All My Firsts! ‘Chicken Scarpariello Recipe’

 As I reach this new phase of my life with the last of my kids planning her wedding, I wonder how I got here?  I think it all started with a bunch of firsts:

I was the first born American in a huge Italian family.

I was the first to go to school without knowing a word of English.

I was the first in my family to eat canned spaghetti. (I had no choice because it was served at the school cafeteria.  I had to eat it as the  Catholic nun was glaring at me to swallow.  I have to say it was the worst thing I ever had and so sad that mamma sent me to school without a bag lunch.)

I was the first to date a non- Italian ( It was a big revolt in the family over that first!  There was even a family council over this and major discussions with a wooden spoon. Ouch!)

And I ended being the first to marry the non-Italian ( I fought hard and won.  I think all my younger siblings and cousins should grovel at my feet for that.  Because gasp! I broke the Italian seal of approval!)

The first to go to college.

The first to get a job that didn’t involve food. ( I became an accountant)

I was the first grandchild to take my Nonna for a drive in my car. (I drove her over the bridge twice because instead of getting off the ramp I continued back on the bridge. Nonna was wondering where we were going while she held on to her rosary beads.  I lied and told her we had to take a detour while thinking I need to go to confession!)

Getting my car license really opened up my world of firsts.  Because of it, I picked up Mexican take out.  It was the first time I ate Mexican and introduced my mom and siblings to tortillas.

I had my first bagel at the Marist College cafeteria. I never tasted anything so delicious.  Who knew that bread boiled and baked could taste so good!

Not only have I come a long way but I paved the way for the rest of my American born family! When I think of my own children I am proud that I made their childhood a little more normal than mine.  Even what I keep in the refrigerator has changed big time. I go back to one odd memory of growing up. Of course, I didn’t realize it was odd because this is all my brother and I knew!  On Saturday mornings whilst my parents slept my brother and I would slyly raid the fridge. Peering in with our eyes wide open, the fridge was an adventure! While Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon played in the background we grabbed a lemon to share, cutting it in half and poured salt over the it.  We also grabbed the bottle of olives and helped ourselves to a few.  Reaching in further or I should say as I reached in because being the oldest I had the longest reach, I would find glistening in the rear  the red, green and yellow hot cherry peppers. Nick and I would grab forks and pierce a pepper each. If we were lucky there were leftover anchovies. What can I say? Was this weird? Or maybe there were other choices but our palates craved for what we knew I need to ask my children what snack did they sneak? I really do hope I gave them more normal options like bagels and cream cheese! Or maybe tortilla chips!  In honor of my Saturday ritual with my brother, I am sharing our restaurant recipe of Chicken Scarpariello.  It’s a little different than most recipes because we only used boneless chicken breasts. Hope you enjoy the hot cherry peppers as much as my brother and I do! Maybe you can put on Rocky and Bullwinkle and make it complete!

PS  I love hot cherry peppers so much that I make my own every summer!  I pickled them with black peppercorns, bay leaves and peeled garlic this year! Also Scarpariello means shoemaker.  Don’t ask! It makes no sense to me why it’s called that.

 

Chicken Scarpariello

serves 4

_DSC0130

Ingredients:

 

4 Boneless Chicken breasts about a pound

½ cup of flour

Salt pepper

Canola Oil for frying

4 cloves of garlic

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

½  cup of white wine

½ chicken stock

½ cup of butter

4 hot cherry peppers packed in vinegar (slivered with seeds removed)

4 small Yukon potatoes (peeled and sliced in rounds boiled until tender)

 

Procedure:

 

  1. Cut chicken in chunks

  2. Place cut up chicken in a zip lock bag with flour, salt and pepper to taste and shake._DSC0121

  3. Place in a colander and shake off flour_DSC0124

  4. Fry chicken in Canola Oil

  5. Drain chicken on paper towels_DSC0126

  6. Slice garlic and                      _DSC0125

  7. Saute garlic in 2 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil until a pale brown_DSC0127

  8. Add wine, chicken stock, and butter and cook on medium heat ( salt and pepper to taste) _DSC0128

  9. Add cooked chicken and potatoes and cook until bubbly.

    _DSC0129

    Chicken Scarpariello

  10. You may add a few tablespoons of vinegar that peppers were packed in for extra tartness

  11. My Pickled Hot Cherry Peppers with black peppercorns, bay leaves and peeled garlic!    _DSC0131

Understanding Olive Oil

Olive oils from around the world

For the past five years, I have been doing seminars for our local farm market.  I concentrate on sharing inside information that I have learned from my passion for food.  This year I decided to investigate olive oils from around the world.  With all this hype on olive oils lately what do we really know about them?

