Ah, extra-virgin olive oil. It can be complex, luscious, and decadent or simple and functional. It's ubiquitous and it ranges in price from super cheap to WTF!
And how to know when to use which kind or for what?
Grist has a great article explaining it all. And there's a great recipe at the bottom for skordalia -- a spread made of potatoes, garlic, olive oil, and lemon juice.
If you don't have time to read the whole thing, the long and short of it is:
- Use very high quality EVOO with strong and complex flavors mostly on its own -- you don't want to use it in anything where it will be overpowered. That would just be a waste.
- Use a still high-quality but not as high-quality EVOO for things like pesto or that get a lot of flavor from other ingredients so that the olive oil is still adding to and matching the flavors.
- Use a "cheaper yet still good-quality olive oil or an expeller-pressed canola oil" for cooking or when you are applying heat. Heat of any sort breaks down olive oil's flavor and thus renders the amazing flavors of a really special, high-quality EVOO pointless.
My favorite part of the article? "Essentially, [when you buy a very high-quality EVOO], you're buying a sauce. Use it that way."
YUM. I am now going to go home and bathe in extra-virgin olive oil.
* With a tip to my girl Rachael Ray. For you haters, sorry, but I love her. Her 30 Minute Meals changed my life -- made me realize I could cook dinner every night and that I didn't have to be a gourmet chef to do so. I could just be me, warts and all. And I know, I used to hate how she says "EVOO" and then explains what it means, but now I find it endearing.