From Extra Virgin To Lampante: Knowing The Different Grades Of Olive Oil

You’re standing in the grocery store, staring at shelf upon shelf of olive oil: Extra Virgin … Pure… Light. It’s little wonder that so many people are confused about the different grades of olive oil. A survey last year – by the Olive Center at the University of California’s Davis campus – found that 55 percent of respondents thought they understood the meaning of olive oil grades. Yet no more than 25 percent responded correctly to statements about the grades. Kirsten Good one

The Olive Center added: “Lack of consumer knowledge of the differences among olive oil grades indicates a need for clearer information on the quality difference among grades.” That’s for sure.

Unfortunately, for many people, buying olive oil is like buying yogurt, cold medicine, or toothpaste. You’re confronted with a dizzying array of choices, labels and claims. Once again, it’s worth reviewing the different grades of olive oil, and what makes them different.

Extra virgin olive oil: The top grade, delivering the best taste and the full health benefits of olive oil. It has zero defects. Think of it as freshly pressed fruit juice, given that olives are a fruit. The olives are crushed at a mill and the oil is extracted through mechanical means – versus refined oil extracted through the use of heat or chemicals. In our case, we crush our olives and run the resulting paste through a centrifuge to separate the oil from the water and any leftover solids from the olive, known as pomace.

To be truly extra virgin, the oil must pass a battery of chemical requirements (such as free fatty acid percent and peroxide values) set by the Madrid-based International Olive Council (IOC), the California Olive Oil Council (COOC), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and other bodies. We adhere to the COOC and USDA standards as well as our own internal standards, which are a combination of the most stringent quality parameters on the books. In addition to the chemical tests, true extra virgin olive oil must pass a panel of professional tasters who detect positive attributes like olive fruitiness; the tasters must not find any taste flaws. In short, the oil must taste like olives and be of the freshest quality.

Virgin Olive Oil: The intermediate grade of olive oil, below extra virgin and above lowly lampante (see below). Virgin olive oil has “reasonably good flavor and odor” as well as some defects that a certified taste panel can detect; the general population, however, may well not notice the flaw.

Pure Olive Oil/Olive Oil: Oil that’s been refined to remove any defects. Without the refining, the oil would be unfit for human consumption and be considered lampante oil (see below). Pure olive oil – also known as olive oil – is typically blended with some extra virgin olive oil to add flavor. In that same Olive Center survey, nearly half of respondents said olive oil labeled “pure” was best – when, in reality, it’s lower on the grade scale than extra virgin.

Light Olive Oil: Not a diet product. It’s basically the same as “pure” olive oil. It’s really light in flavor or color – not calories or fat. In short, the term “light” has absolutely nothing to do with the quality or health benefits of the oil. “Light” and “extra-light” oils, like other cooking oils – such as canola, corn, and vegetable – contain 14 grams of fat per tablespoon.

Lampante Oil: Oil that’s unfit for human consumption. To be sold as food, lampante oil must be refined to remove the off flavors.

Pomace Olive Oil: Oil extracted from the olive pomace – the solid waste left over from the milling process. It includes olive pits, skin and flesh. The oil is obtained by re-milling the pomace to obtain the remaining 1 percent to 5 percent of oil that’s left in the waste. It also can be obtained by mixing solvents into the pomace; heat is then used to extract additional oil from the pomace.

Bon appétit,

Your Friends at California Olive Ranch

 

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Give Beef Burgers A Veggie Makeover With … Quinoa & Pinto Bean Burgers!

Purviance - Quinoa and Pinto Bean Burger

“In the 1980s and ‘90s, a funny thing happened … “alternative burgers started showing up all over America,” Jamie Purviance writes in his fabulous new book, Weber’s Big Book of Burgers. And people who threw backyard barbecues were showing “a new open-mindedness” about burgers. “We cleared room on the grill for whatever our guests preferred, even … gasp … vegetarian burgers,” Purviance adds.