So, let me share how it came to be that I am so passionate about olive oil.   As you probably know by now if you have been following my blog entries, my parents came from Italy to the US in the late 1950’s. So, while growing up we would often go to Italy to visit our relatives.  My dad came from the town of Monte di Procida while my mom was from the island of Ischia.  Both overlooked the bay of Naples.  There is one memorable experience that made a real impact and was the catalyst for my passion for food.  I must have been around 10 years old.  My nonna handed me an empty green bottle and asked me to go to the corner store ‘Rosarios’ to fill up the bottle with olive oil.  My chest filled up with self-importance with this chore.  Never been allowed to walk to ‘Rosarios’ by myself before, I relished this task.  That may be why I paid extra attention to Nonna drizzling the thick green oil over the tomatoes we were going to have for lunch.  I noticed that when she put it back in the cupboard she placed it next to a clear bottle of oil.  I asked nonna why she had 2 bottles of oil.  She explained to me that the clear bottle is used for frying and the green oil is for everything else. That afternoon I took notice on how delicious the tomato salad was.  That taste of olive oil was embedded into my memory.  When we came back to the US I often wondered why we didn’t have that same olive oil.  When I moved out of my parents’ home I was on a mission to find a comparable olive oil.  So, while my friends were all tasting their first beer I was tasting olive oil.

You think I am weird?  Recently I had the occasion to ask my son who went to Italy to visit with his grandmother at the age of 10 years old what he remembers most about that trip. I had been talking to my cousin who resides in Italy and her kids to this day talk about when Josh went to visit.  It was 19 years ago, so I wondered if my son even remembered.  And this is how I know that he is my son.  He said that he still thinks about that delicious tomato and tuna salad that my cousin made.  He still is searching to find that same taste! And I believe it’s the olive oil.

The reason both he and I are so crazed about this olive oil is that it wasn’t until the 1980’s that extra virgin olive oil was even made available in America. In the 1980’s the International Olive Oil Council started sponsoring and promoting research about the healthy “Mediterranean diet.”  This coincided with the Slow Food movement emerging from Turin, emphasizing the European style artisanal approach to crafting food products.  Finally, olive oil was distributed in the U.S. It was successful marketing of olive oil that contributed to the olive boom!  Because of the wide marketing campaign of healthy olive oil, consumption of olive oil worldwide from 1990 to present blew up.  The US consumption increased by 250%.  The United Kingdom increased by 763%. Consumption in Italy Greece and Spain increased minimally because it was always part of their diet. So, Olive Oil business has become a gold mine and everyone wants to get in on it.  So, that’s why you see so many more countries involved in growing olive trees and making oil.

As I have been talking to people and reading up about olive oil, I realized that many Americans although knowledgeable about the health benefits of olive oil, don’t know what a good olive oil is supposed to taste like. For that matter, Americans may not realize that to have health benefits it has to be unrefined extra virgin olive oil.  We have all become so accustomed to the cheaper supermarket big chain olive oils that we have no idea what a good olive oil is even supposed to taste like. Our palates have become accustomed the bad characteristics of Olive Oil as typical. That’s why I have this need to share with you what I have learned about Olive oils and what you may be missing out on!

Good Characteristics of Olive oil are the following:

Fruity, Bitter and pungent (the peppery characteristic you feel at the back of your throat. Olive oil should taste fresh and not heavy and oily.

The bad characteristics are:  Fusty from olives that are gathered in piles.  Musty when olive is stored in humid environment. Sometimes metallic if it comes in contact with prolonged contact with metal during storage. And the most common is rancid.  It has gone bad. Almost like the taste of stale crackers that are made with fat. Olive oil only has a shell life of 2 years.  But once it’s opened you need to use it within a month or two.

   During my seminar, we all tasted olive oils from around the world. So, to understand what we tasted I went over a few things that are important when picking out an olive oil.

