FoodThe Next Time You're at Trader Joe's, Snatch This Olive Oil
Delicious, liquid butter. That's basically what Tunisian olive oil is.
How can I have it all? It’s a question we ask ourselves at all moments. And when we’re cooking, sometimes you want to have it all, cooking fats-wise. What if I want the warm fullness of butter, and the smooth health of olive oil, and the slick passivity of a vegetable oil? Well, guess what: there is an olive oil that bridges this gap and it’s seething onto American markets over the past few years.
Tunisian olive oil is praised for its buttery flavor, its gentle and light texture, its healthy constitution. It’s also award-winning, in case you didn’t know there are olive oil awards, there are! It’s also increasingly available. No need to travel to the gorgeous coastal home of Carthage and Stars Wars' Tatooine dessert to taste it (though you should). Tunisian olive oil is on the rise and given the bottles and individual product platform that it deserves. Tunisian has just become the top olive oil exporter and second largest producer after Spain.
Now it’s becoming more and more available—sold in bright blue metal canisters at Trader Joe’s, special as a Tunisian wild flower field, there for us masses. It’s the Mediterranean air and African deserts combined in a taste.
Greg Bernarducci, the proprietor of O Live specialty olive oil store in Brooklyn, says that a common varietal of Tunisian olive oil, like the kind at Trader Joe’s and the varietals they sells are fruity, green, almond, great as a dressing, or a dipping olive oil, and good with beets! Bernarducci says it’s great for fusing. The most important thing to keep in mind for the cook is that a buttery olive oil is mild, which means you can cook with it at an even higher heat.
Trader Joe’s movement to set off the olive oil on its own, reflects the independent of Tunisian olive oil, which is a proud export from the gorgeous country. In the past decade, Tunisia has made strong efforts to begin singling out their Tunisian olive oil on its own. For a long time, Tunisian olives were piled into the lump of things that were bottled in Italy, but could have come from Spain, Italy or Tunisia. (For example, it’s a part of the mysterious grouping on Trade Giotto’s olive oil, which could be from “Italy, Spain, or Tunisia” the bottle helpfully notes). Now, it’s sold separately so its individual qualities are emphasized.
It’s a treat that Tunisia is making its olive oil more available to the everyday consumer. Since the early 1990s, Tunisian olive oil has been rising in luxury markets from Dean and Deluca (the nicest chain I could think of) and on gorgeous restaurant menus (the kind where everything has to be very particular). Tunisia has been producing olive oil since the Romans were there a zillion years ago, setting up aqueducts that still stand as well as oil mills, which still exist in ruins—some even adjacent to contemporary producers, like the Mahjoub family farm that supplies olive oil for Le Pain Quotidian. Le Pain founder Alain Coument put up a strong fight to be an original proprietor of Tunisian olive oil at his company, even while Italian olive oils were coveted, he thought that the delicious quality of the Tunisian liquid was worth fighting for.