The One Ingredient I Can’t Live Without

Tips and Tricks

I am standing in the kitchen awkwardly. Like I landed on a different planet. Waiting for it to purge me from its space because it knows I am foreign. I pace the floor. This kitchen is as new and wild to me as my marriage. I know this feeling. Afraid. Intrigued.

This is my first day in the kitchen as a newlywed.

When Beau arrives home I confidently announce that we have nothing to eat. We must go out. And isn’t it perfect timing because it’s happy hour at our favorite little place.

But this daily announcement loses its panache. Like a mouse caught in a trap, I know struggling will only kill me. I must master the kitchen.

A few months later and I am happy. Content. Cooking opens a new door of creativity for me. I am CEO of my kitchen. Owner. Author.

Entering the kitchen after work provides a clear and very closed chapter to the workday and a new chapter to my evening. Which will come to be spent with Beau right next to me.

Frustration blazes bright soon after. Many recipes read “use the best quality olive oil.” Can I get some clarity? What is the “best quality?”

Feeling defeated,  I furiously whisk my dressings and coat my vegetables with what I believe to be the best quality (but could very well be sub-par) olive oil. I decide to go researching.

I have learned over the past two years that one ingredient I cannot live without in my kitchen is the “best quality” olive oil. There are four others. But that is a post for another time.

Olive oil.

I can attribute most of my cooking knowledge to my mother. Who is an excellent chef and baker. And after her, Ina Garten who has been my mentor via her TV show.

What is the best way to find good olive oil?

Ina once noted that the best way to discover the best olive oil is to taste test several different olive oils. She explained that the best one would leave a very smooth and clean taste on the palette. This was annoying to me. Who has time or the money to compare countless olive oils?

But, I took the challenge and over the course of about 5 months I bought different olive oils, tasted and used them until I found the best one.

I finally found it. The one ingredient that makes all the difference in my cooking has been high quality olive oil.

The silkiness of a pure, cold pressed olive oil turned my dressings into the star of the show. It does not have that bitter kick that lower quality olive oils have.

High quality olive oil quickly became my go-to when guests would arrive early (or I was running behind). Just pour some of that olive oil into a dipping bowl, add minced garlic, red pepper flakes, serve with a crusty baguette and you have instant success. And happy guests.

What is Cold Pressed Olive Oil and Why Is It Important for Cooking?

Cold pressed olive oil is considered “high quality” and “premium” olive oil. But what is cold pressed olive oil and why is it the best?

If your olive oil bottle does not say “cold pressed” on it, a few things have taken place. First, it has been chemically processed. It has been refined and filtered to neutralize both undesirable strong tastes and acid content which occurs during chemical processing.

The cold pressed method follows a very slow and delicate process that fully preserves the smooth flavor. Cold pressed means that this oil is only the result of the first press where the olive paste is gently warmed to reach room temperature to avoid loosing taste.

Olive oil that has not been cold pressed, more than likely, means that this oil is the result of a second press of the olive paste where most of the delicate flavor has already been extracted and now the paste must be pressed using hot water (which is harsh to olive paste) to extract any kind of flavor.

The result of cold pressed olive oil is one that is pure, smooth and will make the difference between a greasy, slightly bitter dressing and a refined, elegant dressing.

What Brand of Cold Pressed Olive Oil Should I Buy?

Personally, after all my testing, I finally settled on Olio Santo California First Cold Press Olive Oil. It is a bit on the pricey side (at least to me). You can buy it on Amazon. A 16.9 oz bottle costs $19.99. You can also purchase it at Williams Sonoma in a 25.4 oz bottle.

Bonus? It turns out that this is actually the olive oil that Ina uses as well – which was a fun surprise for me to discover when I went to purchase it from Amazon and saw that tidbit in the reviews!

This discovery was one that took time. But this is where I was as a new chef in the kitchen, trying to navigate my way.

I stake a flag, a symbol, my apron, to the pantry door. My footprints all over this tile floor. One small step for me.

This was the beginning of how this foreign room started to feel like home to me.

What is the one ingredient you cannot live without?

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  1. jen reyneri says:

    In Italy, and once in a while in the US, I have stumbled upon the BEST olive oil… which we purchased because it bore our last name in Italian style- Raineri.
    You’ve inspired me to go hunt it down on Amazon!
    Look forward to cooking together, my friend:)

  2. Jennifer Sanders says:

    The best olive oil in the world is actually UP Olive Oil:

    Luckily I live right above an olive oil shop!

    Belle, Thank you for being your effervescent self on this website!


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