There are several factors that impact the taste of olive oils. So, that by understanding what you like will impact what country olive oil you will gravitate to.

  1. variety of olives used
  2. location and soil condition
  3. environmental factors and weather. 2 years ago, Italy had a disease that affected many olive groves.  This past year Spain has been having lots of rain that impacted the olives groves where production was at an all-time low.  You will see a rise in the price of Spanish olive oil.
  4. Olive ripeness. Green olives are bitter while ripe olives are fruity
  5. Timing of the harvest. If you wait too long the olives get too ripe and will bruise causing the olive oil to not taste good.
  6. Length of time between the harvest and pressing. The longer the wait between harvest and pressing the more the olive gets damaged and bruised yielding a terrible olive oil.  That’s why estate olive oil is so much better.  They go directly from the tree to the press.  The bigger national olive oils will collect olives from all over and transport them to a manufacturing plant.  The olives get too ripe and acquire mold.  They are cheaper because it is mass produced but the olive oil is not very good.
  7. The very best oils come from small producers who have complete control over their orchard, the harvesting of the fruit, the pressing of the olives, and the storage and eventual bottling of the product. Ripe olives are easily bruised…
  8. Additionally, the press and the bottling facility must be readily available, ideally on the farm itself. Ripe olives are easily bruised and must be held in small containers before pressing in order to avoid being squeezed by their own weight and begin deterioration. A controlled environment with ultra-sanitary conditions is paramount. The pressing process must be accomplished in the briefest time possible.
  9. Pressing technique. The best oils are pressed within a few hours, and certainly not to exceed 24 hours after the harvest, any delay beyond this time frame has a detrimental effect on the quality of the oil.  The pressing to extract the oil must happen quickly and at a controlled temperature of (ideally) of less than 80 degrees F.
  10. Packaging and storing.
  11. Being a fruit, olives contain natural antioxidants that protect the plant during its lifetime. When the olive tree is very old it contains more of these antioxidants. This is one of the reasons that olive trees are often hundreds of years old and create antioxidant rich products

 

 

Estate olive oils –  are the cream of the crop.  They are produces using olives from a single farm.  The olives are usually handpicked and then pressed and bottles at the estate.  In Italy, they are called DOP.  These olives oils are more expensive.

Blends – two types of blends are either blends from different countries or olives from diverse areas of one country are combines.  The bulk blended oils are the most economical but are still high quality.

Color –

  1. Green comes from unripe olives and are slightly bitter.
  2. Emerald tinged have fruity, grassy and peppery that dominate the food that you use them on.
  3. Golden color is made from ripe olives. Golden olive oil has a milder, smoother buttery taste without bitterness. These are good with foods that you don’t want overshadowed with olive oil taste.

Acidity

To start with, if you purchase quality EVOO the acidity level is already low at no more than .8% (That’s less than 1%) Acidity levels are determined solely by the variety of olive and by production methods. Some olives have a naturally higher acidity level. If they are not harvested with care and quickly processed into olive oil they will have even greater levels. Some on the other hand have lower acidity to start but if they are not harvested and processed properly the levels will increase. This is why olives from the same variety and the same grove can produce different grades of olive oil. If the olives are picked and pressed within 24 hours, as all of the ones in my line are, they will never have acidity levels greater than the required .8%.  If oils are blended, as is done routinely with lower grade and refined olive oil it can produce lower acidity levels and then be passed off as “extra virgin”.

So long as the oil is real EVOO (and many are not even though they claim to be) there is no reason to choose based on acidity. It should be based on taste and what one wants to do with the olive oil

Refined Olive Oils

Only about 30 percent of all olive oil production ends at extracting the oil from the olives. Refining involved using solvents and high heat to neutralize the tastes of the oil. This allows producers to use olives that are not in the best condition, and blend from oils from a wide variety of sources (even countries) because the bad tastes resulting from oxidized olives and the mass production process are chemically removed. When you see “Pure Olive Oil” at the store, or a bottle that says simply “Olive Oil,” “Genuine”, “Light”, “certified”, these are refined.  Refined has no antioxidants! So, they don’t meet the criteria for International Olive Oil healthy diet.

