Olive oil

Liquid gold, as the Phoenicians called it, from Tuscia is tasty, enhances the flavour of food and guarantees the success of the dishes to where it is added

The olive has always been a primary source of nutrition in the Mediterranean diet, a basic element in the triangle formed by the three sacred plants (olive-vine-wheat).

In addition to the beneficial effects on the body, this “liquid gold”, as the Phoenicians called it, is tasty, enhances the flavour of food and guarantees the success of the dishes to where it is added. It enriches many sauces, from the classic tomato and basil to fancier ones made with vegetables and fish; it is indispensable for successful meat dishes, fish and mixed salads.

Lovers of this product know that it is also perfect for certain types of cake be- cause it makes them soft and lighter at the same time. It is particularly suited for frying because of its high stability to heat; the food therefore comes out golden and crispy instead of soaked with coo- king fat.

Olive oil is good all year round, for any kind of dishes, either cold or hot. Used raw, it is important to choose the right oil for every occasion: a mild oil goes with fresh cheeses, a strong, spicy one is best for “pinzimonio” (vegetable dip).

As far as cooking is concerned, owing to its natural healthfulness and orga- noleptic characteristics, olive oil can withstand high temperatures, unlike other food fats. In this respect, this fine vegetable fat has almost completely re- placed two other ingredients of animal origin, butter and lard.

When people say that olive oil has a high smoke point they intend stressing its su- itability for cooking and particularly for frying.

It is ideal for frying because of its resistance, chemical stability and lightness. Olive oil is a condiment used raw and  it usually gives the finishing touch to a dish, as it perfectly blends tastes and flavours. The ability of fats to combine fla- vours is well know; what is more, extra vergin olive oil adds a special taste and aroma, enriching and amalgamating the dish in a way as no other fat can.

The function of oil in cooking is not just to blend the flavours but also to transmit heat.

Health benefit of Olive oil
The nutritional properties of an oil are determined by the special characteristics of its constituents. If no chemical-physical action occurs to taint the product, the composition of the oil is basically the same as the juice of the olives producing it.

Balanced and close to the requirements of the human body, olive oil is suitable for every age and, in particular, for young people who practise a lot of sport. To have an idea of how natural this product is, it is sufficient to note that the ratio betwe- en the fatty acids in extra virgin olive oil is very close to that of mother’s milk.

It is only in the last few years that it has been discovered that this valuable food prevents arteriosclerotic diseases. Mo- reover, dietetic research has also led to the discovery of other properties of oli- ve oil in the field of prevention and tre- atment of other disorders.

Research and statics have thus proved the supremacy of  the Mediterranean diet, in which olive oil is the main source of fat and an indispensable food. It is not only digestible, but also facilitates the gastric function and favours the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E,and K. Even though the effects of arteriosclero- sis and the occurrence of heart attacks mainly appear in adulthood or old age, the prevention of these diseases begins from birth thanks to olive oil. Its abun- dance of unsaturated fats favours the child’s growth by helping the cell tissue to assimilate other substances indispen- sable for growth. The classic “drop of oil” added to the baby’s cereal mush is the healthiest and most pleasant condiment. A diet containing oil is important also for young people because a growing organism needs extra energy and calories. Finally, in the word of sport, oil is used for external application in various pre- parations and combinations (ointments, rubs, liniments, salves) in gymnasiums, during races and in competitions.

The quality of Olive oil
The oil quality is assessed by several parameters. The principal ones are the assessment of its organoleptic characteristics, such as stability to oxidation, absence of pollutants (agricultural chemicals, plant hormones, antiparasitic agents, hydrocarbon and chlorinated sol- vents) and its nutritional characteristics, expressed in terms of saturated, mo- nounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat- ty acids, presence of phytosterols, vita- mins and natural antioxidants. There are two ways of assessing oil quality. On the one hand, chemical-physical tests ascer- tain its degree of acidity and real compo- sition in terms of percentages of fat; on the other, the organoleptic assessment evaluates the merits and faults of an oil on the basis of its visual and olfactory characteristics and its be identical, since there is still no instrument for evaluating the individual components of the infi- nite aromatic attributes of an oil accor- ding to physical-chemical parameters. It should be kept in mind that olive oil is the first food product for which sensory assessment constitutes a discriminating element.

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