Not only is it the base or the final touch to most Mediterranean dishes, ranging from the Italian “Soffritto” and tomatoes and cucumber or lettuce salad, to the world-wide known “Greek Salad”, to the Spanish “Polbo á feira” (Pulpo a la Gallega), to the French “Vinaigrette”, and to the Portuguese “Bacalhau com Natas”. 1 Soffritto: simmer olive oil and chopped onions, or garlic, carrots, celery, parsley and /or other herbs. Olive oil also brings to the table a number of nutrients which are essential to a long and healthy life. A good quality cold pressed olive oil is rich with monounsaturated fats, vitamins and antioxidants. In other words, it helps with lowering your risk of heart disease and with age related issues (cell aging, tissue damage, wrinkles, etc.). It has also been suggested that it might help with managing your insulin levels and blood sugar control, and therefore potentially lower your risk of type 2 diabetes (Dr. Mercola, Olive Oil: The Salad Superstar).
Midwives highly recommend it to massage new-borns’ skin and to heal the umbilical cord cut, due to its softening and skin-repairing properties. You can add a drop of pure good quality lavender oil to improve the scent. It is also great for face massage to prevent wrinkles. And it is a key ingredient in homemade Mediterranean hair masks. It enriches your scalp, moisturises your hair and repairs split ends Mediterranean hair mask: Make a paste with olive oil, egg yolk and lemon squeeze. Apply on your hair and leave for 30 minutes.
The downside of olive oil is that it oxides when heated and therefore it shouldn’t be used for cooking. Oxidized oil has been linked to an increased risk for cardiovascular disease and cancer. To prevent oxidative damage, you should always keep olive oil in a cool, dark place, and replace the cap on the bottle as soon as you finish pouring it. Alternatively, you can put a drop of Astaxanthin (powerful antioxidant) into the bottle (Dr. Moerck). Some of the mass-production olive oil might be diluted with cheaper, lower quality oils like canola, sunflower, hazelnut, soybean, corn, sunflower, palm, sesame, grape seed and/or walnut. Cheap oil might also be mixed, coloured, perfumed and flavoured too. You should look out for the below tell-tale signs in order to tell superior olive oil from an inferior one: 1. Rancidity. If it smells like crayons or putty, tastes like rancid nuts and/or has a greasy mouthfeel, your oil is rancid and should not be used. 2. Fusty flavour. “Fusty” oil occurs when olives are stored long before they’re milled, which causes fermentation due to lack of oxygen. Fusty flavours are incredibly common in olive oil, so many simply think it’s normal. However, your olive oil should not have a fermented smell to it, reminiscent of sweaty socks or swampy vegetation. 3. Mouldy flavour. If your olive oil tastes dusty or musty, it’s likely to be due to mouldy olives. 4. Wine or vinegar flavour. If in your olive oil you can taste undertones of wine and vinegar (or even nail polish), it’s probably due to olive fermentation with oxygen, leading to this sharp, undesirable flavour.