Top Choices in Olive Oil Books

By Christine Dutton
Updated February 28, 2015

Extra virgin olive oil is the universal ingredient in traditional Mediterranean cooking. At Mediterranean Living, we embrace the generous use of olive oil for just about any dish, including delicious baked goods. I thoroughly enjoy reading about olive oil, and learning about the growing and harvesting of the olives in various Mediterranean cultures. I especially appreciate a book that incorporates information about health benefits, interesting personal stories, and tasty traditional Mediterranean creations using olive oil. In this review, I’m excited to share with you my top three favorite books on this subject: “Olive Oil: From Tree to Table,” “The Healing Powers of Olive Oil: A Complete Guide to Nature’s Liquid Gold,” and “Virgin Territory: Exploring The World of Olive Oil.”

Olive Oil: From Tree to Table

“Olive Oil: From Tree to Table” is an IACP Cookbook Award nominee, written by Peggy Knickerbocker. Knickerbocker is a James Beard award-winning freelance food writer residing in the city of San Francisco. She has written several cookbooks and is a book reviewer for the magazine, “Gastronomica.”

In “Olive Oil: From Tree to Table,” Knickerbocker shares a crop of stories about her visits to olive groves across the globe. The book has a transcontinental feel with a good emphasis on California in addition to the Mediterranean. You will learn quite a bit about cultivation, harvesting and the pressing of extra virgin olive oil. You’ll also learn about the lives of growers, as she transports you to the various regions represented.

As you may have learned, selection and storage of olive oil is of utmost importance. There are some fraudulent oils to be avoided, and some have better taste than others. The way the oil is stored can also impact the taste. Knickerbocker shares some helpful tips for all of these important considerations.

This book includes wonderful recipes starring olive oil. Most are easy, with 10 ingredients or fewer. The recipes focus on northern Mediterranean countries. I found the recipes to be both accessible and inspirational. I love that Knickerbocker emphasizes the combining of fresh quality vegetables, cheeses, and herbs with olive oil. These are recipes with simple treatments, highlighting the best of Mediterranean flavors.

“Olive Oil: From Tree to Table,” is an excellent choice for a first book to learn about olive oil, its history, its uses and its preparations. Stop here to buy the book.

The Healing Powers of Olive Oil

“The Healing Powers of Olive Oil,” written by Cal Orey, is an excellent compendium of essential knowledge about olive oil. Orey is an accomplished author and journalist. She has authored “The Healing Powers of Vinegar” and other food related titles. Her journalistic nature shows through in this book. She references numerous studies and accesses experts to delve deeply into how we can benefit from using olive oil. She writes about how olive oil has shaped cultures and lifestyles. She also shares about how adding olive oil into our diet can dramatically transform our health.

This is an ideal book for those in the health foods who want to teach about the benefits of olive oil. It is also a great reference for anyone interested in learning how to add this essential and healthful Mediterranean ingredient into their own diet.

One of the best things about this book is the breadth of olive oil uses that are covered. Orey brings information about culinary uses of olive oil, including baking and how to make flavored oils. She also includes sections in the book on making healing oils, elixirs and home remedies. Discover how to use olive oil for body products such as skin and hair treatments. There is even a recipe for dog treats!

The primary focus of the book is on the vast benefits to be gained from olive oil. Only a handful of recipes are included, but each one is simple and quite unique,

Lastly, this book does not read like a typical health awareness title. Orey writes with a captivating style that will keep you engaged throughout the book. If you would like to advance your experimentation using olive oil, this is the book for you. You can buy the book here.

Virgin Territory: Exploring the World of Olive Oil

A recent addition to my collection of treasured olive oil books is Nancy Harmon Jenkins’ “Virgin Territory: Exploring the World of Olive Oil.” Jenkins is also the author of the celebrated “The New Mediterranean Diet Cookbook: A Delicious Alternative for Lifelong Health,” and is well respected for her knowledge of Mediterranean culture and cuisine. She spends part of every year on an olive farm in Tuscany. Growing and harvesting her own olives has given her a direct personal perspective on the olive growing culture.

I found “Virgin Territory” to be a particularly special book on olive oil and a great addition to anyone’s collection. It is highly engaging, with exceptional detail and inspiring stories. Jenkins creates an adventure in olive oil through sharing compelling history. She has an entertaining way of developing the reader’s understanding of olive growing culture and olive oil production. Ever-thoughtful in her approach, she uncovers fascinating tidbits about olive oil production in Mediterranean culture, while elegantly carrying the reader into the world of olive oil. The beauty of the olive growing world is revealed through the gorgeous photography of Penny de los Santos.

Jenkins’ 100 favorite recipes in the book feature olive oil as a prominent ingredient. She expertly teaches how to use olive oil in a variety of ways, including frying. The recipes showcase cuisines across the Mediterranean, from France to Spain, from Morocco to Greece. I appreciate that she also adds in a few recipes from countries in other regions across the globe. She surprised me by sharing an Indian recipe replacing ghee with olive oil. The recipe is an excellent demonstration of how to substitute olive oil in recipes that typically use other oils.   The recipe for Louisiana Shrimp and Sausage Gumbo looks especially appetizing. All in all, the book contains an impressive and delicious group of recipes, with a strong emphasis on fresh produce and healthy grains.

You can learn more about her book here.



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