Olive Oil summer recipes: tomato bruschetta

There are some dishes that are ideal to feature and showcase a good olive oil: boiled potatoes, purees, bean soups (as the famous soup so typical of Tuscany, the “ribollita”), pastas, the Caprese salad, pizzas.

Bruschettas are among them. Bruschettas (which should be pronounced as “bruce (as in Bruce Lee) and kettas (and not schettas as we often hear) are a classic of that country side cuisine of Central Italy that emerged out of poverty, ingenuity and good ingredients. “Bruscare,” in the dialect of the Lazio region (where Rome is), means to roast over coals.

If you roast a piece of bread, rub a clove of garlic against it and then pour some olive oil in it, you already have a very tasty appetizer. In Italy, they’d call that a “fetunta.” Now, if you add some toppings, you have a bruschetta. Continue reading Olive Oil summer recipes: tomato bruschetta

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Summer Cooking ~ Eggplant Parmesan

I recently read and very much enjoyed “Cod: The biography of the fish that changed the world,” by Mark Kurlansky. I knew Kurlansky from other excellent book, “Salt.” In both, he tells us about how many critical events in history happened around cod and salt and how their impact has contributed to shape our current world.

Eggplant could well deserve a book in that fashion. There’s so much history and cuisine around eggplant that there’s plenty of material for a wonderful reading. Eggplant has not been as important as cod and salt, that’s for sure. Nonetheless, it has a colorful and rich history.

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Herb “Jam” from Chef Russell Moore

A perfect, simple recipe for enjoying olive oil: Herb Jam

This Moroccan recipe appeared first in Paula Wolfert’s book “The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen.” More recently chef Russell Moore enhanced it by exploring other greens and herbs. Eventually, his own versions of the herb jam became favorites at his celebrated farm to table restaurant Camino, in the Lake Merritt district of Oakland, California.

Russ, for many years the sous chef at legendary Chez Panisse in Berkeley who generously opens his place for internships and for other chefs to cook with him, uses Pacific Sun Farms olive oils on a regular basis. I know firsthand that he’s been also a great teacher for younger chefs. In fact, some of them, now in other excellent restaurants or new places they’ve opened themselves, are also our clients and their work carries the spirit they learned at Camino.

I suggested to Russ to try the recipe with our Proprietor’s Select and with another Italian olive oil of a friend of mine with similar characteristics. He kindly accepted the suggestion and liked the results in both cases: “Given the fresh leafy perfumes of these fine olive oils, I found them ideal for this recipe.”

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Black Olive Tapenade

Years ago, because of my job, I visited the Southern area of France known as the Cote d’Azur, also referred to as the French Riviera. In my free time I enjoyed visiting open air markets, and my memory of them inevitably brings the image of this bright, glowing black olive purée displayed in ceramic bowls. It was tapenade.

Some foods have the distinctive characteristic of expressing a sense of place. Tapenade is one of them. The way its ingredients blend together always reminds me of those lively markets in beautiful Nice or Antibes and of something with a long, long history.

Though olives (most of the time black olives) are the main ingredient in tapenade, the name comes from another essential Mediterranean ingredient: capers. “Tapeno” was the word for capers in the Occitan language, a Romance language spoken in Southern France and parts of bordering Italy and Spain. Continue reading Black Olive Tapenade

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Tomato Soups for The End of Summer

We’re again at that time of the year in which tomatoes offer their best. And once again, we’re amazed how much can be done when tomatoes and olive oil get together, as we’ve shared in previous articles (Tomatoes, Again!, Tomatoes and Olive Oil: Best Friends Forever).

The simplicity of these dishes reminds us how many good things came out of making the best out of challenging times. In Italy they refer to this as “Cucina Povera” (Poor Kitchen”, or the cuisine of the humble people). Of course this was not something that happened only in Italy. Many of the great dishes from the Mediterranean, China or Brazil, just to mention the first cases that come to my mind, are a result of the creativity with which hard working people met the challenge of making the most out of what they had at hand. In most cases these people were peasants who were close to scarce though sound ingredients.

Two summer tomato soups offer testimony to that spirit. One, a Tuscan classic: Pappa al Pomodoro (tomato and bread soup). The other one, Cold Tomato Soup, that with variations, you find in many places of the Mediterranean.

Two of Pacific Sun Olive Oils (Proprietor’s Select and Tehama Blend) have distinctive tomato leaf aromas, and they’ll pair nicely with both soups.

A reminder that olive oil makes lycopene—an antioxidant presents in tomatoes—much more bio-available for us. The more you drizzle these soups with olive oil, the better. And of course we recommend that you get your tomatoes from farmer’s markets or from stores that source local, fresh tomatoes.

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Summer Cooking: Caponata –

“It’s a dish where quality ingredients are key: good tomatoes and good eggplants to begin with, and good vinegar and good olive oil to finish. Try it while the summer is still warm and the vegetables are still at their most flavorful!”
Summer is here and with it, eggplants and tomatoes are in season. In Sicily and  other parts of the Mediterranean, with some variations, a good option for the use of these two is Caponata.
Caponata is described in different ways and can have several uses: a relish, a ragout, a side dish, a sort of salsa, or a superb spread on a crostini or on bread. Even when Caponata is a dish of simplicity, it’s surprising how the ingredients blend together and offer something so tasty and rewarding, more than the sum of its parts.

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Autumn Delights: Three Recipes Using Fresh-Picked Figs

There are many ways in which one can enjoy figs, and some recipes allow for olive oil to play a part. Here are a couple of recipe suggestions for the figs found at your farmers market, or even better, for figs picked by you.

In the 15th and 16th centuries, Spanish ships heading to the New World always carried olive trees and vines with them because the colonies in the Indies envisioned a self-sufficient community with orchards and vineyards. This did not come to fruition in most cases, mostly due to the weather. In fact, some of the first olive trees planted in the New World were in Mexico City, but did not bear well. From there, cuttings made it into Baja California with better results. New cuttings from the trees in Baja made it into the Mission of San Diego de Alcalá, thus began the olive industry in California.

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