So, if you’re a vegetarian – or want to try another type of burger other than beef – the quinoa and pinto bean burger featured here is for you. (Click here to see recipe.)

Purviance, a best-selling cookbook author and Weber’s master griller, tops these veggie burgers with a Greek yogurt sauce that includes chopped cilantro and garlic. (These burgers, by the way, appear in Weber’s Big Book of Burgers.)

Purviance also uses extra virgin olive oil to prepare the burgers – for sautéing ingredients like onion, bell pepper and garlic, and for actually grilling the patties themselves. (Click here to get his tips for grilling with extra virgin olive oil.)

The patties combine a variety of savory ingredients, including cooked quinoa, red onion, pinto beans, corn kernels, panko bread crumbs, Greek yogurt, and hot chili-garlic sauce for a little heat. They’re combined in a food processor, and formed into patties.

Rather than cook these burgers directly on the grilling grate, Purviance opts for a grill-proof griddle placed on the grate. The patties are brushed with olive oil and placed, oiled side down, on the griddle and cooked for 4 to 5 minutes, until golden. (The grill lid, by the way, is closed). The tops of the patties are then brushed with more oil, flipped, and cooked for an additional 4 to 5 minutes. (Click here to see recipe.)

The cooked burgers are placed on toasted buns along with arugula, tomato slice, and a dollop of the yogurt sauce.

You can also get Purviance’s recipe for lemon and dill turkey burgers by clicking here.

Bon appétit,

Your friends at California Olive Ranch

 

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Our New Plastic Chef’s Size Bottle … For Those Who Fly Through Olive Oil

We fly through bottles of extra virgin olive oil in our kitchen. We use it for salad dressings, sautéing, roasting, baking, grilling, drizzling … you get the picture. Perhaps you’re like us – we know there are many of you out there – and you have to restock your pantry frequently with olive oil. If so, our new “Chef Size” bottle is for you – and you don’t have to be a chef to enjoy this 1.4-liter plastic bottle. Chef's Size bottle

Plastic? Yes, that’s right. A larger bottle made of recyclable, dark green plastic.  To put it simply, our fans asked … and we listened! Some history is in order.

For years, our consumers have requested larger sized bottles of our Everyday Fresh oil to accommodate their growing interest in using great tasting extra virgin olive oil as part of their healthy diets.  So, in response, we’ve increased the size of our EDF glass bottles from half a liter to ¾ liter, and then to a full 1 liter.

But, with the larger glass bottle, our fans began saying the weight had become a bit challenging while cooking with it every day in their kitchens.  Some of our fans are a tad older, so weight and fear of broken glass are real concerns – not to mention a safety issue we wanted to address.  You’ll also notice we don’t even offer the 1 liter glass bottle online, given that the cost of shipping the bottle alone outweighs the cost of the product itself.

In response to these many requests from our consumers, we decided to offer another option for very frequent users. Enter our new Chef Size 1.4-liter bottle. By the way, it free of Bisiphenol A, a chemical found in polycarbonate plastics. All of our plastic containers are made from polyethylene, which doesn’t contain BPA.

To be sure, not everyone needs to begin using our new plastic bottle. If you’re someone who doesn’t use our oil as frequently, then the glass bottles are for you.  Glass maintains the oil for a longer shelf life, up to two years from the bottling date versus 18 months for the plastic bottles. It’s a distinction we note on the bottles. You’ll also notice we’ve chosen darker bottles to reduce the exposure to harmful light.

Rest assured that all our extra virgin olive oil is always maintained and stored year-round in a temperature-controlled environment, with no exposure to harmful heat or light.  We nitrogen-flush all of our bottles and storage vessels to remove any oxygen that can harm the oil.

So for all you cooks who fly through our olive oil, our new Chef Size may be for you. Feel free to give it a test drive in your kitchen.

