"Family dinners are very important to me, they help me keep perspective," says Katina Mountanos. It was those family meals that inspired her to launch her own olive oil company, Kosterina. "I definitely feel a healthy diet is such an important part of my lifestyle and something that has been ingrained in how my mother cooks and how my mother-in-law cooks."
A mom of two young children, she is a vice president at jet.com, and an entrepreneur, who after co-founding one successful company, Manicube, recently launched Kosterina. Her secret? Family meals and a healthy dose of olive oil.
Mountanos says she practically grew up on olive oil. Summers were spent in the small town of Koroni, Greece, where her grandparents still live. Her family would return to the States each fall with the fresh, local olive oil that would be the center of their family meals for the next year. They used it for everything from cooking eggs to baking. "We never used butter," Mountanos explains.
When cooking for her own family, Mountanos couldn't understand why the olive oil she bought in the U.S. never tasted as good as that she enjoyed when she was growing up. After researching olive oil and discovering its many health benefits, she admits she became a bit obsessed: "The average Greek person consumers 17 kilograms of olive oil per year," Mountanos said. "American consumes less than one. I wanted to create a brand in part that helps to educate people about the benefits of olive oil."
Kosterina is an early harvest, organic extra-virgin olive oil sourced from Crete. One whiff and you almost imagine you're walking through the olive groves. Taste it and it's so fresh it almost burns the back of your throat, which is thanks in part to the more than 500 milligrams per kilogram of polyphenols that occur naturally in this olive oil. (Most olive oils have about 55 milligrams per kilogram.)
You might have heard of polyphenols -- they're a naturally occurring antioxidant in olive oil that is the same as the man-made compound found in ibuprofen. Studies have shown that polyphenols reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer's as well as lower cholesterol. "I always knew it was healthy," said Mountanos, "but I didn't know all these benefits until I started researching it."
At home, Mountanos uses her olive oil on big salads, grilled vegetables, popcorn, and pretty much everything else. The simple act of drizzling it on top of food, she says, is a reminder to detach from technology and stop looking at her watch. Something she hopes more of us will also do when we reach for that pretty white bottle of Kosterina.
There are so many ways to use olive oil, but one of our favorites is this One-Pan Pasta: