Tag Archives: olive oil

Holiday Giveaway #2: High-Quality Spanish Olive Oils

7 Dec

Jenny and I planned this holiday giveaway ‘extravaganza’ with two goals in mind. The first was to give a little something back to some of the people who’ve read our blog, followed us on our Facebook page, and just generally made us feel like they’re interested in what we’ve been writing (since blogging can be a pretty lonely activity when you don’t feel like anyone is reading). And the second goal was to give our readers a chance to share in some of our favorite things. As I mentioned last week, we chose to give away some PC Insider’s Report products because I have fond memories of growing up with them in my house during the holidays. And for giveaway #2, we’re offering readers the chance to win something our kitchen is never without: great-tasting, high-quality olive oils.

Jenny and I both love good olive oils. A good bottle of olive oil is like a good wine, with a flavour profile that can be spicy, or citrusy, or fruity. And like a good wine, different olive oils are suited to different foods; some taste great on salads, some are great drizzled on top of grilled meat or fish as a finishing flavour. Some, as we’ve talked about in previous posts, are even ideal to use as a main ingredient in sweet things, such as cakes or ice cream.

Our first-ever post on Communal Table was focused on olive oils, after we were invited to a fun and informative olive oil tasting event hosted by Dolores Smith at Olivar Corp. We loved meeting Dolores and taking in some of her vast olive oil knowledge, and really loved tasting the different Spanish olive oils that Olivar Corp. imports into Canada. So we were thrilled when Dolores agreed to donate a couple of amazing olive oil prize packs for our holiday giveaway.

Thanks to Dolores’ generosity, we have two prizes to give away this week, each consisting of two bottles of high-quality Spanish olive oils from Olivar Corp.

The first prize consists of a bottle each of:

  • Rincon de la Subbetica – an organic Spanish olive oil that is the world’s most-awarded olive oil, with over 70 honours since 2006. This was one of the olive oils I sampled during the olive oil tasting Dolores led earlier this year, and it ended up being my favorite, with an interesting flavour mix of green apple and peppery spice.
  • Dauro – a blend of olives including arbequina and hojiblanca from Spain, and koroneiki from Greece. This one has a delicate taste that is praised in Japanese kitchens for its ability to pair well with wasabi, and has been featured in Nobel Prize Award banquet dinners.

The second prize pack consists of a bottle each of:

  • Full Moon – produced in limited quantities, using only the best Spanish arbequina olives harvested very early, during the full moon. This creates an olive oil that is balanced and smooth, with both fruit and a hint of pepper in the taste.
  • Parqueoliva – another highly-awarded oil, with more than 40 recognitions. This is considered a sister olive oil to the Rincon, with a slightly more intense flavour profile that includes herbs and floral notes, with a slight peppery kick.

To win one of these great olive oil prize packs:

  1. First, click this link and “Like” us to join Communal Table’s Facebook Fan Page.
  2. Second, leave a comment on our Facebook Fan Page wall stating that you want to be entered into our Holiday Giveaway #2 and also telling us what your favorite use is for a great olive oil. Please note that you must complete BOTH of these steps to be entered. If you already Like us on Facebook, leave a comment on our Facebook Fan Page wall stating that you want to enter and tell us about your favorite use for great olive oil.

**While we welcome anyone who wants to join our Facebook Fan Page, this contest is restricted to Canadian entries only.

    You have until next Monday evening, December 13, to enter. We will draw two names from all entries and those lucky winners will each be sent one of our two prize packs.

    These are great bottles of olive oil, and we’re happy to be able to share them with you, whether you’re as passionate about olive oils as we are or are looking for an introduction into the world of high-quality olive oil.

    Also, don’t forget about Communal Table’s donation drive on behalf of the Daily Bread Food Bank… all donations made are eligible to win a $200 gift certificate to North 44 Restaurant in Toronto and a signed copy of chef Mark McEwan’s new cookbook, Good Food at Home. Click here for details on how you can donate and win with Communal Table.

    Food Find: Coffee Oil

    30 Aug

    Neil and I have a bit of an obsession with olive oil. Specifically, Spanish olive oil. It all started a few years ago when I produced a television segment about an olive oil shop in Montreal called Olive & Olives. I had no idea that a little TV story would be the start of such a big culinary obsession. The owners of Olive & Olives take a lot of pride in the oils they bring into their lovely store, and most of them are Spanish. The depth of flavor in Spanish olive oils is amazing, ranging from very green and fruity to strong and peppery. After our first visit, Neil and I left with armfuls of different bottles.

