Extra Virgin Olive Oil is kosher and delicious for Passover and every other day of the year
One sure sign that spring has sprung is the plethora of Passover products that start appearing on grocery store shelves. Each year I look forward to checking out what new foodstuffs have been invented. Usually these products are meant to counterfeit their non-Passover counterparts. Each year I hold my own personal contest to see what the strangest and most Passover-y thing will be. Last year I was thrilled and simultaneously disgusted by Passover soy sauce. I saved the bottle and put it in my cabinet just to remind myself of how scary things sometimes are in the world of food.
Well, that soy sauce is so last year. I found something that trumps all the ersatz foods out there. The new crop of Passover substitutes includes a product called Mac & Cheez. There is neither Mac (pasta) even of the Passover kind nor is there any cheese or Cheez. The product is pareve and the pasta is made from tapioca. It is nutritionally empty; there is not one vitamin in it. I bought a box and put it right next to my soy sauce and there it shall stay as a reminder of how bad faux food can get.
On the other hand, there is something really great that we can use for Passover. It is delicious, all natural, minimally processed available at just about every supermarket in the country. I'm talking about extra virgin olive oil. According to the OU (Orthodox Union), all extra virgin olive oil is kosher all year round and that includes Passover. So, the savvy Passover shopper is buying great olive oil this year.
Olive oil is the fruit oil obtained from the olive. Commonly used in cooking, cosmetics, soaps and fuel for lamps, olive oil is grown and used throughout the world but especially in the Mediterranean.
Olive oil is produced by grinding or crushing and extracting the oil. A green olive produces bitter oil and an overripe olive produces rancid oil. For great extra virgin olive oil it is essential to have olives that are perfectly ripened.
Purchasing olive oil and knowing how to use it can be confusing. Add to that, the kashrut factor and it is no wonder that consumers and home cooks are bewildered by the array of products on supermarket and specialty market shelves.
Using Olive Oil
Here is a summary of olive oils and their uses:
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
This oil comes from virgin oil production only and contains no more than 0.8% acidity. Extra virgin olive oil accounts for less than 10% of oil in many oil producing countries. The superior fruity flavor makes this oil best used for vinaigrettes, drizzling on soups and pastas for added richness and a fruity taste for dipping breads and vegetables. Extra virgin olive oil does not require hashgacha or supervision from a kosher authority (even for Pesach) as it is cold pressed.
Virgin Olive Oil
This only comes from virgin oil production only and has an acidity less than 2%. This oil is best used for sautéing and for making vinaigrettes. It is generally not as expensive as the extra virgin olive oil but has a good taste. Virgin olive oil requires kosher supervision to be considered kosher.
Pure Olive Oil
Oils labeled as Pure olive oil or Olive oil are usually a blend of refined and virgin production oil. This oil is perfect for sautéing. It does not have a strong flavor and can be used for making aiolis and cooking. Pure olive oil requires kosher supervision to be considered kosher.
Extra virgin olive oil is the highest quality olive oil. It is typically more expensive than other olive oils. Extra virgin olive oil is not typically recommended for high heat cooking. Every oil has its smoke point. A smoke point refers to the heat temperature at which the oil begins to break down and degrade. An oil that is above its smoke point not only has nutritional and flavor degradation but can also reach a flash point where combustion can occur. You can observe this when you have a very hot pan and hot oil and food are added to the pan and they produce a bluish and acrid smelling smoke or worse yet, catch fire.
Extra virgin olive oil has a very low smoke point of 375. I use my best extra virgin olive oil for making vinaigrettes, adding luxurious fruity flavor to pasta dishes, garnishing foods and dipping breads. When I am high heat sautéing or frying, I tend to reach for pure olive oil or a different type of oil.
Buying Olive Oil
Extra virgin olive oil has a long list of health benefits from reducing coronary artery disease, cholesterol regulation and possibly reducing risk of certain cancers. This makes the decision for using extra virgin olive oil a no-brainer.
The bigger decision is which oil to buy. Most of the world's extra virgin olive oil comes from the southern Mediterranean countries. I favor an organic, unfiltered Spanish oil. I also like estate grown products as I know that a farmer fretted over the olives and the weather. Many mass produced oils are made not from a single source or farm and the flavor can be uneven and harsh.
When cooking for Passover and for every meal, I recommend whole, natural ingredients. I never go to the dark side of cooking with products that are loaded with laboratory made ingredients and faux flavors or colors. For this holiday and everyday—let's keep it real.
- LAURA FRANKEL is the former chef and founder of the Shallots restaurants. Frankel has training and extensive experience in both savory and pastry kitchens. After Frankel had a family and began maintaining a kosher home she found that there was nowhere in Chicago serving the quality of food that she knew she could offer. She opened her first restaurant in 1999 offering kosher fine dining with a produce-driven menu. Frankel opened Shallots NY in 2000 in midtown Manhattan. - Read more...