by Lana Buseman, Communications Design Specialist
Olive oil has become an important modern day kitchen staple, finding its way to the U.S. from the Mediterranean countries of Spain, Italy and Greece. In fact, different countries around the world take olive oil so seriously that organizations have sprung up, like the International Olive Oil Council based in Madrid, just to classify different standards of the oil. While the U.S. Department of Agriculture has claimed their own olive oil standards, they pretty much follow the same guidelines of the IOOC.
The most prestigious of olive oils is extra virgin olive oil. This oil is considered the best, taste-wise, because it is made only from virgin olives and has almost zero acidity. This gives it a fruity, sweet flavor. Extra virgin olive oil is not the best for sautéing, but better used for topping salads, soups and bread.
The next level of oil is virgin olive oil. Virgin olive oil has slightly more acidity than extra virgin, but can be used in place of extra virgin olive oil.
Olive oil is said to have the least flavor, being a blend of virgin and refined oil, and is best used for sautéing and in other areas where the flavor of the oil is not extremely important.
All three of these oils, especially virgin and extra virgin, can not only add flavor to your meals, but have health benefits as well. Oils like olive oil contain the good fats, monosaturated fats, that your body needs to keep your skin and hair healthy. Monosaturated fats can also help lower your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels, whereas foods like butter or saturated oils raise them.
One of the best types of olive oil that I frequently use in my own kitchen is infused olive oil. Today, you can find olive oils infused with everything from garlic to orange peels. These kinds of oils are great for adding delicious flavor to your meals but can often be pricey. If you want to enjoy flavored oil without breaking your bank, it is very simple to make one on your own.
This is the recipe for garlic-basil infused olive oil, but feel free to experiment with any herbs and ingredients you love.
Garlic-Basil Infused Olive Oil
You will need:
- 3- 4 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
- 2 cups extra virgin olive oil
- 2-3 springs fresh basil
- 1 tablespoon cracked black peppercorns
In a saucepan, combine garlic and ½ cup oil. Sautee over medium heat until the garlic is browned (you don’t want it to burn!). Remove from heat and allow to come to room temperature. With a mesh strainer or cheese cloth, strain the oil into a sterilized jar or bottle with a tight fitting lid. Add in the remaining oil, basil and peppercorns. Store the jar in a dark, cool place for a week before using.
Enjoy over pasta, salad or bread!