Sunday, March 28, 2010

Olive Oil Fiesta

Olive oil is such a pantry staple in my kitchen. I use it all the time. Mix it with balsamic vinegar for simple salads. Drizzle it over pasta. Cook with it. Sometimes even bake with it.

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So when an invitation came from Sizzling Communications to attend a Spanish olive oil tasting, how could I turn it down? Firstly, I love olive oil, and secondly, I knew nothing about Spanish olive oils. Italian olive oils usually grace my countertop. This was a great opportunity for me to learn about oils that I was unfamiliar with and from a different region. (Did you know that Spain is now the largest producer of olive oil in the world? I didn’t!)

Hosted at the fine food store Pimentón, the tasting was led by Dolores Smith, the olive oil expert from The Olivar Corp, who brought along with her 7 different Spanish olive oils. We only managed to get through 5 during the tasting.

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The feature olive oil of the evening was the Full Moon, a new oil on the market this year. What’s unique about this oil is that it is picked when the moon is the fullest during the year (that would be October 4 back in 2009), which is considered very early in the picking season. The olives are picked at 6 am in the morning for the span of one week, and are pressed within one hour of harvest. Full Moon is also a monovarietal oil and is made solely from arbequina olives. This is an incredibly delicate and smooth oil, with notes of green tomato, wheatgrass and hints of unripe banana. It really is a beautiful oil that comes in a super sexy packaging—a black glass cube-shaped bottle (interesting how they didn’t try to go for a globular shape to reflect a “full moon”).

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The second feature of the evening was the Oro de San Carlos, which is pressed from arbequina and Cornicabra olives. This is a medium olive oil with a more peppery finish compared to the Full Moon (this is caused by the anti-oxidants in the oil), and makes an excellent cooking and deep-frying oil. Taste-wise, it has much greener notes compared to the Full Moon, and I also tasted hints of rosemary.

Aside from the Full Moon and Oro, we also tried Dauro, an award-winning oil that’s used for the Nobel Prize Award dinners, Ame, and the intense Rincon, the world’s most awarded olive oil.

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To end the evening, we were treated to some wonderful tapas from Spanish food expert Lola Csullog-Fernandez, who used Gasull and Oro de San Carlos olive oils in the preparation of some of the tapas. A selection of Spanish wines were also provided by Lifford Wine Agency. While all the tapas were equally delicious, here were highlights for me:
- Salchichón Ibérico popcorn croquetas
- Lamb meatballs with membrillo oro de san carlos alioli
- Deep-fried pimentón chickpeas

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More pictures from the tasting can be viewed here. A huge thank you goes out to Dolores, Chef Lola and Mary Luz of Sizzling Communications for putting on a wonderful evening. It was certainly a great learning experience, and certainly not one in vain…

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…because I ended up picking up a bottle of Dauro. This ended up being a favourite of mine that evening (along with Full Moon—which will soon be available in Toronto at Pantry along with the Oro de San Carlos). It’s on the delicate side and much like the Full Moon and Oro, the olives are pressed within one hour of harvesting. This oil also has a cloudier appearance as it is unfiltered (which will reduce the shelf life of the oil). In the tasting, I noted hints of grass, watermelon and green apple—a very refreshing and light oil.

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Inspired by the olive oil tasting, I decided to create an olive oil-inspired menu. The meal started off with a simple Arugula, Fennel, Green Apple and Walnut Salad. The arugula was lightly dressed in a red wine vinaigrette, and I finished off the salad with a drizzle of Dauro.

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The main was a Roast Pork Tenderloin with Black Olive Tapenade, served alongside some roast asparagus and olive oil smashed purpled potatoes. The saltiness and slight bitterness from the olives in the tapenade works so well with the mildness of the pork. And trust me, skip the butter. Potatoes are fabulous made with olive oil, especially when you are using a high-quality one! (And I absolutely loved all the vibrant colours on the plate! Makes for a gorgeous presentation!)

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The meal ended with some lovely gelato—fiordilatte and mandorla (almond)—that picked up from Il Gelatiere. I drizzled some Dauro on top and gave a tiny sprinkle of fleur de sel. The sweetness and creaminess of the gelato, and it helps heighten the fruitiness of this wonderful olive oil.

If you ever have a chance in the future, go for an olive oil tasting, or go to your local gourmet shop. Sometimes they’ll offer olive oils for tasting. It’s important to invest in a good quality bottle that’s not just for everyday use, and also something that you’ll really love. A little goes a long way!

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Roast Pork Tenderloin with Tapenade, Roast Asparagus and Olive Oil Smashed Purple Potatoes
Serves 2

1 1 1/2-lb pork tenderloin, excess fat and silverskin removed
Handful of fresh thyme
2 rosemary sticks
2 small clove garlic, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, slightly crushed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the tapenade:
1 cup kalamata olives, pitted
2 anchovy fillets
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3 tablespoon olive oil
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Small handful fresh parsley
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the roast asparagus:
1/2 lb asparagus, the tough ends snapped off
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice

For the smashed potatoes:
1/2 lb purple potatoes (or any potato variety of your choice)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fruity olive oil
Small handful fresh parsley

For the tapenade: In a food processor, place the olives, anchovy fillets, red wine vinegar, lemon juice and parsley. Pulse until you get a coarse paste, and with the food processor still running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until a wet paste is create. Remove the tapenade into a small bowl and set aside until ready to use.

For the pork: Drizzle some olive oil over the pork tenderloin, Season with salt and pepper, fresh thyme (leaves picked) and fennel seeds, and rub into the pork. On a piece of plastic wrap, place a layer of garlic and rosemary side by side. Place the pork on top, and then top the pork with wit the remaining garlic slices and rosemary (again, side by side). Roll the pork up tightly in the plastic wrap and allow to marinate in the fridge overnight.

Remove the pork 1 hour before you plan to cook it.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Heat some olive oil in a heavy oven-proof pan over medium-high heat and sear the pork until brown on all sides. Place the pan in the oven and roast for about 10 to 12 minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted in the centre of the tenderloin reads 140-145°F. Remove the pork to a cutting board and allow it to rest for 10 minutes, covering it with some aluminum foil.

For the smashed potatoes: While the pork is searing, bring a pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Rinse the potatoes and add them to the water; boil for 15 minutes, or until tender. Drain, let cool for 5 minutes, and peel the potatoes while still warm. Place in a bowl and using a fork, smash the potatoes into chunky pieces. Stir in the olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Finish with the chopped parsley. Keep warm.

For the asparagus: Place asparagus on a small roasting pan. Drizzle with a little olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Roast in a 400°F oven (same temperature as for the pork) for 15 minutes, or until the tips start browning and are crisp. Remove and give it a squeeze of lemon juice.

To assemble: Divide the smashed potatoes onto two warmed plates. Stick some asparagus to one side of the potatoes. Slice the pork tenderloin into 1-inch thick slices and place 3 to 4 slices on each plate (or more if you desire!). Spoon some tapenade on top of the pork slices and enjoy!


Mardi Michels March 28, 2010 at 5:21 p.m.  

Great post and I am impressed you picked up a bottle of Dauro and got cooking with it. That pork looks amazing!

Melody Fury // March 28, 2010 at 7:03 p.m.  

mmm :) I bet the nice olive oil made all the difference in the tapenade.

Amine January 20, 2011 at 12:05 p.m.  

Thank you great article : Extra Virgin Olive Oil

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