    When our stash of oils from Montreal ran out, we knew we had to seek out a place in Toronto that could give us our fix. And that’s when we found The Spice Trader and Olive Pit on Queen Street. They’ve now moved into a new space but the original setup had The Spice Trader on street level and The Olive Pit as its own little store downstairs. I have too many great things to say about The Spice Trader and their range of spices (not to mention the wonderful owners who always share recipes and tips with their customers) so I’ll save that for another post. But discovering The Olive Pit was one of the best things that has happened to our humble kitchen.

    The owners of the store are a lovely couple who know their olive oils. They let customers taste-test their oils and will give you a little ‘olive oil 101’ if you’re interested in learning about the differences between countries, olives and blends. They bring in a special Spanish olive oil that they bottle themselves and it’s one of our favorites. They also carry a citrus olive oil that I sometimes dream about when I’m making a salad and trying to figure out what to use as a dressing. And they have a selection of specialty syrups (like Rose and Lavender – right up my alley!), vinegars and condiments.

    But our most coveted discovery at The Olive Pit is Coffee Oil. When the owners first told us about it we were skeptical, thinking it had potential to be gimmicky. We were wrong. Just smelling the incredible oil, you understand that this is serious stuff. And the taste is nothing short of heavenly. If you love coffee and you love olive oil, as we do, it’s worth investing in a bottle. It’s a blend of two very precious and delicate flavors. There’s nothing more to it than cold pressed extra virgin coffee oil made from Guatemalan Arabica coffee beans and olive oil made from Arbequina olives from Catalonia, Spain. You can really taste the essence of coffee and the good quality of the olive oil that it’s blended with.

    What does one do with coffee olive oil, you ask? To be honest, we have yet to experience it in different savory dishes, though I can absolutely see how well it could work with so many different flavors. One suggestion is to drizzle it over avocado slices with coarse salt (yum!) or over grilled fish & seafood. There are a few recipes and serving suggestions that come inside the special gold box and we will definitely try them out.

    But what we’ve been using the thick, golden liquid for is Coffee Olive Oil Ice Cream. To me, it’s perfection. There is a recipe for ice cream that comes with the oil, but Neil came up with his own based on his olive oil ice cream, which we’ve posted about previously. It’s smooth and creamy but not heavy and the flavor suggests the essence of coffee but not an overpowering hit of it, like you might get in some coffee ice creams. Because there’s nothing artificial in the oil, the flavor you get in the ice cream is soft and clean-tasting. It’s the kind of thing you want to eat slowly and appreciate with every bite.

    We usually serve it straight up in coffee mugs but last week we decided to pour the ice cream mixture into a colorful loaf pan to freeze into a mold and we sprinkled the top with crushed Amaretti cookies. The idea was to serve it in slices, but it didn’t exactly turn out as planned. It may have needed a few more hours in the freezer. Either way, it tasted amazing and the Amaretti added another layer of flavor and a nice crunch.

    Neil’s Coffee Olive Oil Ice Cream

    2 cups 1% milk
    1 cup 5% cream
    1/3 cup sugar
    1/3 cup coffee oil
    Large pinch of salt
    1 tablespoon alcohol (to slow the freezing process; I use vodka, since it has no flavour)
    About 10 amaretti cookies, crushed

    In a blender, combine milk, cream, sugar, salt and oil. Turn on ice cream maker and add mixture to to the freezer bowl; add vodka early in churning process. Once ice cream is mostly frozen, pour into a serving container and top with crushed amaretti cookies. Cover container with plastic wrap and place ice cream in freezer for several hours.

    To serve, cut ice cream into slices and plate, or scoop into bowls.


    Full Moon Feast = Food Porn

    13 May

    Jenny and I were at an amazing dinner on April 28 – the night of the full moon – to celebrate Full Moon and other great Spanish olive oils represented by the Olivar Corp.

    As you can probably tell by looking at that date and looking at today’s date, I’ve been meaning to post about this for a while and just haven’t gotten around to it. While I could have just let this go without a post, the night – featuring food creations from Toronto chefs Luis Valenzuela of Torito Tapas Bar, Jose Hadad of Frida Restaurant and Lola Csullog-Fernandez of Pimenton – was just so full of great Spanish dishes that I thought it deserved a little showcase here.

