A chef and a nutritionist teamed to talk up the benefits of the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in vegetables, grains and seafood. The food, they noted, tastes good and is good for your health. Olive oil was a key topic in their presentation — and a key ingredient in their cooking demonstrations. Some excerpts from their talk at a recent health and culinary and health conference we attended.
On the role of olive oil in Mediterranean cuisine
“It really anchors the Mediterranean diet.” Olive oil is “the primary cooking fat.” Bill Briwa, senior chef-instructor at the Culinary Institute of America’s Greystone campus in California’s Napa Valley, where the conference took place.
On extra virgin olive oil as a “whole food”
“Recognize extra virgin olive oil as an unprocessed product. It’s fruit from a tree that’s crushed and separated.” Bill Briwa
On olive oil in a healthy diet
“Healthy, delicious olive oil helps food taste great.” That kind of good taste is more likely to inspire people to stick with a healthy diet like the Mediterranean diet. “Nobody is going to eat any diet that doesn’t taste good.” The food needs to be “delicious” and prepared in a “simple” way. Kathy McManus, director of the department of nutrition at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital
“There’s this mistaken belief that olive oil has a very low smoke point. That’s not true.” Olive oil can withstand temperatures of 375 degrees to 380 degrees Fahrenheit. Bill Briwa
On what to do if olive oil begins to smoke while you’re cooking
“Take the pan off the heat. Or put some food into the pan (to absorb the heat).” Bill Briwa
On what that smoke means
“As soon as it smokes, that’s an indication that olive oil is as hot as it can be. As a chef, smoke is my friend.” Bill Briwa
On how much olive oil to use over the course of time in cooking
“If you can’t use up a (500ml) bottle in six weeks, you’re not using enough olive oil.” Bill Briwa
Your friends at California Olive Ranch