Sunday, January 21, 2007
#4: Biolea Organic Olive Oil, Imported from Greece
Sometimes I question all the different types of olive oil out there. When a recipe calls for extra-virgin olive oil, what difference does it make where it comes from? I usually use a high quality Italian olive oil. But after doing a little bit of research online I find out that there is an entire foodie universe dedicated to olive oils.
For me, I only can really taste the difference when I am eating something simple that shows off the taste of the oil. When adding it to recipes, I have a hard time noticing any difference. I am not a big fan of dipping oils. After a visit to Napa Valley in California several years ago I got into some dried herbs that you add to the olive oils for dipping. They are really great. But that phase passed and now I usually only dip bread in oil when in an Italian restaurant and the oil is piled with freshly grated cheese.
My favorite food to eat with olive oil is tomatoes. I absolutely love sliced tomatoes with olive oil and salt. Sometimes I add balsamic vinegar. When I'm ambitious I add fresh basil and fresh mozzerella to make a Caprese Salad. Lately, I have been eating more of a greek salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, black olives and feta cheese.
I purchased Biolea Organic Olive Oil since it was the brand suggested as #4 Greek Olive Oil on Food & Wine's 100 Tastes to Try in 2007. It cost $30 and I ordered it from Kaliroi Imports. The Food & Wine taste-testers gave this organic olive oil high marks. Biolea olive oil is made with olives grown at the Astrikas Estate in Crete. Only their olives are used and it is not blended with olives from anywhere else which makes it stand apart from several other olive oils on the market.
Like Kristen at Dine and Dish, I tasted this Greek olive oil in a variety of ways. The very first was to dip my finger into the bottle as soon as I opened it. But as I mentioned above, I don't really get into plain olive oil. The smell is amazing though it it is quite different from the Italian and Spanish olive oils I had right next to it for comparison. Next, I dunked a few pieces of bread into each of the three oils and tasted it that way. The Spanish was the lightest, barely with an olive flavor. The Italian was the strongest as the olive flavor hit you right away. And the Greek olive oil was in the middle. At first it has a very light taste and the olive flavor comes through subtly, but you definately get the olive taste at the end. It seemed to have the most sophisticated taste of the three.
I had to taste it with some tomatoes to really get the full effect. I made Tula's Country-Style Greek Salad. I'm not sure what it was, but using the Greek olive oil instead of the Italian olive oil that I used last time really made this already awesome salad absolutely amazing. The olives, feta and Greek olive oil blended together perfectly. I also used the Biolea olive oil when making the Eggplant Ricotta Bake. In this dish the olive oil is used to brush on the eggplant slices before roasting. I tasted the roasted eggplant before I put the entire dish together and it was really nice. So I can see a high quality olive oil also being used when roasting vegetables. But when I took a bite of the finished lasagna, there were so many complex tastes I could not pick out the olive oil. So this confirms my theory about not using the super-expensive olive oil in recipes with a bunch of strong ingredients.