient Greek author Homer called olive oil in The Iliad and The Odyssey.
And he wasn’t wrong. Coveted by the ancient Mediterranean societies since 6000 BCE, olive oil was important in religious ceremonies and hygienic practices. But olive oil holds a special place in the realm of great cuisine. Whether we incorporate it into the heart of a dish or used to top it off at the end, olive oil is universal in its use. It can be utilized on everything from sumptuous cakes to savory pasta. But for all of the ways we have used it, we tend to overlook this simple yet significant ingredient.
Olive oil comprises one-third of the staple food plants of Mediterranean cuisine. Extracted from the fatty juices released when pressing and grinding an olive, the oil can be used in dishes both savory and sweet. Of the different grades, the most superior one is what we know as “Extra-Virgin Olive Oil,” or EVOO. It can lean towards spicier or sweeter notes depending on the ripeness of the fruit.
A daily spritz of this “liquid gold” is also extremely healthy.
One hundred percent organic and linked with several health benefits, olive oil, is comparatively better than most other types of oils. Extra-Virgin Olive Oil is technically a healthy fat, containing a host of vitamins and proteins which help reduce health issues like cholesterol, blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.
Drizzling that last bit of olive oil on a dish can mark the completion of the recipe — the finishing touch on a work of art. It delights the senses, from the tingling sound of the gentle sizzle as the oil hits the hot stove to the rich, hearty flavor that coats one’s taste buds with a sensation of culinary ecstasy. With its fruity tones, slight bitterness and silk-like quality, olive oil adds a layer of complex depth and perfection to the otherwise ordinary. Olive oil truly is a gift from the gods.
Here is a list of artisanal olive oils you can try for your next meal:
Pasolivo’s Classic Blend took Gold in both the New York and Los Angeles International Olive Oil Competitions in 2018. Its flavor profile is a marriage of traditional Spanish and Tuscan varietals and offers a fruity profile with a peppery finish perfect for steaks, roasted potatoes, salads or dipping.
Locally-sourced and widely-acclaimed, this variety is produced from olives grown in authentic California ranches. Bright green smell, buttery flavor with hints of black pepper.
This award-winning variety, winning the title of world’s best olive oil, is the pride of the European variety. Luminous and fragrant, with fruity aromas, slightly bitter with a spicy finish.
Harvested in Tehama County in Northern California, this variety is buttery and dense with a unique leafy taste and strong overtones of mint and peach.
A more robust oil, this variety is intense and aromatic. Deep vegetal notes, almond flavors and a peppery finish make it perfect for dipping.
“Olio Santo,” or “Sacred Oil,” is an acclaimed variety cold-pressed in Napa Valley, California, also found at Williams-Sonoma. Full-bodied with the robust flavor of the fresh harvest.