Bon appétit,

Your friends at California Olive Ranch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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7 Great Foods You Never Thought To Grill

Collage Unusual Grilled FoodsBurgers … hot dogs … eggplant … corn … . They’re among the usual suspects that spring to mind when it comes to cooking over live fire. But maybe you’re like us – always looking for ways to expand your grilling repertoire. Fortunately, you’ve got options. Lots of them. Extra virgin olive oil, naturally, plays a role in making these foods taste great.

Apricots

The apricots we bought at the farmers’ market and grilled tasted like candy. We halved and pitted the apricots, and then brushed them with extra virgin olive oil. We grilled both sides until nicely marked. We topped the grilled apricots with our robust Limited Reserve olive oil, good balsamic, and chopped mint. Like we said … candy!

Avocados

Grilled avocados have a lightly smoky flavor and a somewhat silky texture. The added bonus: They’re easy and quick. Here’s how we do it: Halve. Pit. Brush flesh with extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice. Grill cut side down 5-7 minutes. Drizzle grilled halves with more olive oil and lemon juice. Add a sprinkle of sea salt. Scoop out. Eat!

Baby Bok Choy

Grilled baby bok choy is a treat. Our first time, we cut them in half, and then marinated them briefly in a 50-50 combination of extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice – along with salt and pepper. We grilled the halves until they got nice grill marks, and then cut away any leaves which were overly charred. Next time we plan to separate the tender leaves from the stalks beforehand, and then reunite the leaves with the grilled stalks on a serving platter. Either way, we’re guessing you’ll be pleased with the results.

Broccoli

Grilled Broccoli? Who would have thought! We gave it a try and were pleasantly surprised. Here’s who we did it. We sliced the broccoli into sizeable florets and tossed them with extra virgin olive oil. We then cooked them on the grill, turning occasionally until nice grill marks appeared. One tip: Cut the larger heads into long, flatter pieces for easier grilling. And be sure to give the finished broccoli a sprinkle of salt and pepper along with a drizzle of peppery extra virgin olive oil, like our Miller’s Blend.

Brussels Sprouts

Grilled Brussels sprouts were a new concept in our “test kitchen” when we first prepared them. And we weren’t disappointed. They have a pleasant smokiness. And they’re a huge step up from boiled sprouts, which can emit a sulfurous stench. To prepare, boil briefly, toss with extra virgin olive oil, and cook over live fire until nicely charred. (Click here to see a recipe from Food52 for grilled Brussels sprouts.)

Leeks

We tried grilling leeks at the suggestion of one of our Facebook fans. We simply followed their suggestion. Halved them. Rinsed the halves to remove any grit. Brushed the halves with extra virgin olive oil. Grilled them. Topped the grilled halves with our Limited Reserve and a sprinkle of sea salt. The verdict: Delish!

Polenta

Grilling is an easy way to jazz up polenta – either store-bought or homemade. Cut into squares. Brush with extra virgin olive oil. Grill until you get nice grill marks. Top with more olive oil and sea salt. They’re great as an appetizer … or a side dish.

Tell us your favorite unusual foods that are great on the grill.

Bon appétit,

Your friends at California Olive Ranch

 

 

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Giving Your Burger Repertoire A Makeover: Lemon & Dill Turkey Burgers

Lemon and Dill Turkey Burgers

“I can’t imagine a world without hamburgers,” Jamie Purviance writes in his book, Weber’s Big Book of Burgers. Nor could we. Purviance, a best-selling cookbook author, dishes out dozens of recipes for burgers of all sorts: beef (naturally), bison, lamb, shrimp, mushroom, and many others – like the lemon and dill turkey burgers featured here. (Click here to see recipe.)

Purviance, who also is Weber’s master griller, is a big fan of extra virgin olive oil, which he uses in various ways for grilling. (Click here to get his tips for grilling with extra virgin olive oil.)

These turkey burgers, in fact, use olive oil. To form the patties, Purviance includes 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to combine the ingredients: yellow onion, garlic, ground turkey, minced fresh dill, lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt and pepper. The olive oil also helps prevent the turkey meat from drying out.

