Olive oil is the only oil of culinary importance pressed from the flesh of a ripe fruit (not a seed or a nut) and without doubts one of the most delicious and versatile foods created.
Today, olive oil is made anywhere olive trees grow and that list includes Spain, Italy, France, Portugal, Greece, Australia, Africa, California, New Zealand, South America, Syria, Turkey and Israel. Olives, like grapes, require a warm climate and particularly sandy soil. The best come from Italy and the south of France. Like most good things, olive trees improve with age; it takes a tree at least 35 years before it can bear fruit.
Italian olive oil has a more pronounced olive flavor, giving it a deep nutty or leafy taste, to a peppery spiciness. Exceptional olive oils come from Tuscany, Liguria, and Puglia. French oil from Provence is fruitier with just a hint of spice. Spanish oil has a more intense flavor with good ones from Catalonia, Sierra de Gata, and Andalusia. Greek oil has a lighter olive taste, but is rich and rather thick in consistency. California has its own very good olive oil producers.
** Extra Extra or Extra Virgin olive Oil: Is the oil made from the very first pressing of the olives. It is usually green, sometimes bordering on greenish-black, depending on the filtering the oil has gone through. Its intense flavor and aroma is that of green olives. The later the harvest, the riper the olives, the greener the oil. The yields are quite low and consequently the prices are quite high. Extra virgin oil is best for use in salads, or marinades, or tossed with just cooked vegetables.
**Virgin Olive Oil: Is also a direct product of the olive fruit, though it may be the result of a second pressing. It should have a sweetish, nutty flavor.
** Pure Olive Oil: Is made up of oils extracted by treating previously pressed olive pulp with solvents.
** Fine Olive Oil: Is oil that has also been extracted from olive pulp, to which water has been added. It is perfect for cooking or frying.
The basic rule when buying olive oil is you get the quality you pay for. The better the taste of the ingredient,, the better the taste of the prepared dish.
The care of olive oil is just as important as the choice of oil. Even good oil can go stale or rancid if not stored carefully. After 2 weeks, opened oil should be stored in refrigerator, especially in summer. It may become cloudy, but it will clear rapidly upon returning to room temperature.
There are a host of seeds and nuts that also produce flavorful oils suitable for cooking.
**Almond Oil. Hazelnut Oil, Pistachio Oil, Pecan Oil. Pine Nut Oil: These are sweet, light; delicate oils that are indeed nutty in taste. They are splendid in salads, or tossed hot vegetables.
**Pepper Oils: The best of these delicately flavored oils balance the richness of grape seed oil and the spiciness of the pepper.
** Walnut Oil: A very light and delicate oil. It must be used quickly after opening. as its fresh flavor is short-lived. Refrigerate.
Herb-Flavored and Fungi Flavored Oils: These are usually olive or grape seed oils that have been flavored with any number of herbs, spices, mushrooms, or white and black truffles.