    Here’s a look at what we ate, for all the food porn aficionados out there.

    First course was Ensalada de Corazones from chef Jose Hadad of Frida: artichoke hearts, hearts of palm, oven-dried cherry tomatoes dressed in Full Moon olive oil with vanilla-balsamic vinegar and fresh lavender sprigs. This was a simple, clean-tasting way to start the meal, and a great way to showcase the flavour of the oil. The dish was paired with Bodegas Julian Chivite Gran Feudo Rosado 2008 (Tempranillo, Grenache and Merlot blend).

    Next, we had Gazpacho Dauro “dos texturas” from chef Luis Valenzuela of Torito, which was gazpacho presented two ways: as a shooter of gooseberry gazpacho and a gelee of traditional gazpacho with Rincon de la Subbetica olive oil. Paired with Bodegas Gomez & Rial Alargo Albarino 2007 (Albarino). As someone who’s always just thought of gazpacho as cold tomato soup, refreshing but not terribly exciting, I appreciated the new and unique forms of this traditional Spanish dish.

    Then we were served Kokotxas al Pil-Pil from chef Hadad: cod tongues with Spanish paprika, poached in Rincon de la Subbetica, with lemon balm and radish cress salad, and oven-crisped baguette with garlic confit. This dish was a big hit. The tongues were poached in the olive oil and added their own gellied texture, to create an almost stew-like velvety sauce. I’ve never had cod tongues, and sadly I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to track them down in Toronto for my own use (indeed, I was told, the chef has his own ‘secret’ source for this rare ingredient).  This dish was paired with Miguel Torres S.A. Organic Nerola 2008 (Xarel-lo/Garnacha Blanc).

    At the half-way point of the meal, we had a palate cleanser of Dauro Olive Oil Sorbet served in a citrus ice bowl from chef Valenzuela. I make olive oil ice cream quite a bit, so I was excited when I saw this on the menu. It was obviously not as creamy or rich as an ice cream, but the light milky consistency really let the olive oil shine through.

    The next course was my personal favorite of the night. Chipirone Rellenos de Jamon Iberico con Vinagreta de Parqueoliva y su Tinta from chef Lola Csullog-Fernandez of Pimenton: baby cuttlefish stuffed with Iberico ham, featuring Parqueoliva olive oil and squid ink vinaigrette. The cuttlefish had the texture and flavour of grilled calamari, and the smoky taste of the Iberico was a perfect complement. Paired with Bodega Cerro de la Barca Monte Pozuelo 2007 (Cabernet Sauvignon/Tempranillo).

    The next dish, again from chef Valenzuela, was Parque Cerdo con Fresas, Manzana y Espuma de Ajo Bianco: pork belly poached in Parqueoliva, served with a dried strawberry and apple cornucopia cone and garlic foam. I never turn down the chance to eat pork belly, so I was definitely waiting for this dish. Poaching the meat gave it a crispy texture and intense flavour, which paired well with the light garlic flavour of the foam. If there was one misstep over the course of the meal, it was probably the ‘cornucopia cone,’ which consisted of julienned apple slices wrapped in a cone of dried strawberry fruit leather. An interesting presentation, but a bit challenging to eat. This was paired with Gran Clot del Oms 2003 (Cabernet Sauvignon).

    Though we barely had room for anything else at that point (something that rarely happens to me), we all managed to find extra space in our stomachs once we tasted the amazing dessert of Torrijas con Reduccion de PX y Arbequina y un Chupito de Leche Merengada from chef Csullog. This was a sort of sweet Spanish French toast, with red wine baguette soaked in Pedro Ximenez sherry and Gasull olive oil, and served with a milky merinigue granite and Arbequina olives (yes, olives on a dessert plate!). There were a lot of different elements in this dish, but it all went together magically to create an amazing dessert I’m going to need to taste again at some point in the not-too-distant future. We had this with Bodegas Toro Albala Don PX Pedro Ximenez 2005, a great unfiltered sherry.

    It was certainly a feast, and show the talents of three great Toronto chefs, as well as the talents of the team at Sizzling Communications who managed to pull the whole thing together so well.

    Olive Oil Ice Cream

    27 Apr

    Olive oil ice cream

    In today’s post, a few words about what ended up being dessert to our six-month anniversary meal the other night. I got my hands on an ice cream maker more than a year ago, and quickly went a bit mad with attempting new flavour concoctions: sour cream-brown sugar, rose-strawberry-cinnamon, lavender-blueberry, zabaglione. Those were ones that worked. Alas, I’ve been less successful a few times, too (parmesan or avocado ice cream, anyone?)

