Cucina D’Oro

6 reasons why olive oil is the ultimate kitchen staple

 I’ve never understood why we as South Africans are often so enamored with produce from abroad when we’re so blessed with all that is on offer here. South African produce can be just as good, if not better, than varieties from other countries. One of our many impressive products is locally produced South African olive oil, or ‘liquid gold’ as Homer referred to it in the Greek Mythology epic the Iliad. With certain parts of the country boasting Mediterranean-type climates, South Africa’s table olive production recently surpassed imports which means our local gems are starting to get the love they deserve. Olive oil is one of the most versatile products you can have in the kitchen, and an absolute essential, but do you know how many uses it really has?

It’s the better alternative

This one’s a no-brainer, but olive oil boasts a wide range of health benefits and is lower in calories so is a great addition to your meal plan if you’re trying to eat healthier. There’s no shortage of uses where you can incorporate olive oil in your cooking (you’ll note some as the list goes on) but sometimes the simpler options are the best starting points. Extra virgin olive oil is the ultimate simple salad dressing that will help you keep your health in check, just add some salt and pepper and you’re ready to go. You can use it to make a healthy dip alternative instead of purchasing the in-store version that is probably loaded with fat, sugar and sodium. Just add garlic, some herbs, salt, pepper and your olive oil. Voila!

It enhances flavour

Unlike other refined vegetable oils, olive oil adds depth and flavour to food thanks to its unique aroma and taste. The tips and tricks of which types of olive oil to use for which dishes can be different from varietal to varietal, and olives, much like grapes, are largely influenced by where they’ve grown, which cultivar was used, the terroir, and harvest maturity. Ideally if you’re tasting olive oil you should taste a touch of bitterness and a peppery aftertaste to judge if it is a good sample.

It’s great for a marinade

If you’re not using olive oil to marinate your food you’re missing out and it can be used to marinate fish, meat, vegetables and poultry. Firstly, it helps to coat the food and allows the other flavors to distribute across the surface evenly, preventing food from drying out and locking in flavour. Just lightly brush the veggies or meat with olive oil before grilling or broiling and it will create a delicious crispy exterior.

It’s a nice substitute for butter

Whether you’re trying to switch to a more plant-based diet or looking to cut down on trans fats, olive oil is a great and tasty substitute for butter. Use it for everything from greasing pans to creaming mashed potatoes. In fact, you can even use it as a substitute for baking cakes, cookies and slices of bread, though in these instances you should opt for a milder flavour option to avoid bitterness. 

It helps keep dishes fresher for longer

The vitamin E in olive oil helps to keep baked goods moist and fresh longer than butter and other oils would. It’s also a great way to preserve things like fresh herbs and pesto. Just add a thin layer of olive oil on top of it and it will preserve colour, taste and texture.

It pairs well with dessert. No, seriously

It might surprise you but sweet treats like ice cream and chocolate pair well with olive oil. Adding olive oil to chocolate desserts will intensify the richness of the chocolate flavour. Something that you will more commonly experience in the Mediterranean, extra virgin olive oil will add extra freshness and a bit of moisture to your dessert, whether it’s in a cake or a drizzle over ice cream. Try my apple and olive oil cake recipe.