Olive oil has come a long way since the stuff Vito Corleone used as a front for his family business. Between the estates that produce it, the harvest dates, the various flavor infusions and countless other factors, modern EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) experts can sound rather pretentious as they rattle off facts about their favorite oils. And with such diverse and high-quality products available, it’s not surprising that chefs are inventing more interesting uses for them. Here are a few dishes Don Corleone probably never would have imagined.
Alizé chef Mark Purdy uses olive oil in his potatoes in lieu of milk and butter. The result is a smooth-but-firm take on mashed potatoes. Purdy says oils offer him something the traditional preparation cannot: the opportunity to subtly flavor the potatoes to accompany the entrée. In fact, he says the oil actually ends up being the star of the side dish. “The potato itself is kind of neutral,” he says. “So it’s just a way to get the oil’s flavor on the plate.” Included with entrée, the Palms, 702-951-7000, AlizeLV.com.
Since Ferran Adria and José Andrés launched the molecular gastronomy craze, chefs have been scrambling to capture the essence of just about any ingredient they can think of in spherical encapsulations reminiscent of fish eggs. Swing by Artisanal Foods and you’ll find an entire shelf section dedicated to Caviaroli. Or, to see them in use, head to Picasso (Bellagio, 866-259-7111, Bellagio.com/Picasso), where chef Julian Serrano garnishes his tuna tartare with olive oil caviars because, Serrano says, “they add a nice oily component that has a little bit of bite.” $45/200 grams, $30/50 grams, 2053 E. Pama Lane, 702-436-4252, Artisanal Foods.com.
Giada de Laurentiis has long been a proponent of baking with olive oil. In one entry on her official blog, GiadaWeekly.com, de Laurentiis noted that it was a healthier alternative to butter, and promised, “It gives cakes, muffins, and breads a melting tenderness, and makes them seductively rich and moist.” You can judge for yourself during the weekend brunch at her eponymous restaurant in the Cromwell, where she serves up EVOO-infused muffins in both banana and gluten-free blueberry varieties. $4 each, 702-777-3777, Caesars.com/Cromwell.
Giada isn’t the only chef to embrace the use of olive oil in baked goods. At Hearthstone Kitchen & Cellar, chef Brian Massie offers a moist, round honey olive oil sponge cake. The two main ingredients combine to create a sweet, smooth base that seems to coat the interior of your mouth—but in a good way. The topping of blood orange sorbet is almost superfluous on a cake this good, although a dollop of whipped cream complements it nicely. $9, Red Rock Resort, 702-797-7344, HearthstoneLV.com.
Superstar gelato maker Desyree Alberganti has plenty of far-out flavors on the rotating menu at her new shop, Gelatology. In fact, once you’ve tried her jalapeño cornbread gelato, or the foie gras version, olive oil doesn’t even seem all that wild. And it’s not. On the contrary, it’s a comforting take on plain vanilla. But the oil gives this scoop something special, offering up mild hints of its underlying flavors, while adding an extra layer of “smooth” to the product. It may not be as flashy as some of its neighbors in the freezer, but has just as much to offer. $4-$8.50, 7910 S. Rainbow Blvd., 702-914-9144, Facebook.com/GelatologyLV.