The Worlds Best Olive Oil and a Give Away!

On a weekend outing recently I had the honor to meet an inspiring , charming Greek man whose family owns olive groves in Greece.

The family produces some of the best olive oil I have ever tasted. Pure, green, fruity, this oil is unlike anything you have ever tried.

The olive tree, one of the bases of Greek agri...

The oil is extra virgin, undiluted. This means this oil is from the first cold pressing of ripe olives. The category of extra virgin olive oil is required to have an acidity of .o8%. Theros  Undiluted Extra Virgin Olive Oil is .045%.

If you are lucky, you will get a bit of the denser oil that filters to the bottom of the barrels. There is a very small amount of this because most of the oil is drained off and bottled in the clear state. Because the oil is undiluted, more of the ‘solids’ will fall to the bottom of your bottle. Shake it up if you like or save it for an ultimate treat near the end of your oil.

Theros also produces and sells unfiltered olive oil.

When we were children, we lived in Seville, Spain for a few years. My mom would slather us kids in olive oil and tell us to go play outside for a while. After we would come in, bathe and go to bed. Our skin and hair were so smooth and lovely. I remember the distinct aroma of the rich olive oil on my skin. I loved it.

When I smelled Theros oil, my memories of Spain came flooding back, the rich ripe aroma of olive oil. I wanted to slather it and go play. Amazing, we were brown as berries but we never worried about sunscreen then, and didn’t get sunburned. Mostly anyway.

The trend lately is to know where your food comes from, buying local, sustainable, etc.  I find it limiting  to say “we only use food from 100 miles of where we are.”

Why be so limited when the world has become so accessible?

Here is a way to extend the boundaries of local to include the world. In this case Greece. Who can say no to Greece?

Taken by Nick Fraser in 2005. The fruit of an ...

Taken by Nick Fraser in 2005. The fruit of an Olive Tree (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Greek economy is in pretty bad shape now. In a small way, buying olive oil helps support the families who grow and harvest the olives. In small ways, each purchase can help the Greek economy. Small yes, but it is something.

By using our purchasing power, and choosing to buy authentic Greek olive oil, authentic Greek Feta cheese, and authentic Greek Yogurt is our own small ways we can contribute positively to support Greek economy so they can begin the recovery they need as the break away from the European Union and the Euro takes place. (In my opinion, it is a matter of when, not if.)

The Italians have had such a world-wide demand on their olive oil, most of what you find in common supermarkets can no longer be trusted to be quality olive oil of any grade.

Italy exports so much olive oil the country itself is left to buy olive oil from Spain and Greece to grace their tables. If you are buying olive oil in a market in the US, chances are rare you will see

Simple meze of feta cheese and olives: charact...

Simple meze of feta cheese and olives: characteristic Greek flavours. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

olive oil from anywhere else but Italy.

However, with the olive oil awareness and a more sophisticated demand by consumers, your chances are improving that you will find other countries of origin.

A few days ago I tested this theory in my local grocery and was pleasantly surprised to find 1 brand of Greek olive oil and 1 brand of Spanish – the rest were Italian.

Greece is ranked second in the European Union for their production of olives – 147,500 tonnes in 2010. I do not know how much was pressed into varying grades of olive oil vs being brined to eat as olives.

It would be extremely interesting to take a sabbatical from work and go harvest olives in Greece, take the olives to be pressed and learn about brining olives to make them palatable. Then to France to harvest grapes.

What a fall that would be!

Give Away Time!

Theros Olive Oil has agreed to give away 6 bottles of

Theros Undiluted Extra Virgin Olive Oil

To win one here’s what you have to do:

  1. Follow Spoon Feast on WordPress
  2. Like Theros Olive oil on Face Book and check out the amazing photos of the process
  3. Leave a comment on their Facebook page about why you like olive oil and ways you use it
  4. Leave a comment on this Spoon Feast post about why you like olive oil and ways you use it

6 winners will be chosen based upon meeting all 4 criteria above.

We will choose the most creative and delicious ways you use olive oil.

Winners will be chosen by a panel of Spoon Feast advisers.

All domestic and international shipping arrangements will be made directly with Theros Olive Oil.

You will have until Friday, June 15th to participate!

Winners will be announced on Sunday, June 17th.

Treat yourself, Check out Theros Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil!

English: Olives in olive oil.

Olives in olive oil. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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The Grill Is On! Grilled Vegetable Salad

This weekend turn the grill on and have some tasty treats. Aside from the typical dogs and burgers, I am going to suggest a grilled vegetable salad perfect for a weekend.

