You may recall that in early January I wrote about a community olive pressing at The Olive Press in Sonoma. It was a marvelous place and I have been enjoying their Sevillano olive oil at home ever since. A few weeks ago I saw a tweet from Gabi the, blogger for The Olive Press, asking if anyone would be interested in taking part in a contest. They would send four bottles of olive oil for you to come up with a four course olive oil centric meal. The winner would receive a rather hefty supply of their delicious oils. Um . . . yeah, I was interested.
A week or so later I received a box containing their Italian Blend, Arbequina varietal, Mission Blend and the Blood Orange Olive Oil.
I decided to go simple. When I have really good, fresh local ingredients a part of me tends to switch gears. I believe that the more simple the preparation the better in order to highlight the lovely ingredients. Since we’ve reached that point in the year when the food of winter hasn’t completely faded and the bounty of spring has just begun to make an appearance, I’ve prepared a lunch blending the two seasons. I hope you enjoy my menu.
Wish me luck!
Grilled Asparagus Salad with Blood Orange Olive Oil Dressing
I love this salad, it is fresh, smoky and just plain gorgeous. The Blood Orange Olive Oil is amazing, I want to do laps in it. The citrus is just so bright and lovely in this salad it is like a little bit of spring in a bowl.
A drizzle plain Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Asparagus Bunch, washed and trimmed
4 cups Assorted Greens and Micro Greens, washed and dried
2 Blood Oranges, skin and pith removed with a knife and cut into sections
1/4 cup Pine Nuts, toasted
A few good glugs Blood Orange Olive Oil
2 Sprigs of Thyme, leaves removed
Sea Salt, to taste
Freshly Ground Pepper, to taste
Blood Orange Zest, to garnish
Toss the asparagus with a drizzle of oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Place the asparagus over a hot grill and cook for about 10 to 15 minutes. They should look as though they have just begun to shrivel when they are ready. Remove the asparagus from the grill, cool, then chop on a bias into 3/4 inch pieces.
Toss the cooled asparagus with the greens and orange sections, dress with the oil and season with thyme leaves, salt and pepper.
Note: I didn’t include it in the recipe because I didn’t want to over chevre the menu, but I do think a bit of chevre would be spectacular in this.
Italian Blend Olive Oil Cannelini Bean Veloute
Keeping with the theme of simplicity, I had to include a variation on the famous Tuscan white bean dish which is the ultimate canvas upon which to display a gorgeous olive oil. Since it is lunch, I turned it into a soup and added a wintry touch by steeping a parmesan rind in the simmering soup. I wanted a more forceful oil for this soup so I used the Italian blend. Something more mild like the Arbequina would have simply been lost among the creamy saltiness of the rich soup.
1/4 cup Italian Blend Olive Oil + a few extra glugs to garnish
6 Garlic Cloves, minced
4 cups Cannelini Beans, cooked
4 cups Chicken Stock
1 Small Heel of Parmesan
1 Bay Leaf
Sea Salt, to taste
Freshly Ground Pepper
Warm the olive oil in a pot over medium heat and add the garlic. Allow the garlic to saute a little bit before adding the beans. Cook the beans for a few minutes before adding in the remaining ingredients. Simmer for an hour or two over medium-low heat with the lid on before using tongs to remove the parm heel and carefully pureeing the soup. Don’t burn yourself. Keep warm until serving.
At serving time, ladle into a bowl and dress with the olive oil.
Simple Prosciutto and Chevre Tartines with Arbequina Olive Oil
When I make lunch for a lazy afternoon with friends there is generally some sort of tartine involved. I love to set out a platter with all sorts of wonderful ingredients for topping lovely slices toasted bread. I change the ingredients often serving everything from olive oil packed tuna to a lovely serrano ham, but one thing always makes an appearance, the olive oil.
Naturally, I brush the bread down with oil before toasting, but there is nothing more lush than drizzling some really wonderful olive oil. I love biting into a tartine just dripping with olive oil, it makes even the simplest tartine feel incredibly decadent. I chose the Arbequina for it’s peppery quality, which I believe pairs amazingly with prosciutto and the pepped chevre and the smattering of herbs.
1 Loaf Good Hearty Bread (I used a pain levain), sliced and toasted
4-6 ounces Chevre, at room temp
Freshly Ground Pepper
6 ounces Prosciutto, at room temp
1/4 to 1/2 cup Your Favorite Herbs (I used thyme and flat leafed parsley)
Spread the chevre over the toasted bread and sprinkle with pepper. Arrange the prosciutto over it, sprinkle with herbs and drizzle with olive oil.
Note: Use your favorite chevre, but I recommend Laura Chenel. The odd thing is, I don’t even normally like Laura Chenel chevre, but I love it with dry cured hams.
Mission Olive Oil and Toasted Almond Polenta Cake with a Mission Olive Oil Honey Drizzle
I have a feeling this recipe might leave a few of you scratching your heads, wondering why I would use good olive oil for baking. After all, oil just adds moisture to cakes, you’re not supposed to taste it, right? To answer my own question, yeah, most often that is correct but my baking instinct has been formed through the eyes of one who loves savory and I want to know it is there. I used the Mission Olive Oil for this recipe because of its natural buttery decadence, it is so rich and luxurious which made it a natural fit. I resisted the urge to add almond flavoring and instead relied on the glory of toasted almonds. This cake is not too sweet and with the olive oil and polenta this cake has a very rustic Italian feel to it and an extract would have taken it out of that rustic realm.
1/2 cup Mission Olive Oil
1 cup Sugar
3/4 cup All-Purpose Flour
1 cup Cornmeal
1 tsp Sea Salt
1 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Baking Powder
1 cup Buttermilk
1/2 cup Sliced Almonds, toasted + more to sprinkle on at serving time
Preheat your oven to 325F and line a round cake pan with parchment paper and oil the sides.
Combine the flour, cornmeal, salt, baking soda and baking powder in a bowl and whisk to distribute the ingredients.
In the bowl of your mixer combine the olive oil and sugar and blend until it is a light yellow color. Add in the eggs one at a time incorporating each one completely before adding the next.
Add in the dry ingredients and the milk a little at a time alternating between the two beginning and ending with flour. Stir in the toasted almonds. Pour into the pan and place in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour or whenever the toothpick comes out clean. Be sure to check it periodically the top tends to brown quite fast so you may want to make a little foil tent for the top to slow it down a bit.
Cool the cake for at least 10 minutes before un-molding. Serve sliced with a drizzle of the olive oil honey topping, a sprinkle of toasted almonds and a sprig of thyme.
1/4 cup Honey
1/4 cup Mission Olive Oil
1 tsp Fresh Thyme Leaves
Combine the ingredients in a small sauce pan and warm over low heat. It should not be very hot.
I can’t reiterate this enough, be careful with the topping, it can be as hot as lava and as sticky as napalm. Warm it gently, you do not want to burn your guests (I hope) or yourself.