Once they’re ready, the burgers are bushed with olive oil to keep them from sticking to the grill grate. (Our Everyday Fresh oil would be ideal for this recipe.) After they’re grilled, the burgers are placed on a toasted bun along with  lettuce, roasted bell pepper, and mayonnaise. (Click here to see recipe.)

Purviance, by the way, uses a neat technique to help the patties keep their shape while they cook on the grill. It’s something you could use with other burgers. “With your thumb or the back of a spoon, make a shallow indentation about 1 inch wide in the center of the patties to prevent them from forming a dome as they cook,” he explains.

Bon appétit,

Your friends at California Olive Ranch

 

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Grilling With Olive Oil – Tips From Weber’s Master Griller

Grilled egplant iStockJamie Purviance got the grilling bug not long after he graduated from Stanford, where he majored in economics. He accepted a teaching position in Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta. It was there – and in his travels across Southeast Asia – that Purviance became fascinated with cooking over live fire. He headed to the Culinary Institute of America, graduating with high honors. Today, Purviance is Weber’s master griller. He’s also a best-selling author and has written more than a dozen cookbooks, and contributed to many national magazines.

What are your top tips for home grillers?

Give yourself at least two heat zones. If you set up your grill for one type of heat only, your options are limited. What if something is cooking too fast? What if your food is flaring up? What if you are grilling two very different foods at the same time? You should have at least two zones of heat: one for direct heat (where the fire is right under the food) and one for indirect heat (where the fire is off to the side of the food). That way, you can move your food from one zone whenever you like.

Use the lid. Believe it or not, a grill’s lid is for much more than keeping the rain out.  Its more important job is preventing too much air from getting in and too much heat and smoke from getting out. When the lid is closed, the grate is hotter, the grilling times are faster, the smoky tastes are stronger, and the flare-ups are fewer. So put a lid on it. Having said that, don’t forget to open the vents of a charcoal grill’s lid at least halfway. Every fire needs a little air to keep on burning.

What types of grilled dishes are good candidates for basting with extra virgin olive oil during grilling – and what does the oil contribute?

Portabella mushrooms are at their best when basted with good oil occasionally during grilling. Most of their water content evaporates over the high heat, potentially leaving them dry and bland; but if you marinate the mushrooms and baste them occasionally with extra virgin olive oil, they come off the grill with juicy textures and rich, smoky flavors.

What are some of your other favorite ways to use extra virgin olive oil when grilling?

In the world of grilling and barbecue, I use a lot of spice rubs and fresh herb mixtures to create flavorful crusts. I’ve found that the flavors seep into fish and meats a lot better when the spices and herbs are moistened and enriched with a flavorful olive oil. These wet pastes sear into the fish and meat without burning or scorching.

Can you give us a quick marinade that uses extra virgin olive oil?

This all-purpose marinade is one of my favorites. Grate one small white onion. You should get about ½ cup of grated onion and juice. Whisk that with ¼ cup fresh lemon juice, 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 3 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, and 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.

Do you like to use extra virgin olive oil as a finishing oil for certain dishes – and, if so, which dishes?

Yes. Something really special happens when you take a sizzling steak off the grill and finish it with a sprinkling of salt and drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.  The oil mingles with the spices and the meat juices to make an instant, awesome sauce.

Do you use olive oils with different flavor profiles for different foods and, if so, could you please offer a few examples or rules of thumb for pairing foods and oils when you’re finishing a dish?

I like the peppery oils especially for finishing steaks. The oils with greener flavors of fresh vegetables and herbs work really well when finishing grilled shrimp or swordfish.

Is there a simple grilled dish (one that doesn’t require a recipe) that uses olive oil that you could share with our readers – be it a vegetable, main dish, etc.?

