If you cook a lot and you like to cook with olive oil, I think it’s important to have a good workhorse of an oil in your pantry. One that tastes good and makes food taste good. An everyday kind of oil. This oil shouldn’t be very expensive because everyday cooking should not be the kind that makes you wince and sigh and scowl as you imagine your bank account being drained by dinner.
Mezzetta Extra Virgin Italian Olive Oil could be your kitchen workhorse. It’s very reasonably priced—I get mine for about eleven bucks a pint at Albertson’s, my neighborhood grocery store—but more importantly, Mezzetta’s oil is an excellent choice for cooking and baking. On its own, this oil has a really fruity smell and the taste is pure grass. In the mouth, it has a rich texture, but it’s not a flavor powerhouse. What it does is a little more alchemical: it helps other foods taste more like themselves. Salads taste greener and grassier, tomatoes taste fresher and sweeter, blueberry yogurt cakes taste like perfect baked treats. It’s nice to have an olive oil that works well in both savory and sweet recipes.
Diligent olive oil tester that I am, I made Mezzetta’s oil jump through my various hoops for Project Olive Oil, but I did them all backwards, starting with dessert. I loved this oil in a blueberry yogurt cake; it added a subtle note of green grassiness that complemented the sweeter flavors. Mezzetta’s was delicious with tomatoes, whether in simple caprese form or a more elaborate Tomato Bread Salad.
The final taste test was today: a small plate of balsamic vinegar and olive oil, a few slices of great bread for dipping. I always think of this test as the simplest of all: three ingredients and maybe, maybe a touch of salt if needed. If I may be completely honest with you, dear reader, I will confess that I expected Mezzetta to fail this test. It is not a powerhouse olive oil; I wouldn’t even think of giving someone a bottle of this as a gift. (And yes, I am now in the habit of gifting olive oil.) I believed that the vinegar-and-oil test would separate the truly outstanding oils from the workhorses.
Then I tried Mezzetta, and I cleaned my plate. I was so wrong. It was awesome.
What I have come to believe now is that when it comes to food and flavor, nothing is simple. There are dozens of variables that can alter what we experience when we taste something: soil, climate, the rainfall during that growing season, the storage/processing/shipping conditions—and that’s the short list. The food we see when we sit down at the table is the product of interconnected processes. Even the simplest, humblest foods seem miraculous when viewed this way.
Mezzetta’s Extra Virgin Italian Olive Oil, a grocery store staple and resident in my pantry, is exactly what I wanted to discover when I started Project Olive Oil. Combine good-quality ingredients with this oil and you will feed yourself, your family, and anyone at your table delicious food. At the end of the day, that’s what matters most to me.