Improve your cooking — and your health — with fresh olive oil

Posted Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Coconut balsamic shrimp Serves 2 to 3 6 medium to large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined 1 tablespoon coconut white balsamic vinegar 1 tablespoon chipotle olive oil, plus 1 teaspoon, divided 3/4 teaspoon red cayenne olive oil, divided 1/2 teaspoon Baklouti green chile olive oil 1. Place shrimp, coconut balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon chipotle olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon red cayenne olive oil in a plastic zip-top bag and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours. Turn bag occasionally to make sure marinade covers all shrimp. 2. Add remaining chipotle and red cayenne oils and the green chile oil to a skillet and saute shrimp over medium heat until browned outside and opaque inside, or for 3 to 4 minutes depending on the size of the shrimp. May be served warm or at room temperature. Nutritional analysis per serving: xxx xxx xxx
Jalapeño balsamic, tomato, corn & caper salsa Makes about 3 cups 1/2 cup frozen or fresh corn 1 tablespoon chipotle olive oil 2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered 1 1/2 tablespoon capers, drained 1 tablespoon jalapeño balsamic vinegar 1/2 cup red onion, finely diced 1/2-1 teaspoon red cayenne olive oil (add more or less for desired level of heat) 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin Salt and pepper to taste Juice from half lime 1. Saute corn in chipotle olive oil until tender over medium heat, or 3 to 5 minutes. Let cool. 2. In a bowl, combine sauteed corn (including oil), tomatoes, capers, jalapeño balsamic vinegar, diced red onion, red cayenne olive oil and cumin. Toss gently, season with salt and pepper, then top with juice squeezed from half a lime before serving. Nutritional analysis per serving: xxx xxx xxx
Garlic crostinis Makes about 20 crostinis 1 fresh French baguette, cut into 1/4-inch slices 1/2 cup garlic olive oil 1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. 2. Brush the garlic olive oil lightly on both sides of each baguette slice and lay on a sheet pan covered with parchment paper. 3. Place in the oven for 5 minutes, turn over slices, then bake for an additional 3 minutes. Do not overbake or the crostinis will become too crunchy. Nutritional analysis per serving: xxx xxx xxx — 4001 Arlington Highlands Blvd., Suite 115, Arlington, 817-468-1009, www.bvoliveoil.com
Shaved asparagus salad Serves 4 1 pound asparagus stems, shaved into ribbons using a potato peeler 4 tablespoons chopped herbs, such as cilantro or basil 1 large handful arugula Gremolata olive oil, to taste Lemon balsamic vinegar, to taste Salt and pepper, to taste 1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. 2. Prepare an ice water bath big enough to hold asparagus stems. 3. Place shaved asparagus ribbons in a colander in the sink. Pour all boiling water over the asparagus, then submerge asparagus in the ice water bath to immediately stop the cooking. Drain the asparagus over paper towels and pat dry. 4. Toss the asparagus with chopped herbs and arugula, then drizzle with gremolata olive oil and lemon balsamic vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve. Nutritional analysis per serving: xxx xxx xxx
Cranberry-pear glazed butternut squash with rosemary Serves 3 to 4 1 tablespoon sweet and fruity olive oil, such as Chilean Ultra Leccino 1/3 cup cranberry-pear white balsamic vinegar Leaves from 3-inch sprig of fresh rosemary, roughly chopped, plus 1 sprig for garnish 1 2-pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced into 1-inch pieces (about 3 cups) Sea salt and fresh cracked pepper, to taste 1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. 2. In a large bowl, whisk the olive oil and balsamic vinegar together until thoroughly combined. 3. Add the rosemary leaves and squash and toss to combine and coat evenly. 4. In a large roasting pan lined with parchment paper, arrange the squash in a single layer, drizzling with remaining marinade. Sprinkle liberally with sea salt and fresh ground pepper. 5. Roast the squash 30-35 minutes, stirring a few times, until golden brown and caramelized. Adjust seasoning, if needed, and serve. Nutritional analysis per serving: xxx xxx xxx
Blood orange chocolate cake with blood orange ganache Serves 12 1/2 cup blood orange agrumato olive oil, plus more for greasing pans 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting pans 1/2 cup cocoa powder 1 cup granulated sugar 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1 tablespoon tangerine dark balsamic vinegar 2 large eggs, beaten with enough cold water to equal 1 cup Bood Orange Ganache (recipe follows) 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 2. Lightly grease two 9-inch cake pans with a little blood orange olive oil and dust with flour. 3. Mix together all dry ingredients. In a large, separate bowl, thoroughly mix liquid ingredients until smooth. 4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix using a hand or stand mixer on low. Pour the mixture into the prepared pans. 5. Bake for 30 minutes or until a cake skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Do not overbake. The cake should spring back when lightly touched. 6. Cool for 20-25 minutes before removing from pans to cool completely. Apply ganache when completely cool. Nutritional analysis per serving: xxx xxx xxx Blood orange ganache 8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips or chunks 1/2 cup heavy cream 1 tablespoon blood orange agrumato olive oil Pinch sea salt 1. Place the chocolate chips in a heat-proof bowl. 2. Heat the cream in a saucepan over medium heat until just simmering. Pour the cream over the chocolate and allow to sit for 5 minutes. 3. Gently whisk the chocolate and cream until smooth, consistent, and free from any lumps. 4. Add the blood orange olive oil to the chocolate and whisk thoroughly. Allow to cool until ganache reaches a spreadable consistency. 5. Gently spread the slightly cooled ganache over the completely cooled cake. Serve with Grand Marnier-infused whipped cream, dark espresso balsamic reduction and a blood orange or tangerine segment as garnish, if desired. — 4801 Overton, Ridge Blvd., Fort Worth, 817-294-0036, www.thevirginoliveoiler.com
Spicy Southwestern chipotle and raspberry salad Serves 4 2 heads of romaine lettuce, roughly chopped 1/2 red bell pepper, diced into 1/2-inch pieces 2 fresh ears of corn, simmered in boiling water for 5 minutes and cooled, or grilled and cooled 2 tablespoons diced red onion 1/2 pint of fresh raspberries 1/2 cup black beans Salt and pepper to season 1/2 avocado, cut into thin slices 3 tablespoons queso fresco, crumbled Raspberry Chipotle Vinaigrette (recipe follows) Raspberry Balsamic Glaze (recipe follows) 2 cups Chipotle Croutons (recipe follows) 1. In a salad bowl, mix together lettuce, bell pepper, corn, onion, raspberries and black beans. Season with salt and pepper and toss with half of the Raspberry Chipotle Vinaigrette until ingredients are coated. (Extra vinaigrette can be served in a small bowl alongside.) 2. Pile salad onto serving plates and top with arranged slices of avocado, then sprinkle with queso fresco crumbles. 3. Drizzle salads with Raspberry Balsamic Glaze and garnish with Chipotle Croutons. Nutritional analysis per serving: xxx xxx xxx Raspberry chipotle vinaigrette Makes about 1/2 cup 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice 2 teaspoons finely minced shallots 1 tablespoon finely minced cilantro 3 tablespoons chipotle-infused extra virgin olive oil 3 tablespoons raspberry-infused balsamic vinegar Salt and pepper to taste 1. Place all ingredients into a blender and blend for 20 seconds. May be made one day in advance. Raspberry balsamic glaze 1/3 cup raspberry-infused balsamic vinegar 1. Place vinegar in a small saucepan. Over medium heat, bring to a boil and reduce heat while vinegar gently simmers and begins to thicken and reduce. 2. Once the vinegar has reduced by half, after about 5 minutes, and has thickened to a syrup stage, immediately remove from heat. Allow to cool and pour into a small glass bottle or jar. Will keep at room temperature for up to 3 months. Chipotle croutons Makes 2 cups 2 cups Italian or country bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes 2 tablespoons chipotle-infused extra virgin olive oil 1 teaspoon sea salt 1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 2. Place the cubes of bread on a baking sheet and evenly drizzle with chipotle-infused oil. Toss well and season with salt. 3. Bake in center of oven for 5 minutes, then remove and toss the croutons. Return to oven for 2-3 minutes or until croutons are golden and crispy. May be made ahead and stored in an airtight container. — 326 S. Main St., Grapevine, 682-223-1592, www.grapevineoliveoilcompany.com

