Nancy Harmon Jenkins, food writer and guru to Mediterranean cuisines, has just published her 7th cookbook, Virgin Territory: Exploring the World of Olive Oil, in which she explains many of the misconceptions we all have about olive oil. For example, olive oil does not improve with age, and “light” olive oil has the same calories as other olive oils (“light” refers to refined olive oil with little aroma or flavor)? Heat will cause oils to deteriorate rapidly, so don’t store oils near the stove.
There is no such thing as first cold pressing in modern production of XOO. “It is one pressing and one alone.” Ms. Jenkins, like David Lebovitz in My Paris Kitchen (pg. 25), says that the best way to judge an olive oil is to taste it. And to assure that you are getting good-quality, unadulterated olive oil, buy directly from a producer or reputable source.
For terrific reading and recipes, get Nancy Harmon Jenkins’ Virgin Territory: Exploring the World of Olive Oil, as well as David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen. As one reviewer wrote, these books are meant “to take to a comfy chair and read cover to cover.” Just make sure you’ve dined well first.