How virgin is your extra virgin?
(Olive oil, of course.)
That’s the statement emblazoned in the extra virgin olive oils from Chile. Truth be told, I didn’t know too much about the olive oil industry of Chile, and I also didn’t really understand the many degrees of purity of olive oils in general. I only recently learned that the Chilean valleys have excellent conditions for natural olive oil production, and that the production of Chilean olives from tree to bottle takes less than 24 hours, ensuring fresh-tasting olive oil that is bottled right at the orchard.
But first, a simple lesson: let’s figure out the difference between extra virgin and virgin olive oils.
Extra virgin olive oil has a maximum free acidity of 0.8%. Anything above that level is just virgin. (Chilean EVOO have acidity levels as low as 0.2%) The lower the acidity level, the fresher and purer the oil tastes – none of that flat, almost rancid taste you get from lower quality olive oils. And ohhh when it comes to old, cheap, rancid olive oils, I should know; I once had to resort to “EVOO” from 7-11 and let’s just say… blech.
A few months ago, I was contacted by the PR company for Chile Olive Oil to see if I’m interested in hosting a sponsored dinner party. They gave me 3-course menus to choose from, then sent the ingredients to me (delivered by my favorite Whole Foods, thanks @WholeFoodsRVR!) along with a box of olive oils, plus adorable mini bottles to give away as party favors.
I LOVE hosting dinner parties but because I live in a teeny tiny apartment, I can only have a few people at a time. So I asked my friend Val if we can have the dinner party at their lovely home. She and her husband Louie have a kitchen/dining room worthy of an Apartment Therapy – Small Cool Kitchens award – it is so well designed and pretty!
Val and I donned our floral aprons and then spent the afternoon cooking for the dinner party. The menu items we chose were the caprese salad, goat cheese and mushroom ziti, and CEVOO brownies.
We used the bold olive oil for the caprese and the ziti, and the smooth olive oil for the brownies. I’ve baked and eaten many, many brownies, but I am ranking these EVOO brownies as one of my immediate favorites! I’ve never actually baked with olive oil before (I’ve baked with coconut oil though) and it gave the brownies such a fudgy consistency with just the very slightest hint of bitterness that went well with the dark chocolate.
Of course I can’t have a party without a cheese plate – and in this case, we had a meat and cheese plate: prosciutto, salami, and a jalapeno-and-peppadew cheddar. We also served some spicy garlicky shrimp, bowls of cherries and raspberries for nibbling, bread, white sangria, and my friend Mich brought some mini smores pies and key lime pies from Provincetown. It’s safe to say we had a feast.
My friends and I had a great time and I was really happy to not just taste the Chilean olive oils, but also to discover a new brownie recipe. Somehow, my experiences all always end up with choocolate, don’t they?
4 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted (I actually used about 6 oz instead – can’t go wrong with more chocolate…)
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (plus extra to brush on baking pan)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup flour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
1-2 tablespoons coarse sea salt for sprinkling
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Brush an 8×8 baking pan with olive oil (instead of using butter or a baking spray).
In a large bowl, combine your melted chocolate and olive oil. Whisk in your eggs, sugars and vanilla until combines. Add in the flour and salt and stir until well mixed. Fold in the chocolate chunks. Spread the batter into prepared pan and sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Bake approximately 25 minutes until a toothpick inserted 1 inch away from the edge comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes before cutting into squares.
Have you ever baked desserts with olive oil before? I’d love to hear about your favorite recipes!