The world of extra virgin olive oil pairings is a modern universe still partially unexplored. Contrary to the world of wine pairing, there are no EVOOs only suitable for a particular kind of dish, or olive oils that cannot be paired to a certain category of food – only better choices and combinations than others. Therefore, considering that the same preparation paired to 10 different EVO oils can take a completely different shade of flavour at each combination, EVO oil food pairing is one of the most beautiful and important skills which all cooking enthusiasts should learn to master.
Before getting started, for anyone who wants to have an attempt at EVOO food pairing, it is advisable to know the basics of the Extra Virgin Olive Oil tasting technique. We at Extraevo have summarized the process’ main steps in a short article – if you haven’t read it yet, we recommend you to do so. Briefly said, for a correct organoleptic evaluation of the EVOO we analyze:
- The color, which is however in no way related to the quality of the product;
- The olfactory intensity and the nature of the aromas (green, fresh, vegetable-y or “red”, as of dried fruit and tomato);
- The texture and the intensity of bitterness and pungency, combined with the persistence of the flavour in the aftertaste;
Only after having analyzed the EVO oil to understand its fundamental characteristics we can move to understand which dishes and recipes we can pair our olive oil to. Just remember to exalt your dishes and recipes by adding “a crudo” (after cooking) the EVO oil, immediately before serving.
It is obviously preferable to start with tasting the dish to which we will pair our EVOO to, to know its main sensations (acidity, bitterness, flavor, sweetness), dominant ingredients and their characteristics (a cheese instead of a vegetable, the succulence of the meat or the softness of a fish) and how complex and rich the flavor of each bite is. Although it is possible for professionals to come up with combination ideas knowing just the characteristics of the cultivar from which the EVOO is produced, it is still advisable to always taste the olive oil before pairing it to the dish: each territory’s expression or new batch could show original or different scents than the known standards.
The method we suggest you to follow to pair EVOOs to food is our BEA: balance, enhance, add.
- Balance: the importance and structure of an EVOO should be consistent with that of the dish. If a preparation has a very rich and complex flavour, we must combine it with a very rich and complex EVO oil; if a dish has a delicate flavor, we cannot cover it too much by pairing it to a too strong-flavoured olive oil (unless we are actually looking for this kind of result).
- Enhance: as known, each EVOO has notes of flavors which stand out from those of other olive oils; an EVO oil can have a clear taste of tomato while another can have a distinct mint scent, so, for the same dish we can decide to enhance one flavour rather than another. A few examples? For a simple spaghetti with tomato sauce dish, we could choose an olive oil with a good spiciness to enhance its taste, or one with hints of basil to give the dish the balsamic tone which was missing, or choose a tomato-y EVOO to enhance the importance of the sauce taste.
- Add something: do you want to add some bitterness to your recipe? Do you need a pungency note on your soup, but don’t want to add chilli? Would you like to give your shrimp tartare a citrus scent? With EVO oil you can do all of this and much more: add perfumes and flavors to your dishes (and why not – evoque some memories as well!) by choosing the olive oil that has just that in itself! It is like cooking with magic: a single product worth 1000 different ingredients!
As you would have understood by now, the extra virgin olive oil pairings is a world yet to be explored, and so often there are no right or wrong choices but only new ideas and combinations to try out.
Our advices, experimenting aside, are:
- to try, taste and discover many EVOOs from many different territories – you will discover every time a new perfume, a feeling never perceived before, and an original flavour to be matched to a new preparation;
- to try the same recipe with different EVO oils each time: this will help you to gain confidence in your original ideas, or rather to provide you with new solutions.
Now it’s your turn! Write us and describe your favourite olive oil pairings!