HOW TO TASTE OLIVE OIL

Tasting olive oil straight is the best way to judge its quality. Pour a little in a small glass and warm the glass in one hand, while covering it with the other. Now put your nose into the glass to sense the aromas. Hopefully, it reminds you of things like fresh olives, grass, bananas and apples. Hay, cardboard, vinegar, mud and mustiness are some of the aromas that indicate an olive oil has gone bad.

STORING OLIVE OIL

You can keep unopened olive oil in a cool, dark place for up to two years (high quality olive oil will last longer than one that wasn’t great to begin with).

Once you open the container, the oil begins to degrade much faster. A good rule of thumb is to use it within a few months after opening. Keep the bottle tightly capped and away from heat and direct light. The best strategy is to use olive oil often, and go through it quickly.

Extra virgin olive oil and wine also share the same “enemies:” heat, oxygen and light.  Olive oils have a relatively short shelf life and once the bottles are opened and exposed to oxygen, the oils will naturally begin to break down and lose both their organoleptic and nutritive properties.  Freshness therefore, becomes a huge issue, although older oils can still be excellent cooking oils. Storage after purchase is also important.  If possible, extra virgin olives oils are best stored in a cool, dark place like a cabinet.  Do not store or display your oil on or near your stove or on a window sill.

What is Extra Virgin Olive Oil?

  1. the oil must come from fresh olives that were milled within 24 hours of their harvest.
  2. it must be extracted by mechanical means, not from heat or chemicals. It’s called unrefined.

3.They must not be treated chemically in any way.

  1. Extra virgin oil is, in fact, fresh olive juice.

5.Being a fruit, olives contain natural antioxidants that protect the plant during its lifetime. When the olive tree is very old it contains more of these antioxidants. This is one of the reasons that olive trees are often hundreds of years old and create antioxidant rich products.

Extra-virgin olive oil (cold pressed) is the best. 

          But how do we know if it is the real thing and not a fraud olive oil?

7 Tips for Recognizing Real Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1.Do not buy light olive oil or a blend; it isn’t virgin quality.

  1. When extra virgin olive oil costs less than $10 a liter it may not be real.
  2. Only buy oils in dark bottles, as this protects the oil from oxidation.
  3. Look for a seal from the International Olive Oil Council (IOC)
  4. Look for a harvesting date on the label.
  5. Olive oil can get old and rancid. A simple test for a “good” olive oil is to taste a little on a spoon. Not rancid, real olive oil will have a fruity taste in the front of your mouth and a peppery taste in the back of your mouth.
  6. How about the fridge test as stated by Dr Oz? He said that when you put a real extra-virgin olive oil in the refrigerator, it will become thick and cloudy as it cools completely. That is not a for sure test (some oils made from high-wax olive varieties will even solidify) according to a Fridge Test

Olive Oils from Around the World  

When buying olive oil, you’ll see varieties from all over the world.  Most of the world’s supply are grown in Spain, Italy and Greece.  Traditionally olive trees have been located in countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea because they need hot summers and mild winters. But now other countries are participating in the production of Olive Oil which includes other oils that we will be trying from California, France, Turkey and even Israel!

HOW TO TASTE OLIVE OIL

Tasting olive oil straight is the best way to judge its quality. Pour a little in a small glass and warm the glass in one hand, while covering it with the other. Now put your nose into the glass to sense the aromas. Hopefully, it reminds you of things like fresh olives, grass, bananas and apples. Hay, cardboard, vinegar, mud and mustiness are some of the aromas that indicate an olive oil has gone bad.

The following Extra Virgin Olive Oils are Available at Adams Fairacre Farms

Turkey – Kristal –

  1. ($16.63 per quart 25 fl oz. is 12.99 Turkey)
  2. Rich and Intense or smooth and fresh depending on olives used. We are tasting the smooth and fresh
  3. Major producer of olive oil having a long history of growing olive trees

California, US –  California Olive

  1. ($18.91 per quart $9.99 for 16.9 fl ounce)
  2. oil Blend – This all-American pick wowed testers with its smooth, subtle taste—think gentle apple notes with a hint of spice.
  3. Californian olive oil is light in color and flavor, with a bit of a fruity taste.
  4. For cooking!
  5. California heads in production in the US with their 250 different types of olives.
  6. Texas, Florida and Oregon also have entered the market.

