Picking (And Squeezing) Favorites: Graza’s Picual Olive Oil Is A Cut Above

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One of the best ways to gather the most important information you need to know about someone is by asking them one question: If you could only use butter or olive oil for the rest of your life, which would you choose? It’s like those cats-or-dogs, salty-or-sweet, and coffee-or-tea questions, except the only real judgment you could make about someone who answers “butter” is that they must be a good baker. 

Okay – maybe this question won’t reveal absolutely everything you need to know about someone, but it’s certainly telling. My answer to the butter or olive oil test is, of course, olive oil. This doesn’t mean I hate butter, but can butter dress your salad? Can you use it to make a delicious martini? Can you drizzle it over ice cream or use it as hand moisturizer in a pinch? No, no, no, and maybe, if you really wanted to, but olive oil will do a better job in all of these scenarios 100% of the time. And olive oil from Graza, a company launched in January of this year, does all of this and so, so much more.

I Love You Olive Oil, But You’re Killing Me

I mean this physically and financially. Though I consider myself a health-savvy person, I can be lazy about making sure every little thing I eat is totally organic, fresh, non-GMO…the list goes on. 

This holds true when it comes to the olive oil I buy: I don’t have the time to stand in Aisle 3 and Google every sixteen-letter-long ingredient on the back of each olive oil bottle. Plus, even if I found one that listed “pure olive juice” as the single ingredient, it’s bound to cost at least $50 for a 16-oz. bottle. 

I usually end up settling for the brand I anointed my “this will do” olive oil long ago, and leave the grocery store hating the state of the olive oil consumer experience. 

Why must picking out a bottle of olive oil feel harder than picking out a bottle of wine and why does buying it require taking money out of your 401K? How is anyone supposed to get a bottle of healthy and delicious olive oil for a reasonable price in a world like this?

The Little Picual That Could

Hailing from Jaén, a city in the Andalusia region of Spain that’s a three-and-a-half-hour drive south of Madrid, the picual olive (named after the indefatigable tree from which it flourishes) captured the heart of Andrew Benin when he drove through fields of them on the road from Cordoba to Jaén. Benin teamed up with co-founder Allen Dushi to create a Single Origin Olive Oil that’s transparent, healthy, and affordable. 

Graza’s squeeze bottles make cooking with olive oil fun.
credit: Khiara Ortiz

What first caught my eye, besides Graza’s extremely cute and playful branding, was the fact that the company sells two different oils for two different uses. Never before had I seen an olive oil brand make a distinction between an oil you use to dress your salad and one you can heat up in your skillet. The Drizzle and Sizzle set ($35), packaged in easy-to-use squeeze bottles, is everything your kitchen has ever wanted. 

Graza Drizzle is made from younger olives harvested earlier in the season, making for a grass-green, peppery oil, while the Sizzle comes from more mature olives whose juice has a subdued flavor and higher smoke point. The fact that purchasing both wouldn’t make me go bankrupt felt like a miracle from the olive gods.

Making The Boring (Read: Important) Stuff Fun

Monounsaturated fatty acids. Oxidative stability. Polyphenols. These words meant nothing to me until I started browsing Graza’s Glog (blog) and earned a PhD in olive oil. The best thing I learned was that it’s actually safe to cook with olive oil (contrary to what my mother always told me). Graza preserves the purity of its olive oil by refusing to chemically refine it, a process the Big Olive Oil companies use for mass production and that has recently been shown to create completely new, harmful chemical compounds in the oil. 

What you get in the Drizzle and Sizzle bottles is a true, certified Extra Virgin Olive Oil (a label that’s falsely slapped on many grocery store bottles). Real EVOO is the result of the first cold-press applied to olives and a process called malaxation during which olives are churned to separate their juice from the fruit. And, an EVOO certification in Spain, which is where Graza procured this accolade, is no small feat as an olive oil must pass the test of excellent flavor and odor. 

Picual olives are the only varietal picked and pressed by Graza because they naturally have higher levels of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) that make the resulting olive oil stable at very high temperatures. There’s no blending of other oils either, so what you get at home is exactly what’s pressed in the fields of Jaén from nature’s best fruit (yes, I said fruit).

Putting The “Izzles” To The Test

The first thing I had to know about the Drizzle was whether or not it’d be good in my favorite salad dressing recipe. I use enough olive oil to fully cover every inch of leafy green, a drizzle of honey, a couple of shakes of cumin, a dash of rice vinegar, and some sea salt. I learned it from my mother and it never fails me.

The Drizzle (bottom right) and Sizzle (top left) olive oils.
credit: Khiara Ortiz

After one bite of kale, I felt that little zing you get on the back of your tongue from really good olive oil and was delighted by the honest freshness of the flavor. 

The Sizzle also impressed when I used it in my cast iron skillet to cook some seasoned ground pork and purple cabbage. My issue with a lot of the olive oils I’ve cooked with in the past is that they’re all talk in the bottle but literally can’t handle the heat in the kitchen. The Sizzle, on the other hand, walks the walk – and my pork and cabbage came out nicely crisped and with a little bit of that picual essence I was getting in the Drizzle. For a moment in my Brooklyn apartment, I was transported to Spain.

The Olive On Top

By now, you probably have a browser window open and at least one Drizzle and Sizzle set in your Graza shopping cart. You don’t need any more convincing to know you’re making the right choice, but if there happens to be a flicker of doubt in your mind, just know you can make this Grazatini when your shipment arrives. Yes, that’s right. With Graza, you can have your olive oil and drink it, too.

5 more reasons to love Graza:

  1. Your loyalty, or willingness to indulge, will be rewarded: Whether you sign up for a Graza subscription or buy the bottles in bulk, savings are bound to be in your future.
  2. We love a brand that works with sustainability in mind: Not only are Graza’s squeeze bottles already recyclable, but the company is also working to reduce its utilization of single-use packaging.
  3. Learn to cook a thing or two: Graza’s recipes section will push the limits of what you thought olive oil could do when you bake a pumpkin olive oil cake, Sizzle your way to parmesan chicken cutlets, or fry the perfect sunny-side-up eggs.
  4. The health benefits, baby! Picual olives are super high in antioxidants and polyphenols, which have been nicknamed The Fountain of Youth on the internet.
  5. You can really trust these trees: Spain is the largest producer of olive oil in the world and Graza grows olives from picual trees that are 500 years old. I’d say they’re more than qualified for the job!

Give Graza a squeeze here!

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