Sunday, July 25, 2010

Mezzetta Extra Virgin Italian Olive Oil

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.

Peek-a-Boo

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.

On the Counter

5 comments:

DiPalo Selects said...

Couldn't agree more- there is nothing more important than a good extra virgin olive oil for your pantry, especially if you are a fan of Italian cooking. Try Marracco Extra Virgin Olive Oil (http://store.dipaloselects.com/maexvioloil1.html)as a finishing oil for dishes, it has a great peppery taste. Check out this oil and more at wwww.dipaloselects.com. The website has awesome olive oils for cooking, baking and tasting!
Happy Eating,
DiPalo Selects

Rosiecat said...

Hi DiPalo! Thanks for stopping by. I see that the Marracco oil is a Sicilian olive oil. That's intriguing--I've never tried Sicilian olive oil! I will keep this in mind for Project Olive Oil.

Shannon said...

ooh, thanks for the recommendation! the last one i picked up was CI's top pick... oh, and the one i got in italy :) much stronger than I'm used to, more for finishing or bread dipping!

Rosiecat said...

Ooh, olive oil purchased in Italy. You're living the dream, Shannon! What was the brand? And was it the one CI recommended, or are you talking about two different oils? What was CI's recommendation? I'll add it to my list of oils to try!

Price Lasik said...

Did you read the piece in the newspaper about the UC Davis study on EVOO that found that a lot of the EVOO we buy is fraudulent? Here's the list of UC Davis results:

Filippo Berio Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Two out of three samples failed.
Bertolli Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Three of three samples failed.
Pompeian Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Three of three samples failed.
Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Two of three samples failed.
Star Extra Virgin Olive Oil: One of three samples failed.
Carapelli Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Three of three samples failed.
Newman's Own Organics Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Two of three samples failed.
Mezzetta Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Three of three samples failed.
Mazola Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Three of three samples failed.
Rachael Ray Extra Tasty Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Two of three samples failed.
Kirkland Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil: All samples passed.
Great Value 100 percent Extra Virgin Olive Oil: One of three samples failed.
Safeway Select Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Two of three samples failed.
365 Everyday Value 100 percent Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Two of three samples failed.

I would like to know if they measured the hydroxytyrosols in the samples they tested. Given the health benefits of hydroxytyrosols I would to know why EVOO bottle labels don't list them as ingredients. The hydroxytyrosols in extra virgin olive oil (Spain and Italy) appear to be an inhibitor of the enzymes that produce pro-inflammatory eicosanoids, just as aspirin does. This begins to explain the Crete paradox. This population consumes more than 40 percent of their calories as fat (primarily extra-virgin olive oil), but has the lowest rate of heart disease in the Mediterranean region. They are basically taking liquid aspirin (at least according to http://www.buy-extra-virgin-olive-oil.com ).

Karen Busher
Agoura Hills, CA