The cornerstone of Mediterranean cooking is olive oil. 1t is also consumed in daily diets, cooked or uncooked using various techniques. Good uncooked olive oil allows the flavours and aromas of the rest of the ingredients in the dish to shine. Many claim that it takes more skill to cook a dish made with oil than any other high-class gastronomic and complex preparation.
Extra virgin olive oil has strong organoleptic features, making it is ideal for salads or with vinegar or lemon. Use it with:
- Fresh boiled vegetables, wild greens, boiled or roasted potatoes, peppers, zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli, notchweeds, black nightshades, black mustard, and chicories
- Complex salads made with potatoes, bread, aubergines, garlic, parsley and fish roe
- Raw or grilled cheese with oregano, savoury, or thyme
- Boiled meat or poultry
- Rusks, especially barley ones or on toasted bread
- Marinades for fish and meat
- Aromatic herbs and greens
In the oven
- Olive oil has the ability to keep fish, meat and vegetables tender in the oven.
- Olive oil mixes well with butter or margarine, especially in foods and desserts that are oven-baked
- For desserts, oil keeps cakes moist and gives biscuits and cookies a crisp texture
- Olive oil can be used as a non-stick substance in baking pans.
Barbecues and grill
Put the meat, poultry, fish, and vegetables in marinades with aromatic greens, spices, and olive oil. You can also baste the food with oil before barbecuing or grilling. The taste will improve, the food won’t stick to the grid or turn black, and it will achieve a nice brown color.
Traditional Mediterranean cooking has dozens of casserole dishes. The main ingredients are olive oil, vegetables, wild greens, legumes, meat, potatoes, or pasta. Casserole dishes cooked with olive oil demand great attention, due to the relationship between olive oil and water. It’s good to stew them at a low temperature and with the casserole lid open, so that the water evaporates to leave the dish with only the oil.
Fats oxidize as a result of high temperatures. Olive oil, thanks to its natural abundance of monounsaturated fatty acids, can resist very high and prolonged temperatures before undergoing changes. Varela (1980) studied the kinetics of the olive oil in fried food compared to other fatty substances like seed oils. Potatoes, fish, and bananas were fried in virgin olive oil, refined olive oil, soy oil, a mixture of soy and olive oil, arachid oil, cottonseed oil, margarine, butter, and lard. Foods fried in olive oil formed a thin crust that increased fat content, while all other fatty substances produced a thick crust with less fat. Olive oil created a thinner, crisper crust for a longer time. These results show that olive oil does not penetrate food but remains on the surface, while all other fatty substances fully penetrate it. Moreover, the oleic acid does not change after frying. Therefore, contrary to popular belief, olive oil is good for frying, if used correctly.
Flouring food before frying creates a protective crust that retains moisture and nutrients. Olive oil contains a certain amount of moisture that is released gradually, if the oil remains between 100 and 150C. Fried olive oil remains easy to digest, even after successive uses, although many experts claim that you should not use oil more than 5 or 6 times for frying. However, many studies found that olive oil was absorbed by the stomach and the intestines even when used repeatedly for frying.
Giving 40ml of uncooked or preheated virgin olive oil to volunteers, through the duodenum, researchers discovered there are no differences between uncooked and preheated olive oil regarding their bile properties.
Corn oils overheat at 160C; sunflower oils, at 170C, creating toxic by-products called “total polar materials” (TPM). Unfortunately, TPM may appear in unheated oils due to poor preservation conditions. Olive oil overheats at 200 to 21OC. During frying, the creation of peroxides and free radicals, which have a negative influence on the central nervous system function, is noticeably restrained.
Thus, we can conclude that olive oil is the most appropriate fatty substance for frying, since it has the greatest resistance to changes caused by oxidization. We could also claim that the gastronomy of Greece revolves around a huge frying-pan, since frying is one of the oldest methods of cooking in the Mediterranean.