April 29, 2020 Post by Anopaea Organic Estate

It is certain that we will never find a restaurant that has only one type of wine in its cellar. It is also certain that we will never find a home cook who uses only one type of wine. So, the same should be with olive oil. Just as different types of wines have the capacity to transfuse dishes with different culinary notes, so can olive oil. And that's because there isn't just one type of olive oil. Just as there are different varieties of vines that give monovarietal wines with different characteristics, so there are different varieties of olive trees that give monovarietal olive oils with different characteristics between them. And just as one wine goes better with one dish than another, so can a certain type of olive oil suit different kinds of dishes better than another type of olive oil from a different variety or with different characteristics.

In our previous article (2020-04-25, we discussed how we use a mild - sweet olive oil in our kitchen. In this article, we will discuss how we use a bitter (sometimes astringent at the same time) - spicy olive oil in our kitchen. It should be noted here that, the spicy elements of olive oil are perceived as "a burning sensation" mainly at the back of the throat.

The use of olive oil in cooking should follow some rules; as does wine and food pairing. However, rules have their exceptions, and they exist to be overturned. Often, the result of a culinary rule breaking is very fascinating and could lead to unexplored territories of experience of olfaction and taste. It is also common knowledge that the latter is widely subjective. With the above points in mind we should always remember that cooking is a creative art, and it is elevated through imagination and experimentation.

Whenever we refer to olive oil, we always refer to fresh olive oil, that allows its bitter and spicy elements to stand out, which are the result of the genetic material of its variety and the natural, antioxidant substances contained within. The fresher the olive oil and the better (quality wise) the process of olive oil extraction, the more intense its bitter and spicy elements; if of course the genetic material of the olive tree variety allows for such characteristics to develop. It goes without saying that, throughout our conversation, when we discuss about olive oil, we always discuss about extra virgin olive oil and, preferably, organic.

There are many Greek varieties of olive trees that can give bitter and spicy olive oils. Such (simply indicative and by no means exhaustive) are "KORONEIKI", "ATHINOELIA", "HALKIDIKIS", "NEMOYTIANA" and so on.

So, let’s dive in to the secrets of the bitter - spicy olive oil… As a first general rule: When cooking for children and adults who have no previous experience or literacy in the use of olive oil, it’s best to introduce a bitter - spicy olive oil only when they have already been “baptized in the mysteries” of a mild - sweet olive oil first. And as the saying goes "appetite comes with eating"; a gradual exposure smoothly trains our appetite to enjoy the more "challenging" bitter and spicy flavors. Of course, in no case do we let a bitter - spicy olive oil exposed to the air to "sweeten" (as some olive oil producers recommend) because then, we have immediately destroyed and minimized - if not eliminated - its beneficial substances.

Second general rule: A bitter - spicy olive oil is added to dishes with delicious simplicity or even neutrality, wanting to add to our basic composition spicy elements and "local" complexity from the flavors and aromas of olive oil, instead of using "exotic" flavors. It is also added when we want to increase the already existing spicy elements of a dish, of course taking care not to end up with a gustatory imbalance.

Third general rule: A bitter-spicy olive oil is added to dishes that the flavors and aromas of the central composition are not "dominated" by the "power" of the bitter and spicy olive oil but instead stand out more, are elevated and are presented as an integrated total.

Fourth general rule: In baking, when we use olive oil as a butter substitute (either for reasons of healthy eating, fasting, intolerances e.g. lactose, dietary avoidance of animal products or finally because the recipe simply requires it) the bitter - spicy olive oil will overpower the final result. So, we use it experimentally (from such experiments are born delicious feasts), where we want to mitigate the "sweetness" of our dish or increase its "bitterness", but also where we want to give it "sweet-salty" features.

So, here are some examples of the use of a bitter - spicy olive oil in our kitchen, which are simply indicative and in no way exhaustive:

In raw or cooked (boiled or grilled) vegetables with a mild - sweet taste (zucchini, purple amaranth, vineyard beans, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, potato and asparagus) and in mushrooms, it will add flavor and aromas. At the same time elevates a simple, seasonal Greek salad to something more refined and perhaps more “demanding” for the palate.

In use with soft, fresh feta or creamy sheep/goat cheeses such as Katiki Domokou, tsalafouti, stamnotyri (or as these cheeses are called depending on their place of origin), a bitter-spicy olive oil will remove the sometimes-existing sour taste by adding peppery characteristics. It is also a necessary ingredient for a handmade, spicy cheese spread - salad or to emphasize the spicy elements of any other spread.

In any soup (velouté or not) or broth it will decorate and elevate the composition by adding it raw instead of freshly ground pepper or along with it. Of course, it is unthinkable to enjoy legumes (lentils, chickpeas, beans) without the inclusion of a raw, bitter - spicy olive oil.

With fresh, handmade pasta and risotto and any "soufflé" it will make substantial difference in flavor. While, in traditional pies (cheese pies and vegetable pies) it will highlight their spicy features.

In marinated fish and seafood (anchovies, sardines, octopus) it can be an integral part of the marinade but also the Greek, innovative answer to wasabi in sushi!!!

In grilled meats, it highlights the strong fleshy taste with or without any other additional flavor. Any standard and sometimes unhealthy "Barbeque" sauces, which are often used to hide the quality of meat or as a last resort to save an unsuccessful roast, turn pale in comparison.

Finally, in baking, we will use the bitter - spicy olive oil in an olive oil cake, a fasting Farsala halva, a semolina halva, cookies and biscuits if we’re in an experimental mood, as well as in a chocolate souffle or cake in order to accentuate the “bitter nature” of cacao and dark chocolate, but also for our second attempt at an olive-oil ice-cream!!!

Of course, as already mentioned, it is not easy for everyone to enjoy a very bitter - spicy olive oil. So, between a mild - sweet olive oil and a very bitter - spicy, it would be desirable to have an intermediate olive oil. With bitter and spicy elements more than the mild - sweet olive oil but less than the very bitter - spicy. In this case it would be a good idea to try an olive oil “blend”, where a mild - sweet olive oil is mixed with a bitter - spicy olive oil in a number of different ratios, so that the final product is tastefully tolerant in terms of bitter and spicy characteristics.

One such "intermediate" blend is our organic, extra virgin olive oil "TERRA ANOPAEA", awarded for its quality and taste. It has been produced from the simultaneous olive oil extraction from olives of the Greek variety "MANAKI" (which gives mild - sweet olive oil) with olives of the Greek variety "KORONEIKI" (which gives bitter - spicy olive oil), at a rate of 70/30 respectively. Its color is light green. Intensely fruity and aromatic. The aroma of fresh olives is combined with herbal notes, the breeze of freshly cut grass and delicious notes of green fruits (tomato, apple, artichoke), dried fruits and citrus flowers. Tolerably spicy and discreetly bitter, with a compact texture and balanced aftertaste.

Author: Chris Kavalieratos, Doctor - Organic Olive Oil Producer - Certified Olive Oil Taster.

Copyright 2020, Anopaea Organic Estate – Chris Kavalieratos. You can use the whole article or a part of it by simply mentioning Anopaea Organic Estate and Chris Kavalieratos as the original author and by informing them via email.

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