Cook in the Moment: Spring Pea & Herb Salad with Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

Spring Pea & Herb Salad with Extra-Virgin Olive Oil (c)2012

Olive Oil, More Than Just a Commodity

Olive oil- to us, it’s just food. Many of us here in the U.S. have never seen a gnarled olive tree. Olive oil comes from isle 9 in the grocery store, with no history, no context, only pictures on bottle labels depicting romantic Italian villas. Olive oil is a commodity. Merriam Webster defines commodity as “a mass-produced unspecialized product.” Reading Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil, by Tom Mueller, took me on a journey through the olive growing regions of the world, beginning in Italy, passing through Spain, Greece, Australia, and California. Amongst discussion of olive oil pressing methods, olive oil tasting notes, and corruption in the olive oil industry, the pit stop that stuck with me most was Palestine. In an interview with Ehud Netzer, an archaeologist at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Mueller explores the olive branch as a symbol of peace since ancient times, now warped into an emblem of conflict:


10 Ways Tuesday: Olive Oil

Olive Oil (c)2012


I’ve got creative recipes for cooking with olive oil during spring:


1.  Salad Dressing

Watching Jamie Oliver dress a salad with olive oil gets me excited. He’s easygoing about it, adding a splash of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon- no measuring. He’s passionate, tasting and tossing the leaves, exclaiming over the beauty of a perfect radish or the peppery bite of a well-made olive oil. The man makes beautiful, vibrant salads that are a celebration of the season, and he’s the inspiration behind my Spring Pea and Herb Salad, to be featured on the blog this week. The idea that I take from Jamie Oliver is that a salad doesn’t need a fancy vinaigrette with twenty ingredients. Sometimes, the only thing a salad needs is the lubrication and flavor of a high-quality extra-virgin olive oil. Whether you’re tossing together a simple spring greens salad or a medley of peas, beans, and herbs, the vibrant fresh flavors should stand out and not be overwhelmed by an acidic dressing. Next time you toss together a spring salad, try just using your favorite olive oil, and maybe a squeeze of lemon with a dash of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.


Ingredient of the Week: Olive Oil

Ingredient Of The Week - Olive Oil

During spring I begin to crave the freshly pressed, peppery, herbal flavor of olive oil. In the winter months I tend to use butter more in my cooking, but spring is a time for sitting on the patio with a glass of rosé, dragging ragged pieces of crusty bread through a pool of olive oil on my plate. I savor the fruity aroma and bitter finish in the back of my throat. The many varieties of olives mean each olive oil has a unique flavor, from rich and fruity to green and spicy. Explore the world of olive oil the same way you would wine- by tasting. Spring is the season for freshly pressed olive oils from the Northern Hemisphere regions, such as the Mediterranean (including Spain, Italy, and Greece), the Middle East, and California. When buying olive oil, seek out a shop where the owners are passionate about their produce and offer you a taste in the store. Read labels carefully and research producers. According to the book, Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil, it’s good to remember that olive oil is simply the juice of a tree fruit, olives. Virgin oil is made by grinding and extracting the juice from the olive- no chemicals or heat are involved. Extra-virgin refers to the quality of the olive oil, determined to be without any documented faults (rancid flavors, etc.) by professional tasters.