First Cold Press Release...or..."beat it popeye, I'm stealing your lady and taking your spinach!"

I wanted to take some time in this post to talk about an ingredient that is very treasured in my kitchen. What could it be, you wonder? Aged Balsamic? (I wish, seriously, before I croak I want to have a bottle that is older than I am, but the cost increases with every year the dish waits, mmmm...super old sticky black nectar, gurgle...gurgle), pig-hunted white and black truffles? (let's get real, I just bought a house, peeps), ok, I'll just be out with it: olive oil. Yep, that's it, but wait just a minute now. when is the last time you really thought about olive oil? Unless your friends affectionately refer to you as "Popeye" or "Bluto", probably never. that's ok, you're not alone.
My interest in olive oil began about 6 years ago when wifeshow and I made a trip to kansas city and I stumbled across an olive oil tasting station at a gourmet kitchen store (probably Williams sonoma or sur la table or something). I had used olive oil predominately up until then, but only because everything I had seen or read said to do so. I was pretty into cooking by then and thought that it was a neat idea so I tried all the different kinds of oils and was really amazed at the complexities that varied from each kind. Even by region (Italian oils are pretty specific on origin, using a DOP{system used to classify region by tradition or terroir} system for classification, much like the DOC system used for classifying wines), the oils had subtleties that were apparent to my immature palette and also more obvious trademarks like color (immature olives produce green oils, mature olives produce a more golden, or yellow oil). I took a lot away from that experience, and always jump at the chance to taste oils from different regions/countries (spanish oils are becoming super popular, by the way).
one thing that I did decide then and there was that I prefer the taste of a more mature olive. Oils from tuscany, while very popular, come from very immature (to avoid the frigid briskies) olives and therefore produce very green, spicy oils. While they have their place, I just prefer the more golden, smoothness of oil made from older olives.
The production process is pretty standard. olives are picked starting in october and all the way into january and then pressed using a cold pressing method (no hotter than 60 degrees F). The first olives that run through this process are the "first cold pressed", and produce the "extra virgin" variety. These oils have an acidity of less than 1 percent. lesser grades are often labeled "fine virgin", "superfine", and "pure".
now, while all this is fine and whatnot, just let me reiterate the fact that it is all about personal taste. You could spend a lot of money on really expensive bottles and bask in their glory, but you'd probably be a fool to use them for high heat cooking( delicate flavors are lost in the heat and the really good stuff usually has a low smoke point, especially if it's unfiltered). My advice is to save an old, dark green wine bottle, and fill it with olive oil that you buy in bulk, storing it in a dark place, as sunlight cuts its life in half. My favorite brand is from whole foods and is really affordable. You can buy it in a big tin (3 liters) for around 26-30 clams. Keep in mind, however, that a good, expensive bottle is well worth it, but I would only recommend it for "finishing" dishes, or to use as a dip or dressing.
one last thing about olive oil. If you really want to taste it, I mean REALLY taste it for all it's worth. you need to take a tiny shot of it. after you swallow it, make a big smile but clench your teeth and suck in air through your teeth, this aerates your taste buds and lets you experience a lot of different complexities in flavor that you might not pick up otherwise. You can use this trick on other foods too, just not vinegars, you'll cough up a lung.
ok, finally: FOOD. Had a lot of tomatoes this week so did some recipes from the book Jamie at home. A really good cookbook on how to grow and prepare garden veg. Recommends it. Middle pic is crispy, sticky chicken thighs with new potatoes and tomatoes, and the second one is baked sausage ragu. both super tasty. the other pic is from last night. grilled some t-bones. think it is my favorite steak, because you get two cuts of meat in one, ny strip and tenderloin. paired with some grilled zukes and japanese eggplant. Getting new stove today, super excited.
As always, happy to share recipes, just short on time to post them.
DISH recommends:
The clenched teeth air suck taste method (clickity click). (don't steal that name, patent pending:). This works for a lot of stuff, but people will think you are crazy...or constantly stepping on thumbtacks, or watching people trip on the sidewalk. give it a try, just not on sharp vinegars or spicy chiles, you'll hate yourself me.
PS-- going to go to the applejack festival this weekend for some wholesome appley fun. How wholesome, you ask? well, it's in nebraska city...
stay tuned for some pies, tarts, or apple butters


Anonymous said...

The other good thing about olive oil tastings is that everything inside ya gets greased up for better performance! (Actually, I don't know. I'm just guessing.) I was at a party one time when a couple of guys dared each other to take shots of Crisco. And then they pounded their chests like alpha male apes afterwards. And did some arm wrestling. I would assume olive oil tasting to be a much more sophisticated event.


Cal Orey, Author-Intuitive said...

You had me at olive oil and dogs. Tried to email but where oh where is your contact address?
The Writing Gourmet

P.S. With your bakery skills--and anyone else--please enter the healthiest "survival pie" contest on my blog. See on left hand column.

Stefan, Sarah and Lukka said...

M. & I are going to the applejack festival, too, although with masses of kids--we are outnumbered!
You and "wifeshow" have fun! :)
Sarah M