Sicily Italy –  Partanna 100% organic      

  1. ($25.59 per quart $19.99 for 25 fl ounce)
  2. This buttery, sometimes it is unfiltered selection
  3. Use it over grilled vegetables and fish.
  4. Modest price for drizzling!
  5. Adams Private Label Olive oil is from Sicily

Israel – Sindyanna of Galilee

  1. ($30.09 per quart 17 oz is $15.99)
  2. fruity blend with green apple and fresh thyme notes
  3. Israel along with Jordan, Lebanon and Syria are actively increasing their olive growing.

Greece –  Gaea Sitia (estate grown) Green and fruity Gold award in 2016 NY International Olive Oil Competition

  1. ($30.10 per quart $15.99 17 fluid ounce)
  2. Greek olive oil packs a strong flavor and aroma and tends to be green.
  3. Greece produces about 13 percent of the world’s olive supply.
  4. History has it that Greece is the place of origin for olive oil because the olive and the tree have a large part in Greek mythology and the olive branch was given to winners at the Olympic games. Although Spain and Italy have surpassed production.

Spain – Pio del Ramo – mild- arbequina or intense Picual or balanced blend        Tasting the Picual today!

  1. ($35.95 per quart – 16.9 fl oz is 18.99)
  2. Spanish olive oil is typically golden yellow with a fruity, nutty flavor.
    1. Spain produces about 45 percent of the world’s olive supply. Largest producer and volume is heavily directed toward export. They export in barrels where Italy is primarily bottled.

Northern Italy – Lucini Premium extra virgin olive oil.  Gold award in the 2016 NY international Olive Oil Competition.

  1. ($37.63 per quart $19.99 for 17 fluid oz)
  2. They have 20 regions that they grow loves along with the island of Sardinia and Sicily.
  3. Italian olive oil is often dark green and has an herbal aroma and a grassy flavor.
  4. Italy grows about 20 percent of the world’s olives. 2nd largest producer of olive oil.

France – Le Chateau d’Estoublon single variety olives

  1. ($85.16 per qt $17.99 for 6.76 fl oz)
  2. French olive oil is typically pale in color and has a milder flavor.
  3. While French production of olive oil are very small by world standards they are very proud of their quality and distinctive taste.

 

White Bean (Cannellini) Soup

( Easy and quick to make and so delicious!!)

Ingredients

1 can of cannellini beans

½ cup of 825 MAIN Marinara Sauce

2 bay leaves

2-3 shallots

a clove of garlic (crushed with the palm of your hand)

1 quart of vegetable stock or chicken stock

1 piece of Parmigiana cheese rind

 Extra virgin olive oil

Chopped parsley

 

Procedure 

  1. Chop the shallots in small chunks, not too fine.
  2. Put in a pot the shallots, garlic, bay leaves, 825 MAIN Marinara Sauce, Parmigiana cheese rind, and beans with the stock
  3. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer. Cook for 20 mins.
  4. Add salt to taste if the stock is unsalted
  5. Serve with a spiral of olive oil and some chopped parsley.

Pesto Sauce

pesto cartoon 024Part 2  Cooking for my Childhood Friends

        “As I dropped the pasta in the pot of boiling water I called out to my friends, “How do you want the pasta cooked?”  I was wincing waiting for the answer.  They all matter-of-factly answered together, “al dente!” My heart leaped for joy as I realized they have come a long way from when I first met them 50 years ago!

   Growing up in Hyde Park so many years ago, I was always taken aback whenever pasta was served.  I am not talking the way it was served in the school cafeteria.  They did have a lot of children to serve!  But I could never bring myself to eat the school cafeteria pasta.  Depending on whom the lunch lady was, the spaghetti varied between, large worm- like spaghetti swirling on my plate with runny sauce or it was scooped out with an ice cream scoop.

  Even the neighborhood deli always had cooked pasta with sauce in their display case.  I often rode my bike to the corner store with my friends to get candy.  I would find myself looking on with curiosity when the deli man  scooped up cold pasta mixed with sauce into containers. Watching him squish down the pasta to make room for more, I shuddered as the soft pasta flattened into a pudding like consistency.  I just couldn’t understand why someone would want to eat that mush!