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Love her or loathe her, bubbly celebrity chef Rachael Ray gets the credit for persuading many home cooks to replace their boring vegetable oils with fancy bottles of the fashionable, more flavorful extra virgin olive oil.

After the cookbook author and talk-show host gained popularity for rattling off recipe after recipe calling for enough “EVOO” to drizzle around “two turns of the pan,” supermarkets began dedicating more shelf space to countless varieties slapped with labels blaring buzzwords like “premium,” “stone-crushed,” “unfiltered,” “fresh-pressed” and “full-bodied.”

And when health magazines and websites began touting the golden-green-hued oil as a super food packed with antioxidants, many folks looking to lose weight or find relief from inflammatory pain began taking it by the spoonful as a dietary supplement.

But in 2010, the University of California-Davis Olive Center at the Robert Mondavi Institute released an eye-opening study that evaluated the chemical makeup and quality of grocery store olive oils. According to the study, 69 percent of imported olive oil samples from grocery stores labeled as “extra virgin” failed to meet the International Olive Council and USDA sensory standards for extra virgin olive oil.

Reasons for failure included oxidation by exposure to high temperatures, light and aging; adulteration with cheaper, refined olive oil; processing flaws; improper storage; and poor-quality oil made from olives that were damaged and overripe — meaning shriveled or dried.

