Sunday, September 24, 2017

The basics of olive oil

Olive oil is a staple commodity found in homes, restaurants, and religious institutions all over the world. Known for its versatility, it can be used as a meal, skin treatment, fuel for lamps, and much more. The biggest claim to fame, however, is olive oil used for enhancing foods. Primarily in Italian and Greek cooking, olive oil is essential when it comes to making a meal complete.

The oil comes from the fat of the olive. Despite the constant grouping with vegetables, olives are actually a stone pit fruit, similar to a cherry or plum. You can think of olive oil as a cold pressed juice from a fruit. The process of extracting the oil from the olive is called pressing and it is done at an olive mill. Olives must be pressed at the right maturity; young green olives make for a bitter oil while overripe olives are rancid. That is also the distinction between green and black olives. Green olives are simply immature black olives.

There are two ways of pressing olives: cold pressed or mechanically pressed. The cold press is a method that does not use chemicals to artificially heat the olives to extract more oil. The term cold is a bit of a misnomer; they are not pressed cold, but rather at temperatures lower than 81 degrees. Only olives that have first undergone this cold press process can be labelled as extra virgin olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil, or EVOO, also means that is has less that 0.8% acidity, and it has been flavor tested to ensure quality.  Some people think EVOO is only for salad dressings. Actually, EVOO can be also used as a finishing oil or as a sautéing oil and probably not wasted on deep frying items.

Fine, or virgin olive oil, has an acidity of less than 2%. Also, it has been heated by chemical means to extract more oils at a higher temperature, however, doing so alters the flavor profile and can destroy the natural aromas as well. Virgin olive oil will be comprised of lower quality olives and may contain a flavorless profile.

What To Keep an Eye Out For:
Buyer beware; read the label before you purchase.

The organic food trend has everyone running for the fair trade olive. You must, however, keep a vigilant eye when purchasing your oil, as some may be mislabeled. The prime example is oils that say Imported from Italy, which can be skewed in such a way to distract you from knowing the oil was actually produced in Turkey, Spain, or Morocco. The International Olive Council (IOC) ensures that oils are labeled appropriately. Although the United States does not adhere to the IOC, they have their own council with comparable rules.

As mentioned before, EVOO is the highest standard followed by virgin olive oil. Virgin oil is still good quality and it is of better quality than refined or blended oil. The oil you decide to purchase should be reflected in its use. Whichever one you purchase, keep in mind that oil has a relatively short shelf life. Use within the first ten months of purchasing it for optimal taste. Olive Oil differs from wine, which gets better with age. Olive Oil is at its best when it is fresh.

 Also, be careful of spoilage. Olive oil is very delicate to light. Store it in a dark container away from heat and direct light.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Pumpkin Bread with Walnuts (or pecans)

I love the taste of all things pumpkin and even more so when I detect the nutty taste of walnuts or pecans.

This pumpkin bread has nuts in the batter, but the secret ingredient that gives it an extra richness is our Roasted Walnut Oil.  It's a moist bread/cake  that is so good spread with cream cheese.  Heck, it's good on its own.

 Pumpkin Bread with Walnuts 


3 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup Joe and Son’s Roasted Walnut Oil
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1 16 oz can of pumpkin puree
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 12 cup Bundt pan.*

Combine the first 6 ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Stir to blend thoroughly and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the roasted walnut oil, vanilla extract, eggs and sugar. Using an electric mixer, mix on low speed until well blended. Stir the pumpkin puree into the egg mixture and continue to mix on low speed until all ingredients are blended completely.

Gradually add the previously set aside dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and stir well after each addition.

Add the chopped nuts and stir a bit more.

Pour the batter into the prepared Bundt pan. Bake for about 1 hour and 5- 15 minutes. (Do not overbake.) Check for doneness by testing with a wooden pick. If the pick comes out clean, the bread is done.

Remove the pan from the oven and cool completely before removing it from the Bundt pan.

This cake can be sprinkled with powdered sugar or drizzled with a simple sugar or cream cheese glaze.
*If you have only a 10 cup Bundt pan, fill it about 2/3 full and use the extra batter to make cupcakes.


Sunday, September 3, 2017

Italian Cookie variation

I have a recipe for vegan Italian wedding cookies that I posted on this Blog in June, 2014.  As delicious as that recipe is, I played around with it and came up with something that  resembles a marzipan cookie.
I just love to add a tad of almond extract in my desserts whenever I can.

 Brownies with a touch of almond go to another level of goodness, in my opinion. Add almond to your chocolate cakes, pound cakes or puddings and see what I mean.


But, to get back on point.  You'll need a box of Almond Paste for this.

Using the same basic cookie dough recipe I referred to above, take a scoop of dough; roll it into a small ball and then flatten it in the palm of your hand.

Take about a pinch (maybe the size of your pinky tip) of the almond paste and squish it into a firm shape.  Place this on the flattened cookie dough and shape the dough around the almond paste.

Now proceed with the original directions.  If you choose not to roll them in Confectioner's sugar, simple granulated sugar would be fine. Or, GASP, you could roll them in Nestle Quik's dry chocolate mix.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Tuna and Quinoa Salad

Yes, this is the Labor Day weekend but that doesn't mean we want to be working hard in the kitchen.  I think this salad is filling, nutritious and can be put together with very little effort.
Serve this for lunch and  you'll be  free to enjoy the fun activities with your family and friends.

Tuna and Quinoa Salad


4 tsp Joe and Son’s Milanese Gremolata Olive Oil
4 tsp Sicilian Lemon Balsamic Vinegar
1 cup cooked quinoa, prepared according to package directions
1/2 cup canned garbanzo/chickpeas (drained)
1/2 cup sliced cucumber
1/2 cup scallions both white and green parts, cut into small pieces
1 cup flaked canned tuna, packed in water and drained
Cherry tomato halves, about 20
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Combine the olive oil and balsamic vinegar in a jar with a lid and shake well to mix.
In a large bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and drizzle with the dressing.

Toss and serve. Makes 4 servings.