     One day I had an opportunity to watch neighbor-hood mom cook pasta and I began to understand this phenomenon.  When we made pasta at home it was always well attended to.  Meaning when you dropped the pasta in the boiling water my mom stood by stirring and checking when the pasta was done.  Just when my mom thought it was ready she would take it out blow on it and would hand it to me. I had the privilege to tell her when it was “al dente”. “Al dente” was when it was just short of being fully cooked through, firm but not soft. The pasta was then immediately drained and plated into individual plates which was served right away. We actually had an assembly line to the table to speed up the process.

   When my neighbor cooked pasta, it was left in the pot boiling while she attended to other cooking.  The pasta boiled and boiled.  After the water was good and starchy she drained the soft limp pasta. But that wasn’t enough! She then washed the gooey pasta to make sure all the goop was rinsed away.  It was then put in a large bowl with sauce. It sat while everyone slowly came to the table.  Maybe that’s why cooked pasta was offered at the deli.  This mush pasta took all day to make!

      Years ago American pasta was not made from durum wheat. It was made from the same flour they used for soft bread. So technically it was hard to make pasta “al dente”. Besides needing a quick technique to serve pasta one also needed imported pasta from Italy made from durum wheat.  Italian pasta was so much more expensive back then and not accessible to everyone.

     America has come a long way. We have so many more options now and most pasta is made from durum wheat.  I have to believe that my Italian family had a large part in the way pasta is served today. Well at least in Hyde Park! “


Fresh Pesto

 

Ingredients:

1 cup of chopped fresh Italian parsley

1 ½ cup chopped fresh basil

½  cup grated cheese ( parmagiana is best)

½  extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup toasted walnut or

¼ cup of toasted pignoli nuts

1 clove garlic

¼ tsp salt

½ boiled potato (1/4 mashed)  yellow potato is creamiest to use

 

Procedure:

 Add parsleyparsley 1

basil,basil

and coarsely chop

chop the basil

Toast the pignoli in a small skillet for a few minutes until lighty brownedtoast the pignoli

Add grated parmagiana cheese, garlic, olive oil and saltadd ingredients for pesto

Blend together either in blender, food processor or an immersion blender. Then add boiled yellow potato mix and then add cooked potato

 and continue blending

creamy blended pesto

 It is ready to serve.  Pesto is served mixed in with pasta.  Of course pasta “al dente”

     I made my friends a pasta that was served in the restaurant.  It was pasta that was layered with a ladle of hot marinara, a scoop of pesto, and topped with spoon of ricotta cheese.  We called it:

Pasta Amalfitano!

pesto amailfitano

Buon’ Appetito!

La Scuola di Eataly – Olive Oil

eataly meets 825

825 MAIN Marinara is learning so much from Eataly about olive oils!

I have been on a quest to learn more about the olive oil that I put in the 825 MAIN Marinara.  I know what I like and what I don’t like. I needed to find out why so as to know what to use in my product. I have been on a whirlwind of tasting olive oils.  I must have tasted about 30 so far from all different regions even ones from Texas. All this tasting that I have done didn’t give me the answer I was looking for. What makes a good olive oil? So I signed my husband and I for a class at La Scuola di Eataly where Lydia Bastianich is the dean. We were both going to get a better understanding of the world of olive oil.

The Flatiron Building

So we arrived to the Flatiron district of NYC to find Eataly. The beautiful Flatiron building points us to Eataly. The Flatiron was built in 1909 and was once the tallest building in NY designed by Chicago’s Daniel Burnham as a vertical Renaissance palazzo with Beaux-Arts styling. In 2009 an Italian real estate company from Rome bought the building.  Hmm…how apropos!

The first Eataly originated in Turin, Italy in 2007 and became a fast growing chain.  Eataly in NYC is the largest artisanal Italian food and wine marketplace in the world.  Mario Batali partnered up with Lydia and Joe Bastianich to open up this extraordinary marketplace.  It was so busy when we got there on a Saturday.  It was overwhelming and so exciting to be amongst all this wonderful food.  It was like a condensed outdoor market you would find in any Italian city.  At this point I think there was more people jam packed in here than all of Italy.

It was like a condensed outdoor market you would find in any Italian city. At this point I think there was more people jam packed in here than all of Italy

Prosciutto, salami and sausage hanging everywhere!

