Chef Maria Loi created her line of Loi Food Products out of a desire to promote healthy eating following the fundamentals of a Mediterranean diet. The cornerstone is olive oil, rich in polyphenols, antioxidants, and monounsaturated (healthier) fats.
Loi sells her own Loi Ladi Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Crete through Loi Food Products. The olive oil is a recipient of a Sofi™ Award from the Specialty Food Association for Best New Product in the Olive Oil Category.
I asked her for a primer on Greek olive oil.
What olives are used to make Greek olive oil?
ML: There are many different olive varieties you can use to make Greek olive oil, but for me, the best are Koroneiki or Kalamata – these give the brightest, cleanest flavor, in my opinion.
Are there specific Protected Designation of Origins (PDOs) within Greece for olive oil production?
ML: Yes! There are approximately 17 (PDOs) in fact, and all make fantastic olive oil with different qualities, notes, and flavors.
Does Greece have a quality assurance certification program for olive oil
ML: Yes. Olive oil is one of Greece’s most important industries, so of course, there are various certifications for which olive oil producers can apply.
What about grades of olive oil?
ML: For me, and for most, if not all Greeks, there is only Ladi – extra virgin olive oil. From there, the early harvest variety, known as Agoureleo, is the best for your health. It is high in polyphenols, which are antioxidants, and one, in particular, known as Oleocanthal, which is known to protect against cancer.
What are some examples of different uses for olive oil?
ML: You can use olive oil for almost anything! It’s perfect for dressing salads, vegetables, and finishing dishes. It’s wonderful for cooking because it has a high smoke point (between 375º-405º depending on the variety), and I use it in all my desserts we make at Loi Estiatorio!
Color, aroma, taste and freshness are all important when selecting olive oil. What else?
ML: Besides all of what you listed, I would say regionality, seasonality, method of production, informational transparency, packaging, and price point are important as well.
You can tell a lot about an olive oil by its bottle and label and how much information it shares with you. You like to see a dark glass bottle with the important information listed on it, like where it came from, what kind of olives it was made from, where and how they were harvested, when and what method was used to produce the oil, and any tasting notes.
Finally, much like wine, price is a predictable indicator of quality – more than likely, the better the olive oil quality, the higher the price. It’s amazing that people will spend $25 on a bottle of wine, but not on a bottle of olive oil, which lasts for much longer and has so many health benefits!
On Tuesday, May 18, 5 pm EST, Chef Maria Loi will lead a virtual discussion on the health benefits, types, and ways to enjoy Greek Olive Oil on behalf of the nonprofit Les Dames d’Escoffier New York (www.ldny.org), an organization of leading women in food, fine beverage and hospitality. (Loi is a member.) The tasting is open to the public; admission is $20. For information, visit this Eventbrite link