Here is a great little recipe for making steak fries on the grill. Cut some russet potatoes in half lengthwise and then cut each half lengthwise into ½-inch slices. It’s very important that the slices are thin enough. Otherwise they will burn before they are fully cooked inside. Brush the slices with extra virgin olive oil and season them with salt and pepper. Grill them over direct medium heat, with the lid closed, until tender inside and crispy outside, 15 to 17 minutes, turning occasionally. Serve with your favorite condiment. I serve them with a rosemary-lemon aioli.

Bon appétit,

Your friends at California Olive Ranch

 

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Give Traditional Pesto A “Peppery Punch” By Using Arugula

Crudités with Arugula Pesto

Who says you have to use basil to make pesto! In fact, we’ve enjoyed great pestos using asparagus – a favorite around here – and  parsley. Next on our list to try: arugula. (Click here to see featured recipe.)

“Arugula adds a peppery punch to your traditional pesto,” Ali Larter writes in her book Kitchen Revelry, where this recipe appears. The pesto is paired with a variety of raw vegetables, or crudités.

Larter recommends using “interesting vegetables with beautiful colors,” including radishes, heirloom carrots, grape tomatoes, and bell peppers. “Arrange piled high on a beautiful serving tray with your homemade pesto drizzled with olive oil,” she adds.

Larter’s pesto does include basil – in fact, a cup each of the basil and arugula. And, like traditional basil pesto, it includes garlic, pine nuts and Parmesan cheese – in addition to fresh lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil. Try our peppery Miller’s Blend to stand up to the arugula’s bite.  (Click here to see recipe.)

By the way, you don’t have to limit yourself to serving the arugula pesto with crudités. Larter notes that it’s “perfect” tossed with pasta.

Bon appétit,

Your friends at California Olive Ranch

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Recipe Contest Winner: California Farro Salad With Roasted Serrano Dressing

Farro Salad Fresh with Roasted Serrano Dressing

Photo by Grace Rusch, California Olive Ranch

Veronica Callaghan says she’s “been on a bit of a ‘farro bender’ of late,” adding: “It’s a whole grain that’s chock full of fiber and minerals. It has a great nutty flavor and it really holds up well in a salad.” Thus a winning salad recipe was born: California Farro Salad with Roasted Serrano Dressing. (Click here to see recipe.)

Callaghan, of Glastonbury, Conn., was the grand prize winner of our salad recipe contest last month. We received 230 entries – and were amazed, and gratified, by their high quality. The contest required participants to create a salad, including the dressing, using our extra virgin olive oil, California almonds, California avocados, and other ingredients of their choice.

“It really did not take long to create this recipe because I was starting with some really fabulous required base ingredients like the California Olive Ranch olive oil, California avocados, and the California almonds,” Callaghan told us in an email. “I wanted the additional ingredients to keep with the California theme.”

The additional ingredients – on top of the farro – included baby arugula, tomatoes, cilantro, and Cotija, a strong-flavored cheese originally from Mexico.

The salad all comes together with a roasted serrano dressing, in which two serrano peppers are broiled until the skin blackens. The skin and seeds are removed and the peppers are combined in a food processor or blender, along with the olive oil, chopped shallot, white balsamic vinegar (or white wine vinegar), agave nectar (or honey), and salt.

“I have actually been making that dressing with assorted variations for a long time,” Callaghan said. “I wanted a salad dressing with a little kick to it and serrano peppers seemed to fit the bill. I have used jalapeno peppers and even regular peppers (when I wasn’t looking for heat) as substitutes.”

Our chef-judge was impressed with the entire package, writing: “Farro is a hearty versatile grain and shows really well in the salad.  The added dimension of the roasted serrano pepper dressing creates a unique layer of complexity; all built off the flavors and fruitiness of the olive oil.” (Click here to see recipe.)

Callagan told us she and her family of five – two sons and a daughter – eat a lot of salads, particularly green salads with grilled chicken and vinaigrette during the summer. “But we also often enjoy pasta and assorted grain salads as well. Salads are an easy and flavorful way to get your daily vegetables,” she added.

