Olive oils to spruce up your salads

11 July 2016

The days of dressing salads with nothing more than olive oil, salt and vinegar are long gone. This classic combination is now just one of a wealth of possibilities for creating unique salads with exotic, Mediterranean, sweet or hot touches… or any combination thereof.

Turn your kitchen into a test laboratory and experiment with pepper, chilli, rosemary and basil at will. Learn how to select the best variety of olive oil for each salad and how to make aromatic oils and vinaigrettes to give your freshest recipes a new twist. Ready? Here we go.

The right olive oil for each salad

Extra-virgin olive oil is a gastronomic treasure in its own right and is at its finest in its pure state. On its own, without anything else, it’s the perfect companion to any salad. And although talking about different varieties might sound a bit pedantic, you can be sure that each variety of olive has its own subtle differences; the key is to find the perfect balance with the food in question. For example, if you’re making a salad with lettuce leaves, garden produce and lots of vegetables, then the bitter, herby Picual variety is the one to use. If, on the other hand, you’re throwing together avocado, cheese, raisins, etc., you’d be better off going for the nutty Hojiblanca variety. And the lovely and sweet Arbequina variety is the perfect match for fresh fruit. Try them and see for yourself.

How about adding some aromas?

Now we’ve completed the chapter on different varieties, let’s look at adding some aromas. Simply pour some extra-virgin olive oil into a wide-necked bottle and add whatever ingredients you fancy: lemon peel, basil, peppercorns, ginger, garlic, chilli… Set aside for a few weeks, filter and you’re good to go! If you’re pushed for time, you can always buy one of the many readymade aromatic olive oils on the market: black olive is perfect for a fresh cheese and tomato salad, and soya and ginger works a treat with octopus or prawns.

Vinaigrettes for all tastes

As we said above, the classic salad dressing of olive oil, salt and vinegar has been outclassed by vinaigrettes. Instead of adding each ingredient directly onto the salad one by one, make the dressing first and season to taste. Try mixing together some olive oil, Modena balsamic vinegar, a spoonful of wholegrain mustard, pepper, oregano, basil and lemon… If your creative juices aren’t flowing or you’re not a chemistry whiz, you can always buy a readymade vinaigrette, such as almond, hazelnut, tomato and vinegar, perfect for a Mediterranean recipe; or soya, vinegar, honey and toasted sesame seeds for an Oriental flavour.

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