“My advice when it comes to choosing oil is this: Pick an oil that you love the flavour of. It’s like wine. Use it how you prefer and store it properly in a cool dark place. Here it’s the opposite of wine as its flavour lessens the longer you keep it. So don’t be storing your favourite bottles for years in the cellar.”-Christine Cushing
One of Canada’s favourite chefs and busiest food personalities is celebrating an anniversary this year! It’s been ten years since Christine Cushing introduced her signature extra virgin olive oil and it’s going stronger than ever. She has even introduced a line of frozen desserts that feature her 100% extra virgin olive oil.
“Good quality extra virgin olive oils should always have a best before date or harvest date, a distinct flavour and not taste greasy or filmy. They should be in dark bottles to protect them from the sun. Intense flavour is a good thing. And since some producers are trying to sell cheap imitations, the best way to guarantee you’re getting authentic oil is to learn how good oil tastes. If it costs $ 5 / L – I don’t care what it says on the bottle, it’s not extra virgin. Never use light olive oil ( refined with less taste and health benefits but all the calories ).”-Christine Cushing
A graduate of the Food and Beverage Management Program at George Brown College, Cushing comes by her love of olive oil naturally; she was born in Athens, Greece, where the average citizen consumes half a cup (125 ml) of olive oil every day. Compare that to Canada, where the average Canadian consumes 1.5 litres per year.
Much of the olive oil that Canadians consume leaves a lot to be desired.
The International Olive Oil Council provides designations and definitions of at least ten grades of olive oil, ranging from olive oil not fit for consumption (used for refining or technical use), to pomace, from ordinary olive oil to extra virgin olive oil, (evoo) obtained from the first pressing of the fruit. All of these grades of olive oil have varying levels of oleic acid (Omega-9). To be designated as evoo the oleic acid content has to be less than .8 g per 100g.
In a study published in February 2000 in the medical journal “QJM,” researchers in Ireland found that diets rich in oleic acid improved the participants’ fasting plasma glucose, insulin sensitivity and blood circulation. Lower fasting glucose and insulin levels, along with enhanced blood flow, suggest better diabetes control and less risk for other diseases. For millions of people with diagnosed diabetes and prediabetes, consuming foods rich in oleic acid may be beneficial in controlling the disease.- livestrong.com
Cushing leaves no olive un-pitted in her efforts to provide the best olive oil on the market. Her oil is pressed at controlled low temperature from just one cultivar, the koroneiki olive, and has an oleic acid level of just .3g/100g, much less than the International Olive Oil Council delineates. The result? A superior olive oil that Cushing describes as possessing a bold, fruity taste with a gently peppery finish, with notes of fresh almonds, green apple, green banana and fresh lettuce.
“To fully appreciate the great flavour, try pouring some into a small glass, cupping it gently in your hands and swirling it. This warms it gently and releases the pronounced aromas of fresh almond, green apple, green banana and lettuce. Your sense of smell really helps your taste buds so if an oil smells rancid or musty don’t use it.”
Here’s one of Ms Cushing’s delicious recipes for a hearty winter soup that combines the unparalleled health benefits of squash, the whole grain benefits of barley and the delicious nutrition of Cushing’s olive oil, perfect for this stubborn cold snap! Served with your favourite artisanal bread and side of olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping, what could be better?
Hearty Squash And Barley Soup
Barley makes a delicious and simple soup that the whole family will love. Look for the ‘pearl’ variety of barley that will cook in about 35 minutes. I’ve also added the kale for added nutrients to round out this powerhouse recipe.
3 tbsp. olive oil ( 45 ml)
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 leek, (white part only) chopped
1 tbsp. diced pancetta or bacon (15 ml)
1 carrot, diced
1 cup pearl barley (250 ml)
2 bay leaves
5 sprigs fresh thyme
8 cups chicken stock (2 L)
sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
1/2 butternut squash, diced
1/2 bunch of kale, leaves only
In a large pot, saute onion in olive oil on medium heat until golden. Add the garlic, leek, pancetta and carrot and continue to cook for a further 3-4 minutes or until garlic is golden. Add remaining ingredients, except squash and kale and bring to the boil. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer, covered for about 30 minutes or until barley is tender. Add the squash and simmer for a further 10 minutes uncovered. Season with salt and pepper add the kale. Simmer for 5 more minutes until kale is just tender but still green. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil just before serving.