Callaghan also is a big fan of extra virgin olive oil: “I like the flavor olive oil imparts and I like the heart healthy benefits it provides. I frequently use olive oil instead of butter when preparing rice and pasta.”

She also uses it to roast vegetables. “One of my favorites is to roast fresh asparagus with a tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper just until tender-crisp, and then top it with sliced almonds and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Delicious and no butter or heavy sauces needed.”

Bon appétit,

Your friends at California Olive Ranch

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Storing Olive Oil To Protect It From The “4 Enemies”

Here’s a lesser known fact about extra virgin olive oil – one worth remembering. Extra virgin olive oil is fresh-squeezed juice – just like good fruit juice. (Yes, olives are a fruit.) Consequently, extra virgin olive oil is perishable. And, unlike wine, extra virgin olive oil doesn’t improve with age. Quite the contrary – as we remind people who “save” our Limited Reserve or other oils for months beyond the “Best By” date. Olive Press

It’s for these reasons that we go to great lengths to ensure our oil stays as fresh as possible once we harvest and crush our olives. So, when you use and store you’re olive oil at home, keep in mind that extra virgin olive oil has four enemies:

  • Time – Once bottled, olive oil has a two-year shelf life. And once you open your oil, you’ll want to use it sooner versus later. We recommend using up the oil within 30 to 60 days.
  • Light – Exposure must be minimized or eliminated at all times.
  • Temperature – The optimal storage temperature for olive oil is 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Oxygen – Exposure must be minimized or eliminated during storage. We top off each bottle of our oil with a small amount of nitrogen to force out any residual oxygen before the bottle is capped.

And here’s how to protect your oil from the enemies.

Photo by Lusi courtesy of RGB Stock Photos

Keep your oil away from direct light. Store your oil in a dark cupboard, or a closed pantry or similar storage area. Don’t keep it by the window. Ultraviolet rays can break down an olive oil over time. It’s why we bottle our oil in dark green bottles. It’s also why you want to avoid keeping your oil in a clear cruet – as nice as that may look. If you want to use an attractive cruet, use one that will block the light.

Keep your oil away from heat. It can get damaged if exposed to heat. So avoid keeping it near a stove or oven.

Don’t store your oil in the refrigerator. Putting your olive oil in the refrigerator can cause more harm than good. Just like you want to avoid heat, you want to avoid cold temperatures, too. “Allowing the temperature of the oil to go below 50 degrees Fahrenheit can negatively affect the quality and flavor,” says our science guru Mary Bolton, a food scientist who heads our team that evaluates and tests our oils.

Protect your oil from being exposed to air.  Air can degrade oil quality and the process starts once the oil is exposed to air.  Once you open a bottle, use oil quickly and, if necessary, store it in smaller bottles or steel containers to minimize its exposure to oxygen.

Bon appétit,

Your friends at California Olive Ranch

 

 

 

 

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The Classic Caesar Salad Gets An Avocado Makeover

California Avocado Caesar Salad

We can’t get enough of avocados. They’re delicious. And, like extra virgin olive oil, they’re healthy. So what’s not to love! In the dish featured here, an avocado serves as the springboard for a remake of the classic Caesar salad. Call it an avocado makeover. (Click here to see the recipe.)

This particular Caesar – from the California Avocado Commission – includes olive oil-toasted croutons, ripe avocado (naturally), romaine lettuce, and cherry tomatoes. It comes together with an avocado-based dressing.

The dressing – made in a blender or food processor – combines fresh avocado, garlic, fresh lemon juice, red wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, and shredded Parmesan. Our Everyday Fresh oil would work well for this dressing – and the olive oil-toasted croutons. (Click here to see the recipe.)

Large avocados are recommended for this recipe, which was created by Gaby Dalkin of What’s Gaby Cooking. A large avocado averages about 8 ounces. If you’re using smaller or larger size avocados, adjust the quantity accordingly.

Bon appétit,

Your friends at California Olive Ranch

 

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