    One flavour I tackled early on, and continue to go back to time and time again, is olive oil. I first heard about the idea of olive oil ice cream from a recipe I read online that originated in David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop book. I then heard that Mario Batali was serving a version of olive oil gelato in his NYC pizza resto, Otto. So, I tracked down his recipe, too, and after playing around a bit with the ingredients, came up with my own version. Mine’s a bit lighter (3 egg yolks vs. 6 in Lebovitz and Batali’s recipes… or sometimes I don’t use any at all) and less sweet (1/3 cup sugar in mine, vs. 1/2 cup in Lebovitz’s and a whole cup in Batali’s, who, granted, uses double the milk and cream). And it’s stood the test of time, in my kitchen at least. In fact, after trying Batali’s version at Otto, my wife declared my version better. And who am I to argue with my wife?

    The eggless version of my recipe follows. I honestly make this and most of my ice creams without eggs most of the time, for several reasons. Eliminating the custard-making process makes the whole thing much, much quicker. And of course, removing the eggs makes the finished product healthier (realize I wrote healthiER, not healthy!). Finally, with several flavours – particularly with this one where the taste and the mouth feel of the olive oil is so intense – I just don’t think the extra creaminess added by the custard is neccessary. Still, if you’d rather make a version with eggs, the custard-making steps are outlined in the recipes I linked to above.

    Continue reading

    Olive Oil Cake

    6 Apr

    Olive Oil Cake

    Most people who know me well understand that while I love cooking, I fear baking. And I fear baking for the exact same reason I love cooking – my complete inability to follow a recipe. (It’s not that I’m incapable of following a recipe, of course; it’s that I just plain don’t want to.)

    But the olive oil tasting I attended last month inspired me to look for new and different recipes using olive oil, and one of the most interesting ones I came across was this one from the blog Sunday Suppers for olive oil cake. I could almost taste this as I read it, and I knew that I had to try it out, recipe be damned.

    Of course, being the non-baking cook that I am, I couldn’t help but attempt a few modifications to the original recipe. I cut back the sugar fairly dramatically, from 2.5 cups to 1 cup, since I wanted the citrus and olive oil to be the stars. And speaking of citrus, the original recipe calls for lemon zest; I had an orange, so that’s what I used. Finally, instead of all-purpose flour, I used spelt flour.

    Read on for my version of the recipe.

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    Tasting Olive Oil

    26 Mar

    Most of us know about the health benefits of olive oil: good quality extra-virgin olive oil is a source of antioxidants and nutrients such as vitamins E, A and K; it’s rich in monounsaturated (or “good”) fats; and diets which prominently feature olive oil have been found to lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

    But while many North Americans have taken a page from the Mediterranean handbook and introduced olive oil into their diets, not all olive oil is created equal. Like wine, different olive oils have very different flavour profiles, depending on factors such as the types of olives used, the terroir of an olive grove and the production methods used.

    Being half Italian, I’ve grown up with olive oil as an essential part of my diet. But it wasn’t until a couple years ago that I was first introduced to the idea of tasting olive oil to appreciate the unique qualities of different products. Since then, I’ve been an olive oil aficionado, particularly of Spanish oils, which are arguably among the most flavorful. So when an invitation came to attend a tasting event showcasing new Spanish olive oils, courtesy of Mary Luz Mejia at Sizzling Communications, I jumped at the chance.

    The event took place at Pimenton, a Toronto food store focused on products from Spain. Our guide, Delores Smith of The Olivar Corp., led us through a tasting of five different olive oils. Truly an expert in the topic, Delores shared some interesting bits of wisdom about tasting and appreciating olive oil:

    • To enjoy the full range of aromas and flavours in an olive oil, it’s important to ensure it is at the appropriate temperature (approximately room temperature). We did this by pouring a small amount into a cup, then holding the cup between our hands for a couple minutes.
    • Many good quality olive oils will leave a peppery finish in the back of your throat. This is evidence of high antioxidant levels in the oil.
    • Olive oils can range from very light yellow to green in appearance. Colour, however, has no bearing on the taste of a particular oil
    • Just as wines can evoke certain taste comparisons – berry, spice or chocolate in red, for example – olive oils have their own common taste profiles, including citrus, herbs, tomato and banana.

    Continue reading

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