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Stay with us and discover how to choose the best Extra Virgin Olive Oil with the advice of the EVOO Chef!
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Extra Virgin Olive Oil is one of the main protagonists in the Mediterranean diet. In fact, we always end up adding a splash of oil to any recipe to give it that final touch. In Verde Esmeralda Olive we wanted to talk to “The EVOO Chef”. His name is Daniel Peinado, and he is a Chef specialized in EVOO, National Delegate of the Spanish National Cooking Team and Executive Chef of Gourmet de la Rojacuando. Peinado began to delve into the research of Extra Virgin Olive Oil years ago and it was then when he began to be recognized for being a specialist in EVOO.
What does it mean to you to be the EVOO Chef?
For me, the most important thing when I got to know the philosophy of EVOO was to be aware of the responsibility it entailed. Extra virgin olive oil is a product that has been with us for many years and we did not give it, as cooks, the value that is being given now, thanks to large producers such as Verde Esmeralda Olive. So being the current EVOO chef means a great responsibility.
How did you come to be recognized as the EVOO chef?
In a very curious way I started with all the research on EVOO. In 2014, Dr. José Antonio Amérigo, a physician-dietician and nutritionist, appeared in my restaurant. I was looking for a cook who had knowledge of nutrition and dietetics. Dr. Amérigo contacted me and we started the research. Searching for anti-inflammatory foods naturally present in different foods, we came across a substance, oleocanthal, an organic compound isolated from EVOO. We started researching oleocanthal and realized that there was a super important gap. After doing research, going to congresses, traveling to Greece, the USA and around the world, Dr. Amérigo and the doctor Paco Lorenzo Tapia began to call me “the EVOO Chef”. Moreover, with all these events and trips at an international level, we realized that we were not the only ones researching about the oil and its healthy properties.
Is EVOO an anti-inflammatory substance par excellence?
Yes, of course it is. It is not only because of the oleocanthal and different substances in the oil, but also because of the quality of its fatty acids. These make the cell membrane lose the inflammation that is created by certain types of food. EVOO acts as a modulator of the immune system and above all of the functional part of the body.
What benefits does EVOO have that people don’t know about?
Now, fortunately, people are becoming more and more aware, not only of the benefits of EVOO, but also of the benefits of foods and how they influence the system. Having a healthy life based on the Mediterranean diet, as has been demonstrated, is the healthiest thing there is. The combination of EVOO with good foods is the key. People have to understand that EVOO is very good, it is very healthy, it has many polyphenols and has 2% of minority components that give it that particularity. We have to take into account how we handle it in the kitchen, because if we handle it badly, in the end, we can lose all the healthy properties it has. EVOO has many benefits but we must know how to use it.
How does the quality of the Extra Virgin Olive Oil influence the taste of a dish?
That is what the research I am doing is about. There are two ways to use EVOO, raw, cold or at low temperature, and then in hot cooking. On the one hand, in cold cooking we are going to see that extra virgin olive oil behaves in one way, since it is where that 2% of minority components, which give it its fruitiness, spiciness and bitterness, comes to life. That 2% will act in the cold part of the world and the remaining 98% of fat will influence depending on the way it is cooked. The best way to know how to use this oil is to know that there is a differentiation in the correct use of each oil. This depends on the variety, the fruitiness, the spiciness and the bitterness that we want and how we cook it. There will be certain foods, which will be very good for the fruity, spicy and bitter, and there will be others that will be better to transform it in the kitchen.
Is the color green a sign of quality?
Color in the kitchen is important, since we cooks play a lot with the vision of the dishes. If the EVOO has high levels of chlorophyll, is attractive and, on top of that, is very good, you have a rounded product. From the cooks’ point of view, if we find an oil that is green, very spicy, very fruity, very bitter and also expresses itself very well in the mouth, we have the perfect oil. This is what often happens with Picuals from Jaén.
How important is the bottling material?
The bottling material is very important. The big detractors of extra virgin oil are light, oxidation and sudden changes in temperature. If we have transparent bottles, we are oxidizing the oil. It loses its color and therefore the chlorophyll is oxidized. There is a big difference when we bottle the oil with different materials. As well as packaging it without filtering, this would suppose the fermentation of the oil, and as consequence we would have some bad and bitter flavors, which are not good. The EVOO packaging is very important in all aspects.
How do you differentiate a good EVOO?
Tasting it is the only way. You have to know how to taste, unfortunately we cooks do not know how to taste, we have not been explained the parameters of tasting from the cook’s point of view. There are different types of tasting, one of the most important is hedonistic. Through this type of knowledge that we give to the cooks, we will be able to increase the consumption of extra virgin olive oil in the kitchen. In addition, EVOO information such as the tasting sheet is very important.
How to choose a good EVOO depending on whether it is going to be used for frying or raw?
This is where the tasting notes come into play. For it to be suitable for frying, ideally the oleic acid should be highly represented on the information label. The quality of the fatty acids in the oils should be measured. If we are going to use them cold, we would use those oils that are more fruity, spicy and bitter. As a consumer, if we are not able to taste it, we should go for varieties that we know work and have those parameters, such as Picual, since it is very stable at high temperatures. It also depends on what you want for your elaboration. If you want a very spicy, very fruity and very bitter gazpacho, you can use that variety that gives you a powerful, fruity and bitter spiciness.
What have you discovered in recent years about EVOO?
The use of EVOO in cooking is what has surprised me the most, the transfer that can occur at certain temperatures. There are certain scientists who affirm that when you subject oil to high temperatures, it loses many of its values. What really strikes me is that there are certain types of food with more or less porosity that when they are cooked at low temperatures in the absence of oxygen, for example in a vacuum, there is a transfer. In this transfer, the oil does not lose any of its values and if it does, it gives it to the food. For example, the benefits of oleocanthal, its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, if we eat a cod with vacuum-packed EVOO, it will transfer that spicy, fruity and bitter taste, so that when you eat the cod you will notice all those touches, since the EVOO will have transferred everything to the food. The extra virgin acts as a modulator and does not lose anything, it does not let anything escape.
What is the dish or recipe in which a good EVOO cannot be missing?
Almost 90% of Spanish recipes use fat as a driving force, a sofrito, a salad, a stew… Traditional stews, beans, gazpachuelo from Malaga, salmorejo… are dishes in which a good EVOO cannot be missing. Years ago, even sweets, such as rosquillos, were fried with oil. Nowadays, desserts made with oil should also have a place.
¿Any advice for those who still don’t know what type of oil to choose?
The first thing is to look at the bottling, how the oil is presented, and secondly, the information we have, the more information we have about the oil, the more credibility we have about it.