The first olive trees may have been grown in Greece, but when it comes to make the most of this aromatic fruit, Italy leads the charge. Real Italian grown and pressed olive oil is an essential ingredient to impart the true flavor of life, "gusto di vita!" to your Italian recipes. But do you know the many varieties available and the many ways in which you can use it?
Olive oil is good for you both inside and outside. True Italian beauty has, as must "gusto" about it as the food. After all, when you think of Italian beauty, you think of shining hair, smooth complexions and bright eyes full of fire and passion. But you'd be amazed how much olive has to do with this.
Olive oil has been used in the Mediterranean region for centuries. It's not certain whether it was first used on the body or in it, but this pure oil with its greenish gold glow has been used as an anointing oil in rituals, and a vital ingredient in cooking, since about 2500 BC. But there isn't just one generic olive oil. Olives that are grown and processed in different regions have differences in taste, consistency and color. So, it's important to know the meaning of terms like 'extra virgin' and 'virgin' when you buy.
Extra Virgin olive oil is cold pressed olive oil that has an acidity factor of less than one per cent. To be graded this highly, the oil must pass stringent taste tests. Oil which has a slightly higher acidity factor, up to two per cent, is graded Virgin only. If the label on the olive oil does not have the Extra Virgin or Virgin prefix, then it is a blend of refined and virgin oils with an acidity factor of less than 1.5 per cent. Blending the oils makes the produce lower in price than Extra Virgin.
These oils have the flavor and consistency needed for cooking – the cheap lower grade oils, which do not have flavor of the higher grades, are called Pomace, and are extracted from the left over olive paste using solvents. So you can see that the extra expenditure for a bottle of Extra Virgin olive oil, with its low acidity, flavor and fine consistency, is well worth it. Fresh quality Italian olive oil can be bought over the internet.
Pure Extra Virgin and Virgin olive oils are as beautiful to look at as they are to taste. The color ranges through light yellows to fresh green, and can tell you a great deal about the olives that produced the oil. Olives turn black when they are ripe, so green oil is made from young olives and has a deeper, fruitier flavor, while yellow oils are made from more mature olives picked later in the season. Flavors will differ from region to region. The best way is to experiment with oils from different regions (many are now producing 'boutique oils' from one variety of olive grown on a single estate) so the best way is to experiment and see which ones you like best.
Flavored olive oils are popular, but you can do this at home by simply steeping herbs or spices in a bottle of Extra Virgin olive oil. Cut chilies lengthways, or pick a whole sprig rosemary, basil or marjoram and slip it into the oil in the bottle. Cap the oil and leave it in a warm place (such as a sunny window sill) for a week until the herbs release their aromatic fragrance into the oil.
The health benefits of olive oil are well known to health professionals, who have long regarded the Mediterranean diet as one of the healthiest for humans. Olive oil contains mostly monounsaturated fatty acids, which help protect against the build up of cholesterol, leading to heart disease.
For external use, olive oil can't be beaten. Try combing olive oil through your hair, wrap in a heated towel and leave until the towel cools. When you shampoo the oil out, you won't need conditioner – your hair will be as rich and silky as an Italian movie star. If you like to make your own face and hand creams, use olive oil as a base. For keeping your hands, and rough patches like knees, feet and elbows smooth and exfoliated, mix a teaspoon of olive oil with a teaspoon of salt or sugar and massage into your skin. When you wash the oil off, you will find your skin is softer and smoother than it has ever been.
True Italian olive oil will add not only the perfect full bodied flavor to complement your cooking, it will also keep you healthy and attractive. For more great ideas on how to keep your body looking beautiful, visit the free beauty samples section of the site. You are sure to find cosmetic and skin care samples free companies like Dove®, Neutrogena®, Maybelline® and so much more.