  • Zucchini
  • Yellow Squash
  • Eggplant – sliced and sprinkled with salt. Allow to sit and drain for 10-15 minutes. Rinse and marinade.
  • Red Peppers
  • Asparagus
  • Onions
  • Portobello Mushrooms
  • Grape  or cherry tomatoes

Slice all the vegetables; keep them separate in zip lock bags.

Add enough vinaigrette of your choice (my suggested recipe follows) to coat each slice evenly. They do not have to swim in the marinade.

Each vegetable has different cooking times so we want to place each kind of veg on the grill at the same time. This will help prevent you going bonkers while grilling if they were all mixed up.

Grill the vegetables, like items together.

Grill about 5 minutes or until each slice has a nice grill mark.

Remove from the grill and place into a large bowl. If the veg needs to be sliced after grilling, set those aside so you can cut them before combining the vegetables.

Portobello, red peppers and eggplant  and asparagus will need to be cut into bite sized pieces after grilling.

Saute tomatoes; they are too small to grill

Cherry tomatoes are too small to grill so give them a quick saute in a hot saute pan with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Blister them and they are good to go.

Toss all the grilled vegetables in a large bowl. Add additional dressing if necessary.

Garnish with fresh basil leaves.

This salad can be served either warm or cold or room temperature.

Just don’t let it sit out longer than 4 hours.

 Basic Balsamic Vinaigrette

  • * 1 clove garlic, minced fine
  • 1 shallot or sweet onion, minced fine
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • ½ cup balsamic vinegar of good quality, can be white or dark
  • 2/3-cup olive oil
  • 1/3-cup vegetable oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients except oils. Slowly add oils while whisking to emulsify.

The dressing will separate and will need a whisk or two before serving.

If you blend the oil in with a food processor or blender, the dressing will be more stable and will not separate.

*Garlic is optional. Dried minced garlic is alright to use as long as you give it time to re-hydrate

Grilled Watermelon

Uh huh, you heard that, Grilled watermelon.

Get your grill hot, really hot.

Slice watermelon about finger width or thicker slices.

Ingredients for Grilled Watermelon

Drizzle the melon with a high quality Greek olive oil such as Theros unfiltered extra virgin.

Sprinkle Herbs de Provence. Fleur de Sel (or kosher or sea salt) and grind some fresh black pepper over the oiled slices.

Place the watermelon on the hot grill for 3-4 minutes. Once grill marks appear, flip and grill the other side.

5 minutes is all it takes once you have a really hot grill. You want the melon to have some chars on it.

The flavor and texture totally changes and is a refreshing, wonderful treat!

Try it.

Smack your lips and say “Hallelujah!”

Your friends and neighbors will think you crazy at first, but they will soon be grilling their own watermelon and smacking their lips too.

Do you think Grilled Watermelon will be as popular as deep-fried turkey?

{Try it before you answer!}

Stay tuned! Find out how YOU can win a bottle of Theros Unfiltered Greek Olive Oil.

Details coming soon

Grilled Watermelon

All About Potatoes – What is the difference?

In this post, I will attempt to explain all about potatoes, explain the varieties available and when to choose one over another.

What is the difference between potatoes?

Red skin and Russet Potatoes

Next time you go shopping for potatoes, you will have a lot more knowledge about them after reading this post.

Have you ever:

  • Tried to make french fries from scratch only to have them turn out limp and soggy?

  • Tried to make potato salad or put nicely diced potatoes in a soup only to have the potatoes all fall apart?

  • Ever had your mashed potatoes turn out like glue?

  •         Had a baked potato explode on you in the oven? (Technique rather than variety is the secret)

It all has more to do with the potato you chose to make the dish with than your culinary skills, which I am sure are impeccable.

There are few categories in the potato world. Basically there are low-moisture, high-starch varieties and high-moisture, low-starch varieties.

The high starch varieties will fall apart if cooked in liquid but create light and fluffy mashed potatoes, crisp french fries and crispy chips.

Russet Potatoes – notice the dark, thick skin. Compare this to a new potato which has a thin tender skin.

The russet is the king of the low moisture-high starch category. These potatoes have thick dark skins as opposed to the thin tender skin of new potatoes.

Yukon Gold: thin skin, shallow eyes and golden flesh

The low starch – high moisture category belongs to red potatoes, Yukon gold, new potatoes. All potatoes with a tender thin skin will be high moisture, low starch potatoes.

These potatoes hold their shape in soups, casseroles and salads. Their tender skins are often deep-fried and used a receptacles for dips, spreads, chili and salsa.

