Have you ever watched Rachel Ray? She’s the bubbly, perky personality on the Food Network that just seems to be everywhere, cooking her 30-minute meals, telling you how to live on $40 a day when you’re traveling, hawking her newest magazines.
Anyway, Rachel Ray has this annoying (some call it cute) habit of calling Extra Virgin Olive Oil E.V.O.O. As if it was really that hard to say the whole thing. “Now we’ll add some E.V.O.O.,” she’ll say, pouring the green -gold liquid into a sautee pan before turning up the heat.
But should you listen to Rachel and add E.V.O.O. to your sautees? Extra Virgin Olive Oil actually has a low smoke point meaning that it will quickly smoke (and turn into flames!) and that those wonderful grassy or peppery flavors that you taste when it is cold will disappear when the oil is heated to high temperatures. Olive oil that has not been filtered is both fragrant and tasty, but the small pieces of olive left in the oil will quickly burn, adding a not-so-yummy taste to your food.
If you like cooking with olive oil but are cooking to high temperatures (when sauteeing or using a wok, for instance), use a mix of 80% canola oil and 20% olive oil (not the Extra Virgin kind — not worth it to use an expensive olive oil for cooking).
On a side note, I recently tasted a gorgeous olive oil that is perfect for drizzling on salads, cooked couscous, grilled vegetables and for dipping bread. The folks over at Olive Hill Farm in Santa Ynez Valley make a single-varietal olive oil from the Lucca olive. The result: a spicy, peppery, grassy oil that glides over your tongue.