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Olive Oil and the Mediterranean Diet

Mediterranean Diet  

The “Mediterranean Diet” is a foodway created by those who live around that warm inland sea and now followed by people around the world. Its main components are whole grains, fish, nuts, vegetables, fruits, and olive oil. It includes a moderate amount of dairy, mostly cultured, and low amounts of land animal meat. As well as the ingredients, the Mediterranean diet emphasizes family, connection, and a modicum of physical activity.

Olive Oil Foundations

Olive oil is a major component of the Mediterranean diet, used in everything from deep frying to desserts, lamplighting to massage. Olive trees grow abundantly all around the Mediterranean, and their fruits produce a wonderful oil in all qualities from flavor to healthiness. Olive oil is monounsaturated, the best kind of saturation level for cardiovascular health and lowered ‘bad’ cholesterol. It’s also rich in antioxidants and nutrients.  What a lovely base to build a foodway on!

Saturation Levels

Above we mention that olive oil is ‘monounsaturated’. But what does that mean, and why does it matter? Hundreds of thousands of words have been written about the chemistry of olive oil, but here’s a brief summary.  Fats are composed of long chains of carbon atoms bound to a glycerin molecule.  When all the carbons are bound to 2 hydrogens the fat is ‘saturated’ with hydrogen, A fat that has one missing hydrocarbon per chain (which results in a single double bond between carbons) is monounsaturated.  Polyunsaturated fats have, you guessed it, multiple missing hydrocarbons and single or double links between carbons.

One interesting feature of fats is that the higher the proportion of saturated fats, the higher the melting point and temperature before catching fire.   Olive oil, very rich in monounsaturated oleic acid, pours at room temperature but as a thick golden liquid. Also, monounsaturated fats are the best for cardiovascular health.  Studies have shown that they drive down the concentration of “bad” LDL cholesterol. 

Drizzle of Deliciousness

Olive oil achieves the amazing feat of being both delicious and good for us.  It is one of those foods which expresses <i>terroir</i>, the character of the place where it’s produced. Therefore, olive oils vary widely in flavor, from grassy to buttery, peppery to rich, but every one is delicious and every one enhances the food prepared with it. In many Mediterranean cuisines there’s a custom of finishing off a dish with a drizzle of olive oil to add that last bit of mouthwatering shine. What could be more beautiful or more tasty?

Mediterranean Themes

The Mediterranean diet is excellent for novice and experienced cooks alike. Many of the cuisines under its banner are quite ancient, and their recipes are tried and true for new cooks. Meanwhile those who love to experiment in their cooking have a wide field of ingredients and techniques to work with, all tied together by the delicious olive oil. 

Here at the home of the Cinder Grill we have some Mediterranean-themed recipes, including but not limited to:

And we’re always working on creating more, because we’re so inspired by the Mediterranean Diet. This foodway is not only delicious, not only healthy, but also joyful. It includes a wide range of ingredients and recipes that are beautiful and appealing, none more so than olive oil. It also includes many health benefits, ranging from the cardiovascular health we discussed earlier to overall increased longevity.  Enjoy all these luscious possibilities with the Cinder Grill!

True Fields Extra Virgin Olive Oil and the Cinder Grill

Whoever came up with “Everything old is new again” must have been thinking of handpicked olive oil. This ancient condiment fits perfectly into modern lives, more popular and more delicious than ever. Not only is olive oil extremely healthy, especially extra virgin olive oil, but current technology helps it stay fresher longer, giving the cook more time and opportunities. This blog post focuses on the tasty relationship between True Fields olive oil and the Cinder Grill, and how to make the most of both together.

Olive oil for Healthy Cooking

The premiere grade of olive oil is the famous extra virgin, but that’s not the only one available. One of the special aspects of extra virgin olive oil is its high level of polyphenols and other healthy compounds. However, polyphenols especially come in large molecules which break down over heat. For this reason, the best grade for cooking is actually plain, refined olive oil. Save the beautiful True Fields EVOO olive oil for toppings and condiments.

Olive Oil for Uncooked Sauces

Olive oil makes a healthy, luscious base for cold sauces such as salsas and relishes. Just chop up the herbs, vegetables, and other items that strike your fancy and turn the little pile into a condiment with salt, pepper, and a generous amount of EVOO.  This is the perfect application for extra virgin, taking advantage not only of its delicious flavor but of oil’s ability to dissolve other flavors.  This helps preserve and mingle the flavors for the best effect. Try making a chimichurri or a salsa and dolloping the cold sauce onto a freshly seared chicken breast or salmon steak for a flavor and temperature contrast that can’t be beaten!

Olive Oil for Hot Sauces

A common finishing step in making many pan sauces is to “mount” them, or thicken and enrich them, often with softened butter. Lush EVOO can pull off this trick as well! Due to olive oil’s lack of water and emulsifiers, you’ll have to whisk a little harder, but its large molecules will slip into your sauce with only a little effort. Of course, if you’d rather make a cooked roux, remember to use a drizzle of True Fields extra virgin olive oil at the very end.

Olive Oil as a Condiment 

Like many of the best foods, from coffee to cheese, wine to vanilla, olive oil can express that mysterious quality known as terroir. This is when the location of a food’s production greatly affects its qualities of taste and texture. Look at your olive oil, both on the bottle and online, to discover the special aspects of its terroir. Then take advantage of those qualities, whether your oil is peppery, buttery, grassy, or more, to use the oil itself as a condiment on foods from toasted bread to seared steak. 

