Thursday, December 31, 2009

T'was the night for giving

"The olive tree is surely the richest gift of Heaven." - Thomas Jefferson

I am on page 148 of Mort Rosenblum's Olives and loving every page. I realize it is all very subjective but I hope to make some sense of his history of olives and determine the current leader of olive production as far as a great mix of quality and passion for the fruit. Mort has a great way of bringing the passion to life.

This Christmas as brought me closer to olives with a number of thoughtful gifts. I received a bottle of California Marsala EVOO which I have already used half a bottle of to make Eggplant Tonnato from Peggy Knickerbocker's cookbook, Olive Oil From Table To Tree. Nice recipe albeit on the very salty side. I need to rinse the anchovies next time! Kirsten made Peggy's Orange Ginger Cake, which was an instant family hit.

I also received a few olive oil bath products from The Body Shop via Santa: Olive Shower Gel, Olive Body Butter, Olive Body Scrub and Olive Glossing Shampoo. So far I have used a few drops of the shower gel in the tub for a nice foaming experience leaving my skin moist in this New York winter dryness.

Finally, I got a gift of an Italian olive tree adoption from Nudo in Le Marche. My tree lives in the Rosalio grove and is 38 years old. The variety is Leccino. This spring I will recieve a few litres of oil followed by infused oil in autumn. To make this gift complete, I would love to go to the fall harvest and meet my tree, water it, and give it a hug! It's great to get a living, breathing gift.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Reading Olives

"...I like them all, but especially the olive. For what it symbolizes, first of all - peace with its leaves and joy with its golden oil." - Aldous Huxley

My friend Kenn lent me the Mort Rosenblum book Olives, The Life and Lore of a Noble Fruit at our holiday party last night. I'm only on page 6 but already in love with it. I am about to get even more connected to olives.

Good times.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Olive oil and cheese

Olive oil can be used as a nice preservative for complimentary foods. But because olive oil should be used at its freshest, the end product should not be stored too long. Olives can also be cured in olive oil to give them a more buttery character instead of a more salt cure process taste. The accompanying picture was taken at the Union Square, Manhattan farmer's market where everything is about being fresh. The label says that the feta is packed in olive oil, not extra virgin or even virgin. This implies that the amount of olive oil may be in question as it can be mixed with other oils as well. The reasoning from the farmer is that extra virgin olive oil would impart to much flavor to the cheese, so using a the mildest olive oil works the best. Sometimes, the olive oil needs to play second fiddle and act as a preserve. The results are stunning!
PS - Olive oil is a natural juice that preserves the taste, aroma, vitamins and other properties of the olive fruit. 

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Miracle that is Olive Oil

Life was in shambles during the first Hanukkah. But then by miracle, olive oil meant to last one day, burned for eight days, the length of time it took to press, prepare and consecrate more fresh olive oil. A process of renewing faith in the aftermath of oppression, and rebuild the ruins of the Temple, restoring oil to their lamps and faith to their hearts. The Bible contains 140 references to Olive Oil and the Koran and Hadith mention the value of Olive Oil several times. The first mention of the olive in the Bible is the olive leaf that the dove returned to Noah, signifying peace and restoration from the devastating flood. Olive oil was used in the holy anointing oil to consecrate priests, and instruments of the sanctuary, and the sick. Olive trees and vineyards are part of the blessings God gave to Israel. Very holy stuff indeed. Some call it liquid gold.

The value of olives have been sacred for some 6000 years. Something that is just pure, simple, communal, and healthy - an elixir of the Gods. Personally, I would like to extend an olive branch to everyone in this season of peace and merriment!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Bark of an Olive Tree

Olive trees get old and gnarly, very old. But even as young trees they will appear weathered and rugged. This one year old tree already has a beautiful knot. It's bark is rough to the touch and looks dry. This aged characteristic of olive trees reminds me of the history of this tree. How throughout the ages it has come to symbolize ancient societies and simple pleasures. A token of an olive branch sends the message of peace and mutual understanding. Yet, does this tree even flower?
PS - olive harvests appear to be high around the world this fall. I think its a good omen.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The van speaks to me

I snapped this photo while waiting in line at the 24th Street Whole Foods. Was very happy to see the van decorated with a olive motif, showcasing olives as sign of purity and health. It does give me that special quality of wholesomeness.

Love it!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Delish Olive Oil Cake

My lovely Kirsten is a marvel with cooking and with most everything else she creates. Per my birthday request she baked me a lovely olive oil cake. This means replacing butter for olive oil. Not only is this a more nutritious cake, but it also has a unique flavor that compliments coffee. That's right, similar to the synergy between wine and cheese, olive oil cake and coffee gives you that X factor. Coffee cake has always been a direct compliment to coffee, but if you have not had the olive oil combination, do it now. The first sip of coffee with a mouth full of the cake will knock your socks off. Some birthday wishes do come true. Cheers! Please ignore the face on that plate, it is super delish!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Fromage en Union Square Farmer's Market

Nothing replaces buying fresh produce directly from farmers. The farmstands at Union Square in Manhattan have all the seasonal produce any New Yorker might crave. Although olives don't grow on the east coast, cheeses are know to be marinated in the oil. Curiously, when I asked one of the farmers about what kind of olive she uses, she explained that virgin olive oil matched up to her palate better than EVOO. She felt the EVOO made the cheese too bitter. I'm curious to know why that is. Either way, cheese packed in olive oil is amazing. All you need is a baguette and maybe a bottle of accompaning wine. Scarf!

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Individual Farm

Until recently, I never thought twice about the olive oil we use at home. It tastes great.

