- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Gold, olive green, citrine: all colors of olive oils. When you’re reaching for oil to use in a salad dressing or for cooking, color isn’t the most important consideration.

Instead, you want oil that’s appropriate to your dish, says Alessio Carli, who makes olive oil and wine for Pietra Santa Winery near Monterey Bay in California.

Mr. Carli suggests treating your olive oil selections as you do your wines. Read the label to determine whether the oil’s flavor and cooking qualities are suited to your dish.

For example, if the label describes an oil that’s pungent, spicy and peppery, that’s the oil you’ll want to dress a salad or to brush over a piece of bread for bruschetta. A blended olive oil, which has a softer taste, is better suited for cooking. When preparing turkey or pork cutlets, add a little blended olive oil to the skillet.

Finishing oils are a third category. After you have prepared a dish, you may notice that the flavors don’t quite harmonize or are still harsh. Sprinkle on a bit of olive oil, and you’ll taste a difference.

The Pietra Santa olive oils include Olivita — which has the boldest flavor — California blend and Primo, which is also a blend that Mr. Carli recommends using for finishing dishes or in salad dressings.

Keeping more than one olive oil on hand may seem like an expensive proposition, but if you buy oil in a half-liter bottle and store it in a cool spot away from heat, you’ll get the most value for your purchase.

Remember Mr. Carli’s advice that “oil doesn’t get better with age as wine does” and use it.

Sugar snap pea, greens and Parmesan salad

1 tablespoon blended olive oil

2 cups trimmed sugar snap peas

2 cups arugula, torn if large leaves

2 cups mache or baby greens

Salad dressing (recipe follows)

1/4 cup aged Parmesan cheese, cut into 1/4-inch cubes

Heat oil in medium skillet. Add peas and cook over medium-high heat for 3 minutes or until glossy and starting to brown. Remove from heat. Spoon peas into large salad bowl. Add arugula and mache. Just before serving, pour in salad dressing and toss gently but well. Sprinkle with cheese. Serve immediately.

Makes 2 servings.


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/8 teaspoon coarse ground pepper

1/8 teaspoon salt or to taste

Combine oil, vinegar and mustard in a cup. Whisk to blend. Stir in pepper and salt and whisk again.

Bev Bennett is the author of “30 Minute Meals for Dummies” (John Wiley & Sons).


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