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The Talmud reports that the menorah in the Temple was required to burn every night, but there was only enough oil for one night...We all learned in Hebrew school that the oil used for lighting the menorah was not coconut and not canola; it was pure, extra virgin, cold-pressed olive oil. 

Olive oil tasting


The “pro” way to taste olive oil is by pouring a small quantity (about ¼ to ½ inch) into a wine goblet, warming the cup with your hands for one minute, swirling the oil around, and then smelling it and taking a small sip. Of course, if you can’t stand the idea of drinking oil straight, forget about professional tastings and enjoy it on a piece of bread.


Just as with wine, you should have at least two or three types of Extra Virgin Olive Oil to pair with different dishes and foods. Choose a more full-bodied oil (“early harvest” and from warmer regions) to drizzle raw on foods with strong flavors such as steak, bruschetta, garlicky dishes, flavorful vegetables like eggplant or arugula; pick a milder, fruity, late-harvest oil for foods like fish, delicate vegetables, chicken, or potatoes, potatoes, as well as for cooking. Oils come in all shades of color, from green to gold to straw, and official tasters use colored glasses to avoid paying attention to this characteristic. There are 700+ different kinds of olives, which means that olive oils can be as diverse as wines. But unlike wine, oil spoils rather than improving with age.


  1. Create a menu on your computer of the different oils you selected. Describing them with adjectives such as mild, medium, full-bodied, assertive, sweet, buttery, fruity, green, peppery, pungent, etc. 
  2. Add pairing ideas for each oil. As palate cleansers between each tasting, serve green or Granny Smith apple slices, celery and carrot sticks, natural and sparkling water, and chilled white and rose wine.

MORE: How to Throw a Healthy Chanukah Party

Recipes originally published in Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller Magazine Winter 2014 Subscribe Now

Magazine Winter 2014

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