“There’s been a lot of coverage over the past year or two about grocery store olive oils,” says Charles Flach, former restaurateur and owner of The Virgin Olive Oiler, a purveyor of fresh, imported olive oils stored in stainless-steel tanks, called fustis, which display olive crush dates and allow for tastings. “You can go to any grocery store and find a liter of olive oil for $5.99, but you don’t know how old it is, when it was produced, or how it was treated and stored.”

Flach says he continually educates customers about the quality and benefits of fresh olive oil and, after two years in business, his store’s success has exceeded his expectations.

“As people become more educated, more of these stores will start popping up,” he says.

In Grapevine, there’s the Grapevine Olive Oil Company and in Arlington Highlands, Bella Vita Gourmet Olive Oil & Balsamics.

All three boutique stores source their oils from Veronica Foods Company, a California-based, fresh olive oil importer and producer that has international alliances with small, regional mills. The company also owns and operates a mill of its own near the coastal town of Monastir, Tunisia, located 60 nautical miles from Sicily.

“Deception in the oil business has been a huge issue,” says Rebecca Knop, owner of the Grapevine Olive Oil Company. “Many of these mass-produced oils have been deodorized, colored and mixed with other oils to make it look and taste like olive oil. We post the harvest date, the region the oils are from and their acidity and polyphenol levels.”

Polyphenols, the antioxidants found in olive oil that can prevent the damaging effect of free radicals, is a hot term for those who consume olive oil strictly for its health benefits. Word is, the more peppery the olive oil, the more polyphenols are present.

Rhonda Reis, owner of Bella Vita, says many of her customers visit to buy two 750-milliliter bottles of oil at a time and take 2 tablespoons daily for their health. As a former cake decorator, she experienced carpal-tunnellike symptoms in her wrists, but says she avoided surgery after drinking fresh olive oil daily.

“A lot of customers know a lot about polyphenols and then others come in to get educated because they heard about it or their doctor told them,” she says.

And while consumers are discovering the health benefits of fresh olive oil, they’re also getting creative culinarily with the numerous infused varieties available, combining them with balsamic vinegars made with all-natural infusions to create vibrant dishes.

Interesting fresh oil flavors include cilantro and roasted onion, organic basil, California garlic and Baklouti green chile, infused with peppers from the Barbary Coast of North Africa.

Balsamic vinegars are white or dark, and infusions include black currant, cinnamon-pear, lavender and coconut.

Knop likes combining wild mushroom and sage olive oil with red apple balsamic vinegar.

Reis tops her salads with blackberry ginger balsamic with blood orange olive oil almost daily.

Flach says he was pleasantly surprised when a recent customer recommended a pairing of Persian lime olive oil with dark espresso balsamic vinegar.

“You’re only limited by your imagination,” he says. “People think of it as just oil, but it’s fresh-squeezed juice from an olive, which happens to be incredibly healthy. Freshness trumps everything.”

Bella Vita Gourmet Olive Oil & Balsamics

Rhonda Reis bakes fresh French baguettes and rosemary focacia on-site in her Arlington Highlands olive oil and vinegar store, but only Thursday through Saturday, and it sells out quickly.

The former interior designer and French pastry school graduate likes to drizzle garlic olive oil over baguette slices and bake them to create crostinis, perfect for topping with her piquant jalapeño balsamic salsa and coconut balsamic shrimp, which is spiced with red cayenne and chipotle olive oils.

Grapevine Olive Oil Company

This colorful salad can be served as an accompaniment to grilled chicken, beef or salmon but is hearty enough to stand alone.

Three popular techniques for using olive oils and vinegars are demonstrated — blending oil and vinegar to create a vinaigrette, drizzling oil over cubed bread for croutons and reducing balsamic vinegar over heat to create a glaze.

“Olive oil has been a staple of the Mediterranean diet for ages,” says Rebecca Knop. “The flavor difference in fresh oils like ours compared with what is offered in mass production at the grocery store is huge.”

The Virgin Olive Oiler

“It’s like a chocolate-covered orange, in cake form,” says Charles Flach of his decadent cake baked with blood orange-infused olive oil and tangerine dark balsamic vinegar. For an impressive finishing touch, Flach recommends heating dark espresso balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan until it reduces by half, then cooling and drizzling it over whipped cream as a sweet-tart topping.

In his shaved asparagus salad recipe, he uses olive oil infused with the flavors of gremolata, a traditional herb condiment made with mint, lemon, garlic and parsley. Cranberry-pear balsamic vinegar adds zing to roasted butternut squash.

“The balsamics are all-natural products all made in Modena, Italy,” he says. “If it says raspberry, it’s made with real raspberries. It’s not injected with things that add flavor to it.”

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