Thursday, March 23, 2006

HB Produce Thursday Presents: Olive Oil

I know it's been a while, but it's Thursday, and I have fruit on my mind. Fruit juice, specifically, and olive oil, even more specifically. Olive oil is a personal obsession of mine and consumption of it underpins a way of life for millions of people. Olives are produced in many warm climates including Spain, France, Turkey, Greece, Tunisia, Italy and California, but they are most common in the countries surrounding the Meditterranean Sea. Palestinians and Israelis both produce great olive oil. Olive oil is reknowned for it's health benefits and therapeutic properties, but I love it because it's delicious and each one is different. I try to eat some olive oil every day, the same way I try to eat avocados or tomatoes every day when they're in season. I love it on toast. I love good bread dunked in it. It does astounding things to hummus and pita. It makes your pasta sauce richer. It even makes plain olives better: just pour some fabulous extra-virgin oil on cured green, black and purple olives, warm everything slightly in a sasucepan, and serve with a loaf of really crusty bread. You'll poop it's so good! It's really good. I just finished reading "Olives: The Life and Lore of a Noble Fruit," by Mort Rosenblum, and I would recommend it heartily to gain a basic understanding of oil production, geography, climatology, and history. It covers a lot of ground.

It should be kept in mind that what I'm talking about applies to extra virgin olive oil, which is the first cold pressing of oil from freshly harvested olives. Cold pressing refers to maintaining a strict maximum temperature during the pressing process, which keeps the flavor profile and health benefit of the oil intact. This is Divina from Crete that I just purchased at Papa Joe's for my parents. I want them to eat oil often to gain the maximum benefit from the phenolic antioxidents in the oil, which provides "provides considerable protection against colon, breast and skin cancer, coronary heart disease and aging by inhibiting oxidative stress.*" It also tastes wicked good. You can find it here, but it's pricier than usual (PJ's for under $10). Keep reading for a better deal.

When Mort said in "Olives" that Kalamata oil was the best he had tried in his travels, I knew I had to try a bottle. This turns out to be one of the few bargains in the Papa Joe's oil department, because you can get a liter of Greek Iliada Kalamata oil for $13, and you won't be dissappointed. (For comparison, a liter of Laudemio at PJ's costs more than $32. I bet it's phenomenal, but I'm never going to find out). I really like this, because it is mild but fully flavored, and very smooth. A great basic oil, you can find it here.

Now, two weekends ago, we went out for ice cream while we were in Toledo with our friend Jacob David. Jacob had just returned from being honored for his film work by the King of Spain, and he also owns his own copy of "Olives." He is a kindred spirit.

Jacob brings back oil and vinegar from his travels, and in quantity. Stuff you would normally have to live in New York to get or drive to Zingerman's in Ann Arbor for is in his house in Toledo, the location of which must remain a secret to protect his oil cabinet:

Now, this is a bottle of oil that I had only read about in the book, does not appear that many places in the United States, and that Jacob had brought a nice hoard of back to the States from Spain. It is Nunez de Prado, and it's made by a pair of Spanish brothers who sell most of their oil to bulk producers. This is the good stuff that they hang on too, and you can get it in Spanish markets. It's somewhat of an acquired taste, but once you acquire it, you won't want to stop eating it. It's sharp, unfiltered, and delicious, phenomenal on bread and in salad dressing. It is also the genesis of one of the best things I have ever eaten, period.

This is something I made last night, and it was unbelievable. I hard-boiled an egg, let it cool to room temperature, broke it in half, poured a little Nunez de Prado over the whole thing, and sprinkled it with sea salt. Bliss, man. Thanks Jacob, you rock.


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Judy said...

Olive Oil - who knew it could be so inspirational???

Jonathan said...

It's just phenomenal.

Over the weekend I saw that Trader Joe's carries a straight Kalamata oil for under $8/liter, but I have not had a chance to try it. I am trying not to have four different kids of oil at the same time, since we just figured out our new food budget. I'm worried that everything at TJ's seems to be in clear glass - light isn't good for olive oil. Dark brown and green are the way to go.