When were finally pointed to La Scuola we were pleasantly surprised to see perfectly placed desks in a beautiful kitchen.  All the desks were set with brown paper placemats with Eataly stamped glasses and a big basket of artisanal Italian bread.  My husband and I were in heaven. It was going to be a very pleasant adventure with our instructors, Nicholas Coleman and Chef Dave Pasternack.

Aren’t those desks so adorable?

 

I am going to give you a super condensed version of what we learned.  My husband and I considered ourselves somewhat knowledgeable on olive oils.  We found out we don’t know anything!  I have listed some of what we learned.

We tried 4 olive oils from Italy from Liguria, Lazio, Tuscany, and Sicily

1. The only olive oil one should buy is extra virgin olive oil.  Anything that uses any other word before olive oil is substandard. Also there is no use in buying organic olive oil.  It is one of the least pesticide ridden fruit.

 

2. An olive oil in clear glass or plastic is a big no no!!  The taste of  plastic compromises the olive oil.  Clear glass speeds up the spoilage of the olive oil. Good olive oil containers are dark glass or tin containers.  Although some good olive oils are packaged in clear glass to market to the Americans.  Americans like to see what they buy. Ugh!  Let’s boycott clear glass olive oils!  Spread the word! We Americans are educated and know what’s best. Well now I do after this class!

La Scuola di Eatlay with Nicholas Coleman and Chef Pasternack

 

3. Don’t buy olive oils where the label reads “Product of Italy” with no mention of the Olive cultivator or a region specified.

 

4. Olive oil is regarded as fresh fruit juice. And is to be treated as such.  It spoils.  It does not age as fine wine. No wonder as much as I search for that olive oil taste that I experienced in Italy, I haven’t been able to find it here on the east coast of America.  What I was tasting was fresh squeezed olive oil. The fresher the oil the greener it is.  And I will never find it unless I go to Puglia and drink from a spout of freshly milled Olive oil!

 

 

5. When our recipes call for extra virgin olive oil it is a generic term.  In reality olive oil varies from country to country, region to region, even year to year from the same olive grove. Even the way the olives are harvested is important to the taste.  The best olive oils are hand harvested and thus very expensive. I figured out that taste that I absolutely can’t stand in certain olive oils.  I thought it may be the type of olive or the region. I learned what that taste is.  The cheaper olive oils are harvested by machines so even the over ripe and rotten olives are gathered.  So the quantity and speed of the olives harvested affects the taste and the price of the olive oils.

This is an olive oil spec. It lists where the olive oil is grown, what kind of olives were used, who the cultivator is,when they were cultivated, what the acid content to just name a few specs.

6.  So one of the most interesting thing that we learned was the peppery taste in olive oils.  When you taste the olive oil straight from the bottle (which is a ritual in our family with a fresh loaf of Italian bread) that peppery taste that is evident in better olive oils.  We thought it tasted hot and sometimes it catches in the back of your throat and makes you cough.  Well the more peppery taste you get the higher the antioxidants.

 

 

7.  Even the pits are crushed when making olive oil!

 

8.  Lastly, there are different uses for extra virgin olive oils.  The milder ones are used for delicate foods like fish while the robust ones are used for tomato sauces.

 

 

9.   I almost forgot.  One little bit of trivia he shared.  Truffle olive oil is a scam.  It is synthetic truffle flavor.  Truffles have water in them and water and oil don’t mix.

Pesce Crudo del Giorno

 

So all in all we enjoyed ourselves immensely. While we educated our brains our palates were getting pampered!  Sorry for so few food pictures after the first course I just dug in without taking pictures! It was a delicious learning session!  We learned how to warm the olive oil cupping the cup in between our palms.  The tasting part kind of reminded me of camels.  Haha!  We had to slurp the olive oil in our mouths and then like a reverse spit spraying the inside of our mouth so every taste bud could be coated! It was quite funny!  I had to really contain myself without bursting out in laughter!  Thanks to Nicholas and Chef Dave we tasted 4 different varieties of olive from 4 different olives from 3 regions of Italy.  They were so buttery and luscious!  The difference between the robust olive oils and the mellow ones was the grassy taste.  And some were more peppery than others.  Going to Lydia Bastianich’s La Scuola di Eatlay was a great adventure!

Everything was set up so beautifully!