Olive oil dates back to ancient Greece and has been a critical part of Mediterranean culture for centuries. Olive cultivation spread all over from Greece to Syria, to Turkey, Egypt and then, of course, Italy; soon making olive oil a very important commodity, as it is even today.
The most commonly used oil, olive oil is obtained from the olive tree original of the Mediterranean region, and has a mildly fruity flavor.
Olive oil tends to break down at high heat, so use when you want maximum olive flavor, such as in salad dressings, soups, stews, and dipping.
Use in Mediterranean dishes and marinades, or when broiling, barbecuing and sautéing.
Extra-virgin olive oil comes from the first cold pressing and has a more peppery, fruity flavor. Like olive oil, it breaks down at high heat, so use when you want maximum olive flavor. You can also use to drizzle over hot foods just before serving.
Other Types of oils:
Sunflower oil: Very light and neutral, virtually tasteless. This is a general-purpose oil that can be used for all cooking purposes. Good mixed half and half with olive oil for extra flavor.
Corn or Maize Oil: Almost tasteless. It can withstand high temperatures without smoking, making it an excellent cooking oil.
Canola/ rapeseed oil: Versatile, neutral-tasting oil that is very low in saturated fat.
Its mild flavor and relatively high smoke point make refined canola oil a good all-purpose oil.
Rice bran oil: Mild-flavored. It is popular as a cooking oil in several Asian countries, including Japan and China. Suitable for high-temperature cooking methods such as stir frying and deep frying.
Sesame oil: It comes in two ways: Light sesame oil has a high smoke point and is suitable for deep-frying. Roasted sesame oil has a stronger, distinctive nutty taste and a rich, smoky sesame aroma, and it’s used for stir-frying meats or vegetables. Sesame oil is most popular in Asia, especially in Korea, China, and South India, where its widespread use is similar to that of olive oil in the Mediterranean.
Truffle oil: This modern oil gives food the flavor and aroma of truffles – though most oils on the market are not actually made with the highly prized fungi. It's ideal for use in pastas, risottos and on roasted vegetables as a less expensive alternative to real truffles, while still creating the same rich flavors and aphrodisiac qualities.
Store oils in a cool place and check labels for storage times as they vary. If a cool spot is not available, oils should be refrigerated. Heat, light and time will all turn oils rancid, so buy small quantities of the oils that you use infrequently.