Why is Olive Oil Essential in Middle Eastern Cuisine?
Olive oil has been an integral part of Middle Eastern cuisine for centuries. The region’s people have been using this oil in their cooking and various other applications, including skin care, for ages. The Middle East is a vast and diverse region, spanning several countries and cultures, each with its unique cuisine. However, one common thing in almost all Middle Eastern cuisine is the use of olive oil. This versatile oil has become an essential ingredient in the region’s cuisine, and for a good reason. In this article, we will discuss why olive oil is so essential in Middle Eastern cuisine.
Understanding Olive Oil Grades
The grades of olive oil are based on factors like flavour, defects and odour. Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is considered the highest quality and most flavourful classification of olive oil. It is made from the first cold-pressing of the olives and has a maximum acidity of 0.8%. EVOO is not refined, and it is not blended with any other oils or additives. This makes it a pure and natural oil with a rich taste and aroma.
On the other hand, “light” olive oil is a marketing term used to describe refined olive oil that has been blended with some virgin or extra virgin olive oil. The term “light” refers to the oil’s lighter flavour and colour, not its calorie content. In fact, all olive oils have the same amount of calories per tablespoon. Light olive oil is a good option for cooking because it has a higher smoke point than extra virgin olive oil, which means it can be heated to higher temperatures before it starts to smoke and break down.
Reasons Why Olive Oil in Middle Eastern Cuisine is Important
There are several reasons why Olive Oil in the Middle East countries are so important, have a look as under:
1. Rich in Flavour
One of the main reasons why olive oil is so popular in Middle Eastern cuisine is its rich flavour. The oil is made from the fruit of the olive tree, which grows abundantly in the region. The oil is extracted from the fruit through a pressing process, and the result is a flavourful, fragrant, and nutrient-dense oil that is perfect for cooking.
In Middle Eastern cuisine, olive oil is used as a primary cooking oil, as well as a seasoning and dressing. It adds a distinctive flavour and aroma to dishes and helps to bring out the natural flavours of other ingredients. It can be used in a variety of dishes. It is commonly used as a cooking oil or as a finishing oil to add flavour and richness to a dish. Olive oil is a staple ingredient in many Mediterranean recipes, including pasta dishes, salads, and roasted vegetables.
2. Health Benefits
Olive oil is well-known for its numerous health benefits. It is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), which are considered to be “good fats” that can help to lower bad cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease. It also contains polyphenols, which are antioxidants that can help to protect the body against oxidative stress and inflammation. Middle Eastern cuisine is generally considered to be healthy due to its emphasis on fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Olive oil is a key component of this healthy eating pattern, and its health benefits have contributed to its popularity in the region.
The next big reason why olive oil is so essential in Middle Eastern cuisine is its versatility. It can be used in a wide range of dishes, from salads and dips to grilled meats and vegetables. It is also commonly used in baking, as well as in the preparation of traditional Middle Eastern sweets and pastries. Because of its versatility, olive oil has become an essential ingredient in Middle Eastern cuisine, and it is used in a wide range of dishes and applications.
4. Traditional Use
Olive oil has been used in Middle Eastern cuisine for thousands of years, and it has become an integral part of the region’s culinary traditions. It is used in many traditional dishes and is an essential ingredient in many classic Middle Eastern recipes. In many Middle Eastern cultures, olive oil is also used for its medicinal properties. It is used in skin care, hair care, and as a general health tonic. Its traditional use has contributed to its continued popularity in the region.
5. Abundant Supply
Finally, olive oil is so essential in Middle Eastern cuisine because of the abundant supply of olives in the region. The Mediterranean climate of the Middle East is perfect for growing olives, and many countries in the region, including Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, and Israel, are significant producers of olive oil. Because of the abundance of olives, olive oil is readily available and affordable in the region, making it a popular choice for cooking and other applications.
How to Preserve the Freshness and Flavour of Olive Oil?
Proper storage is crucial to preserving the freshness and flavour of olive oil. Exposure to air, light, and heat can cause olive oil to degrade and become rancid, which can affect its taste and nutritional value along with getting oxidised, thus losing its flavour. Here are some tips to help preserve the freshness and flavour of your olive oil:
● Store in a cool, dark place: Olive oil should be stored in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight and heat sources, such as stovetops or ovens.
● Use a dark, airtight container: Olive oil should be stored in a dark, airtight container, such as a glass bottle or tin, to protect it from light and air.
● Keep the bottle tightly sealed: Once opened, olive oil should be consumed within a few months to ensure maximum freshness. Make sure to keep the bottle tightly sealed when not in use.
● Avoid exposure to oxygen: When pouring olive oil, try to avoid exposing it to air as much as possible, as this can cause it to oxidise and degrade. By following these tips, you can help preserve the freshness and flavour of your olive oil and enjoy its health benefits for longer.
For a good reason, Olive oil is an essential ingredient in Middle Eastern cuisine. Its rich flavour, health benefits, versatility, traditional use, and abundant supply have all contributed to its popularity in the region. Whether making a traditional Middle Eastern dish or trying to create a new recipe, olive oil is an ingredient that you can’t do without.