Olive Oil Not for Searing

With all these possibilities, what can’t olive oil do? Well, in a word, sear. Because of its rich and complex makeup, extra virgin olive oil denatures and then burns at relatively low heat. Even refined olive oil has a smoke point of 360F, far below the Cinder Grill’s sear at 450.  Burning such a precious oil will do no favors to the oil, the food, or the chef. So don’t try to use olive oil to sear. 

Recipes Using Olive Oil

Of course, we list quite a few dishes featuring olive oil on our Recipes page. Here are a few which demonstrate some of the points in this blog post: 

  • This Guinea Hen recipe by Michelin Starred Chef Critchley features an uncooked relish built on EVOO.  
  • Spaghetti Squash soaks in olive oil and garlic as it cooks, soaking up the rich flavors the oil carries.
  • An exception to the no-cook rule, these marinated Sungold Tomatoes use very gentle heat to bring out the flavors of the tomatoes and marinade.
  • A good drizzle of olive oil fittingly dresses this beautiful beet salad, making the roasted root vegetables glisten like jewels.

Take these recipes as inspiration but don’t stop here. The possibilities are endless when you combine True Fields extra virgin olive oil and the Cinder Grill!

Marinating With True Fields Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Extra virgin Olive oil is an iconic ingredient. Delicious, nutritious, beautiful, and rich with history, it can be used in endless ways.  One of the many places Handpicked True Fields olive oil provides both health and cooking benefits as in marinades. Many foods, notable meats, are improved by a flavorful soak. Furthermore, most marinades are improved by extra virgin olive oil in multiple ways. Read on with us to see why.

Carrying Flavors

Many flavor molecules are chemically related to proteins and sugars, especially those produced during the Maillard Reactions. During marination, these larger molecules can often travel better in fats than in water-based solutions, due to the different molecular structures. In addition to its triglycerides, Olive oil contains other large molecules which help carry the flavor molecules to their new destinations in your food.

Providing Flavor

Speaking of those large luscious molecules in olive oil, many of them have delicious flavors of their own, such as the richness of oleic acid and the sharpness of polyphenols. True Fields Olive oil not only carries flavors but contributes them, lending any food lushness and vibrancy. Lean foods, such as poultry breasts and boneless pork, particularly benefit from vivacious olive oil.

Viscosity is our Ally

Even the most flavorful marinade does no good if it runs right off. Here’s another way in which True Fields olive oil can help in the marination. It’s an intrinsically viscous oil; also, like most oils, when blended with a water-based liquid the resulting emulsion is very thick indeed. Olive oil plus a little whisking can turn a thin marinade into a thick robe of flavor which clings to the food. 

Moisture is our Goal

A constant issue facing cooks is how to keep food from drying out while cooking.  The same heat which produces delicious changes in flavor and texture can drive the water-based moisture away. However, as the old saying goes, “oil and water don’t mix.” A coating of pure cold pressed True Fields olive oil-based marinade works as a barrier against escaping moisture. Furthermore, the olive oil lubricates the food itself, contributing to the moist and juicy mouth feel. 

True Fields handpicked Olive oil is delicious, healthy, and versatile. Using it in marinades and sauces will expand both culinary abilities and nutritious opportunities. So let the olive oil flow!  

True Fields Extra virgin Olive Oil in Recipes

hand-picked, small batch, extra virgin olive oil delivered to your door

Celebrate Olive Oil!

We absolutely love olive oil and have included it in many of our recipes. Because of that, we thought it would be a good idea to highlight how olive oil is used in these recipes.  Not only can you make these delicious dishes using True Fields EVOO, but you can take inspiration and ideas from them. This will help you develop your own olive oil recipes.

In our recipe for Salmon Filet With Blistered Tomatoes, olive oil does double duty.  It functions as a lubricating cooking medium – the tomatoes and salmon wouldn’t stick when cooking, but the olive oil guarantees it. It also makes a luscious sauce all on its own, enriching the delicious fish even further.

Chef Critchley’s Beet Salad glistens with an easy, elegant vinaigrette.  The perfectly roasted beets, neither mushy nor heavy but sweet and toothsome, look like a pile of jewels when coated in olive oil, vinegar, and seasonings. Furthermore, they taste even better than they look!

Another vegetable that benefits from olive oil is the zucchini. Its fellow summer squashes do as well in this colorful recipe. Summer squash can be watery and bland, but not here! Then the olive-oil-based dressing enriches the vegetables and enhances their flavor.

Meat benefits from olive oil just as much as vegetables do. No meat demonstrates that better than lamb. The olive-oil-based marinade carries flavors much more efficiently than a water-based marinade, and the thickness of the oil helps the seasonings cling. 

Beef also benefits from olive oil, as in this Grass-Fed Beef Shoulder. For all of its richness, olive oil also has a lightness to it.  This helps elevate the beef from being stodgy to being satisfying. Also, the glistening glow that olive oil lends to all it touches makes the already gorgeous beef look absolutely mouthwatering.

Poultry and olive oil are natural partners, such as in this Cornish Game Hen recipe. Cooking such small birds evenly can be a challenge, but the olive oil provides crispness, succulence, and a delicious sheen to the seared hens, making them irresistible.

These recipes just begin to demonstrate the luscious versatility of olive oil.  We very much hope they serve as a delicious inspiration and also delicious meals!