Today I tasted a teaspoon on it's own and I really liked the flavor. Lush, silky, with an avocado finish. I am no pro, so I wonder what could be better? Then I looked at the large bottle for the expiration date or vintage date and I found neither. Nor is there any mention of the farm or estate, but only that it is organic, EVOO and from Chile. Chile has an ideal climate for growing olives and wine, but the label information can only mean that this oil is not from a single farm. Also, most likely not from carefully handpicked ripe olives. What is the cure?

My next bottle needs to have a vintage date and a name of farm. Unlike wine, olive oil needs to be fresh to be wonderful, similar to a great Champagne. I need to dig deeper!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The festive olive tree

Everyone runs out and buys a pine tree to celebrate Christmas. The reason? Maybe it's tradition, maybe it's because they smell so good. It doesn't hurt that they match the holiday fun that is meant to be winter wonderland. I personally love them.

But what of other trees? An olive branch is a symbol of peace. That alone should give it some cache during the season ear-marked for peace, love, and happiness. Then there is the rich deep green fruit that looks just like a perfect little ornament. An ornament created by nature. In all their splendor, a noble olive tree is rooted deep in the soil.
Enjoy the pines at home and let the olive trees lay in the grove. Keep tradition alive. I'm getting my pine on Saturday. Happy yule y'all!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Holiday Martini Magic

Does anything say/shout holiday magic better than a dirty martini? One might argue for some hot chocolate and wonderful Christmas carols. Others might call from some good old fashioned Norwegian glug. But for me it is answering the question of whether you have been naughty or nice. And a dirty martini is just so nice (and a bit naughty after having a few).

A proper dirty martini does not need top shelf gin or a fancy mixologist. What it needs is some simple olives and a bit of olive juice to give the herbal gin a salty bite. The martini pictured was ordered by my friend Kenn at Le Poisson Rouge while listening to some amazing jazz by John Hollenbeck. It was jumbo sized and very potent. I think the olives made the evening extra magical, good to the last bite. Spread the holiday cheer!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Tarallucci E Olive Oil

I love going to New York restaurants. They are some of the best in the world. Mayor Bloomberg has provided much needed legislation to keep mystery additives out of our diets.

Otherwise, we are faced with two options before receiving our first course. Generally it is bread accompanied with either butter or olive oil. Italians well know that olive oil is great for digestion. Even taking a spoonful a day will keep your tummy happy.

Sitting down at Tarallucci E Vino and starting my dinner with soft focaccia and olive oil just tastes great. Never mind that it is vegetarian and healthy. Just enjoy and your belly will thank you!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Keeping Virgin Olive Oil Clean

Diane Savino, our New York State Senator, has passed legislation with the Olive Oil Labeling Bill to keep additives out of our virgin olive oil. Olive oil production in this country is about to explode with more plantings than ever before. Diane has done her part to keep the oil pure. Thank you! Olive oil can continue to prevent high blood pressure without the questionable effects of additives. American can show face with top producing countries of Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Syria and Tunisia.

Also, kudos in her defense of gay marriage&rights with her rousing speech in the House ending with "We have nothing to fear from love and commitment." Well done! More advocates needed.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Spanish Olive Tree grows in Manhattan

It is possible to purchase a nice black Spanish olive tree in the city for around $425. Head over to the 20s on the Westside and marvel at the Mediterranean perfection made for Manhattan. The only issue is that you can't plant an olive tree outdoors as it will freeze and die. So what you need is indoor space with high ceilings and direct natural sunlight. Make sure the soil is kept moist at all times as the roots cannot grow long like in the chalky soil of native lands. Also, this tree is bulky so it will make an ideal window shade to give you privacy. Will one tree bear fruit?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Moulins Fix

A few drops of the Les Moulins on an open face sandwich is divine. Tasting the Millesime 2009 Vintage from Tunisia on plain whole wheat made all the richness surface. The bottle label reads: "Every winter morning when I was a child, I looked forward to see my father in the oil mill. He would pour freshly decanded oil onto the piece of fresh bread which I held out to him, then I would go off to school, with this wealth of flavours in my hands." I can see that walk, winding through the grove.

Ode To Olive Oil

Near the murmuring
In the grain fields, of the waves
Of wind in the oat-stalks
The olive tree
With its silver-covered mass
Severe in its lines
In its twisted
Heart in the earth:
The graceful
By the hands
Which made
The dove
And the oceanic
Of nature
And there
The dry
Olive Groves
The blue sky with cicadas
And the hard earth
The prodigy
The perfect
Of the olives
With their constellations, the foliage
Then later,
The bowls,
The miracle,
The olive oil.
I love
The homelands of olive oil
The olive groves
Of Chacabuco, in Chile
In the morning
Feathers of platinum
Forests of them
Against the wrinkled
Mountain ranges.
In Anacapri, up above,
Over the light of the Italian sea
Is the despair of olive trees
And on the map of Europe
A black basketfull of olives
Dusted off by orange blossoms
As if by a sea breeze
Olive oil,
The internal supreme
Condition for the cooking pot
Pedestal for game birds
Heavenly key to mayonaise
Smoothe and tasty
Over the lettuce
And supernatural in the hell
Of the king mackerals like archbishops
Our chorus
Powerful smoothness
You sing:
You are the Spanish
There are syllables of olive oil
There are words
Useful and rich-smelling
Like your fragrant material
It's not only wine that sings
Olive oil sings too
It lives in us with its ripe light
And among the good things of the earth
I set apart
Olive oil,
Your ever-flowing peace, your green essence
Your heaped-up treasure which descends
In streams from the olive tree.
- Pablo Neruda