Interview with Steve Vatsolakis of Shoreline Deli
Not long ago, the media was all a buzz with the finding that 73 percent of the five best-selling, imported brands of extra virgin olive oil failed to meet the standards of taste and smell established for that grade of olive oil. Some media reported that oil purported to be pure, actually was mixed with other nut oils, some were mixed with soybean oil. Confused and concerned, I went to Shoreline Food Store and International Deli in Pensacola, FL, home of our local extra virgin olive oil importer. Here are the answers Steve Vatsolakis, olive grove owner, gave to my questions.
Billie: Tell us about your olive oil.
Steve: Olive oil is harvested only once a year during the winter. Our olives come from my family and part of my own groves, located on the west side of the island of Crete. Being my own I feel so much better bringing it here. It’s always fresh. I want to have only the most pure and natural products in my store. I travel to Greece every year in March to oversee the quality of olive oil being processed to assure that it is the finest available on the market today. The olives are picked fresh from the trees, not picked up off the ground. Then the olives are crushed and pressed. We mix our mash with warm water to enhance the oil recovery. Warm water does not destroy the health benefits. Some olive oil processors use hot water to obtain extra oil from the press. We don’t.
Billie: What makes olive oil extra virgin?
Steve: Olive oil is made from the fruit of the olive tree. It is green when it first comes out. When you squeeze the olives, if they are a little greenish, the oil is a little bit bitter and very low acidity. With time that acidity increases. It becomes a heavier oil. With age, it gets a little sweeter and the acidity rises. Before long though, it begins to get rancid. Many companies import olive oils. If they have room in the price, they can bring good quality oils, otherwise they blend the oils. Then it is not extra virgin like the labels say. Our oil is first press, cold press. Acidity should be less than 0.7%. Than means it has virtually no acidity. If the acidity is less than 0.8% it is extra virgin, if it is more than 0.8% it is virgin olive oil. Because acidity is one of the most important qualities and because it rises over time, it’s important to check the expiration date. Olive oil should be used within two years of production. After that it is not so good.
Billie: What are the uses of extra virgin olive oil?
Steve: As we said it is cold pressed, that means no heat involved, so it has the maximum health benefits. If you can use it in your food without heating that is the best way to use it. Make a salad, mix a little vinegar with some olive oil and a little sea salt, to bring out the flavor. If you cook vegetables, you can steam or boil them, put them in your plate and pour the olive oil over it. It has no cholesterol so it is healthy for you. Squeeze a little bit of lemon juice and sea salt on top as needed and enjoy the flavor. If you have soups, you can add olive oil at the end, too. You will get the most health benefits this way. Or if you are cooking some onions and fresh herbs as part of your meal preparation, simmer them with olive oil. It smells so good. It gets a better flavor into your food. I cook everything with this oil. I fry potatoes, I fry fish, I cook everything with this oil. The smoke point on this oil is 425º F, canola oil is 400º F, so you have room to cook it. Keep the temperature at 350º to 375º. The good point about this oil is it has never been cooked. It’s not already old. You can reuse it many times. I can cook potatoes two or three times. If I want to fry fish, I can cook fish in the same oil. Now, I will not go back to potatoes after that.
Billie: How can a person obtain this olive oil?
Steve: Any one in town can come in, I am always happy to see them, to show them the product and answer any questions. They can even taste it. We also sell it on Ebay and through my website at ShorelineDeli. Look for the green cans. We ship it in a flat rate box. It is very affordable for such a good value.
Billie: One of my favorite ways to have olive oil is with fresh baked bread.
Steve: There you go, add some fresh squeezed lemon juice and a little sea salt. That brings the flavor out and makes it so good.
Billie Nicholson 2014