The Day I Became Obsessed with Olive Oil by Stacia Carlton
“I don’t like gourmet cooking, or “this” cooking, or “that” cooking. I like good cooking.”
Celery Root and Potato Puree with Sauteed Greens
I was in one of my favourite stores recently when a customer strode in with great purpose. He was on a mission.
“My wife and I have just returned from Italy… I think I need to start buying better olive oil.” He stated.
I didn’t have to see it, I could practically feel the knowing smile coming from Andreas Voulgaris, co-owner of Olive Oil Emporium. I’m certain it’s something he hears with some regularity.
“I think the oil we’re used to here is rancid… it just didn’t taste the same as what we had there… can you make some suggestions?”
I must admit that I was smiling at this point as well. There is a certain pleasure in witnessing someone’s moment of realization. It happens to me whenever I serve someone an otherwise simple dish which has been elevated to praise worthy through the addition of a high quality olive oil.
I visited the store with the specific intention of learning as much as I could about not only the oil and balsamic vinegar that Andreas and his wife Mary sell, but also the process by which they choose their product. I wanted to more clearly understand, beyond the obvious, TASTE, exactly WHY we should all be choosing a better quality olive oil.
The atmosphere in Olive Oil Emporium is compelling to say the least, two walls lined with shining silver vats; one side olive oil, the other balsamic vinegar. Tables of their flavoured counterparts on the centre tables. Gorgeously packaged hostess gifts, all of which were crying out to be taken home by me! A veritable cornucopia for the senses.
Tiny tasting cups sit invitingly beside palate clearing cubes of bread. Besides the pleasing visual of the store, Andreas’ excitement for what he offers is palpable. It’s not just the product he sells, but also the way in which it is grown (and aged in the case of the vinegars), but also harvested which inspires his passion.
Andreas hopes to have more consumers understand that harvest date is important, not just the best before date. There is no harvest date to check as we grab the jug of generic oil from the grocery store shelf. Yup, that same oil you’re taking home to serve your family which will likely taste rancid by comparison once you try a truly quality oil.
Olives are only available for harvesting once a year, Andreas explains which is why he rotates between hemispheres for supply. In the more northern countries they harvest in our fall/winter. In the southern hemisphere harvest occurs during our spring.
They only sell oils at the Olive Oil Emporium up until 14 or 15 months past harvest date, always featuring the youngest oils. It is that freshness where the real health benefits, the ones we read about so frequently, are found.
The aroma of a quality oil will lure you in and the taste will seal the deal! And tasting is heartily encouraged here!
“Isn’t it more expensive?” I hear you asking… Yes… yes it is… but not tremendously so and I can guarantee that you will use less… yes, less! than you are generally slugging into a recipe. The taste of a quality oil allows you to use considerably less than you would a (come on let’s say it together) relatively flavourless or perhaps even rancid tasting generic oil.
It’s worth testing a few (or several!) to find what flavours suit your palate or perhaps a specific or favourite dish. Visiting the Olive Oil Emporium is rather like going to a wine tasting. “They each have their own personalities” says Andreas when I drew the comparison, and he is right!
He discussed flavour qualities and mouth feel much as a sommelier does, and he encourages you to “bloom the oil” or warm it in the palm of your hand, as one does with wine to help to release the flavours and aromas. He explained the chemistry and how that impacts the different flavours, and told me of the governing body regulating the production of olive oil. I hadn’t realized there was one until my visit to the store that day! Follow this link to the Olive Oil Emporium website for details.
As much as we discussed harvest dates and chemistry and governing bodies, what our conversation continually led back to was the simplicity of the product, and how effortlessly it elevates any dish. The job of a good olive oil is to be “the best supporting actor on the plate” says Andreas and I couldn’t agree with him more.
We’re looking for better health around every corner and what a simpler and more delicious way to do it then to start regularly stocking a quality olive oil such as the ones found at Olive Oil Emporium! I’m lucky, they’re just around the corner from Be Still & Eat HQ, but they do ship and I strongly encourage you to get in touch and make use of the “Ask an Expert” section to have Andreas help you get the right oil or vinegar.
I wanted to choose a recipe to share with you today which would not only highlight how the use of a quality olive oil can make an ordinary dish sing, but also one that is so simple and so delicious that you will want to add it to your regular rotation of weeknight staples. This simple dish of pureed celery root and potatoes is just such a dish. By excluding the heavy butter and cream and using only quality olive oil it goes from a decadent “holiday” dish to a healthy weeknight choice, but it’s still pretty enough to serve at a more elegant affair.
It goes beyond simply choosing a better quality olive oil for the taste. It’s about the quality of your life. It represents the fact that the simplest and purest ingredients make the best meals. It’s about presenting and expecting quality for yourself and your family and maintaining that quality through to mealtime, because aren’t the best times always had around the table?
Enjoy & Namaste!
Pureed Potatoes & Celery Root with Sauteed Greens
- 2 celery root, trimmed, peeled and cubed
- 2 white potatoes, peeled and cubed
- Olive Oil, to taste and texture
- tender green, I like swiss chard or spinach, cleaned and chopped
- garlic, minced
- Boil celery root and potatoes until fork tender, Drain reserving some cooking liquid
- Mash with a quality olive oil adding salt and pepper to taste adding reserved cooking liquid as required… you can also use a splash of chicken or veg broth if you prefer.
- Toss garlic in a hot pan with a splash of olive oil
- Add greens to wilt
- Top pureed veg with greens
Stacia is a trained chef and yoga enthusiast who believes that healthy and delicious, real food can be produced in every kitchen. She knows that real life isn’t always as neat and tidy as a recipe and so she creates and shares simple and approachable recipes with minimal ingredients. www.bestillandeat.com Find me on Facebook