Eating well and finding quality ingredients isn’t always simple, but it is worth it. Until you are familiar with specific brands or learn more about your local farms and their growing practices, it’s important to first do your research before purchasing products with “healthy” on the label.
I spoke with a group not long ago about the beauty of making your own pesto and one of the gals in attendance asked me how to find “real” olive oil, because she had once read most olive oils were fake.
You may recall a bit of an uproar and debate when a 2015 article popped up stating 69% of all “store-bought” olive oils are fake. The problem with such an eye-popping, click-bait headline is quite a few people don’t look beyond the first few words and then they just share, share, share away. Consumers were rightfully curious as to what the heck was actually in the little bottles they’ve been purchasing from their local grocer. So what was it? Well, it was olive oil. It’s always been olive oil. The trickery was indeed in the labeling, however it wasn’t about what was inside.
The article actually referenced a 2011 paper by University of California Davis Olive Center and the focus of the original report was regarding misleading labels. The question was, did these brands meet the strict guidelines to say the oils in their bottles were extra-virgin? This report had nothing to with a product other than olives. The taste, aroma, profiles and quality were in question but they were all filled with actual olive oil.
This is why it’s essential to research both the good and the bad headlines.What is the best olive oil for your pesto? Keep in mind, it doesn’t have to be the most expensive, I simply use extra-virgin and after all the hub-hub about quality, what you see on the label today, is what you get.
I will be honest, if I am going to use a bit of olive oil where the flavor is “hidden” and it’s a very small amount, I am not too picky on the flavor. I will simply add a bit from my “next to stove” bottle. However when it comes to a condiment or accessory like pesto, your olive oil is important because it’s a key component to the flavor. Go for the extra virgin.
5 minute pesto
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves
- 1/2 cup grated Romano
- 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 3 cloves garlic, minced (2 cloves if you prefer a more subtle flavor)
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1. Pulse basil and pine nuts a few times in food processor. The aroma!
2. Add garlic and cheese, pulse and scrape down side of processor bowl.
3. While the processor is running, slowly add olive oil. Stop occasionally and scrape down processor bowl.
4. Scrape into a small bowl, stir in salt and pepper, add more to taste if necessary. Cover and chill.
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Karie Engels is an author, founder and publisher of Basil & Salt Magazine. She enjoys a quiet life in a small farmhouse in Washington state with her quarrelsome cat.