Take heed of the flavour, and never overlook the quality of raw ingredients: this is always the right approach to adopt in the kitchen”. This is the first secret revealed by Daniele Reponi, a prime time Italian TV chef also known as “the king of the designer panino”, a huge connoisseur of Made in Italy ingredients and of the most sought-after regional specialities. From Modena, Reponi offers us some creative suggestions on the best ways to use high quality oil between the flames and when preparing street food.

A chef’s secrets: how do you maximise the qualities of a good extra virgin olive oil?

“There’s no special secret. As with all highly valued raw ingredients, quality oil is respected and appreciated in its essence, and is mainly added raw to make all its most intense flavours come alive. Therefore an important tip, in my opinion, is this: never heat up the oil aggressively, but gradually and evenly. Because extra virgin olive oil is a perfect product to accompany any type of vegetable, when added to any purée or sauce it creates a match made in heaven. Speaking of which, you absolutely must try it out in a well-made mayonnaise, or in a paste with ground nuts”.

A perfect union with bread and panini

“Even when preparing panini, extra virgin olive oil plays a central role thanks to its many sides: it can provide depth and tenacity or an intense fragrance of herbs, freshness, spice or even a citrusy aftertaste. Another tip: use it when making your bread! Compared to other types of fat, such as lard, milk or seed oil, which tend to annihilate flavour, using extra virgin olive oil in dough will enhance your ingredients. Of course, remember to bake the bread at the right temperature so as not to burn the oil and to avoid the bitter and unpleasant note that you can sometimes smell after cooking something for too long”.

An unusual pairing

“Extra virgin olive oil is not just made for dressing salads or cooking our favourite classic dishes, but it can also be the focus of innovative experiments, thanks to its peculiar organoleptic characteristics. One combination that I love is chili ice cream with almond caramel flakes and a very delicate extra virgin olive oil. I like extra virgin olive oil with dark chocolate, so it pairs well in sweeter recipes such as a ‘torta tenerina’ (chocolate cake) using half butter and half oil. I also highly recommend fresh rabbit liver cutlets with aromatic herbs. Adding a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, grated orange zest and dark chocolate to your plate is also top notch”.  

Frying with extra virgin olive oil

“Frying with a good extra virgin olive oil brings out one of its lesser known characteristics, namely its ability to offer excellent, fragrant and rather tasty fried food. It is often believed that the smoke point of seed oil is higher than that of extra virgin olive oil. The smoke point is the temperature at which a fat starts to break down to become less digestible: the higher the smoke point, the more a fat can withstand the temperature to maintain a certain digestibility. So the oil with the highest smoke point, or rather one of the highest, really is extra virgin olive oil, so this means it gives us a healthier version of fried food. That’s all before considering the delicate fragrance and fresh flavour that it leaves in the food compared to other alternative fats”.

Amaze with extra virgin olive oil

“My final pearl of wisdom for extra virgin olive oil: it’s a luxury that will give your plates originality, demonstrating the versatility of its excellence through a thousand-year-old tradition that still holds its place alongside more experimental modem culinary trends. Along with the joys of the palate, it also takes care of the visual aspects and enhances the presentation of your plate”.

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