Go to the store and buy some of each variety and compare them. Cut them, notice the textures. Cook some of both using a variety of cooking methods and compare results. Make notes so you can remember what you discover during this experiment.

Then we have sweet potatoes and yams.

Yams are not as high is sugar as sweet potatoes are but they taste just a good. Be careful with large varieties of these potatoes as they can get very stringy. Choose smaller, even sized, good color and smooth skins when selecting these potatoes for purchase.

Typically, sweet potatoes and yams can be used interchangeably and can be applied to a many cooking methods. The skins are not edible. Colors vary from pale yellow to deep orange and now there are garnet and purple varieties too.

Tiny new potatoes, fingerling potatoes, “potato gems” are all varieties that belong in the low starch, high moisture variety. their size and shape make them special in that you can cook them without peeling or cutting them if you wanted.

Fingerling potatoes

Some of this variety are so moist and tasty, you never miss the butter.

Have you ever seen a blue or purple potato? They really are blue or purple throughout. And they stay that way when cooked.

When you have purple asparagus or purple carrots, they lose the purple color when cooked.

Purple potatoes do not! For the most part, you can use them as a high moisture low starch potato, but they do mash well without turning into glue or paste.

Additional varieties from the potato world include Malanga, Boniato which take to any cooking method potatoes do.

Boniato, inside flesh is white. Use these as you would sweet potatoes.

Malanga

Here in the US, Melissa’s Brands offer several unusual varieties not only of potatoes but of all unusual, hard to find produce items.

Be adventurous and try a different kind of potato next time you go shopping.

When choosing what potato you want, if you want a potato to hold its shape as in soup, choose a high moisture low starch.

For fluffy mashed potatoes, select russets and run cooked potatoes through a ricer, not a mixer. perfect mashed potatoes is another post soon.

For great french fries you need a low moisture potato with high starch. Again russets are your best choice but you can also use “All-purpose potatoes” or “chef’s potatoes”. These labels indicate a moderate amount of starch and moisture and can be used in any potato recipe.

This is why sweet potato fries are mostly limp, they have too much moisture to get fluffy like russets do. Sweet potatoes also break down your frying oil faster due to the amount of natural sugar in the potato.

Quick run down:

Fluffy baked potatoes, mashed potatoes and french fries use russet potatoes

To hold the shape as in soup, potato salads, use red or white skin potatoes, you can also find blue ones in this category.

Never store potatoes in the refrigerator. The cold converts the starch to sugar.

Always store potatoes in the dark, in a dry place. I keep mine in a cabinet that isn’t used much.

If potatoes area stored in light, they will develop a green skin which is a toxic substance known as “solanin”

It would take a boatload of solanin consumption to have an effect, but it is an intestinal irritant. You choose.

There will be doing a series of posts of cooking potatoes and selecting the right one for the recipe in the next few weeks.

In the meantime, choose something different and play!

Inside of a purple potato; notice the color of the skin in the background.

Inside a baked garnet sweet potato; isn’t that a great color?!

One Lovely Blog Award!

http://acorninmykitchen.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/onelovelyblogaward1.jpg I am very flattered to Acorn in my Kitchen for granting this award to Spoon Feast.

Thank you very much.

What fun!

So here goes; 7 facts about me

1) I have lived all over the world and love the diversity of culture and languages. Paris is my favorite city. I intend to be fluent in French one day. Right now I know enough of 3 languages, French, Spanish and Japanese, to get me around and in trouble, but not enough to get me out. After I master French, Italian is next, then Portuguese. It should be easy after the others.

2) Clothes shopping is something I hate doing. Give me something to wear, I’ll wear it.

3) I can’t eat hot stuff anymore, like jalapeno or habanero peppers.

4) I stopped coloring my hair last year. There is a better way to spend time than spending hours in a chair with goop on my head. Wash, rinse, cut, dry, that’s it. I love my stylist, she gives me “sassy” cuts!

5) I went to high school in Tokyo, Japan and stay in touch with classmates.

6) Creativity runs wild in my veins. I have to create things and learn new skills or else I’ll explode. Food photography, photography in general, is a new interest.

7) I make lists of things I want/need to do; lots of lists.

Pass it Along Time!

Next the Lovely Blog Award gets passed on to 15 other bloggers, not particularly about food either.

http://acorninmykitchen.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/onelovelyblogaward1.jpg

My Italian Smorgasbord – I love her adventures with bread

Cooking in Sens – beautiful blog!

MentorBoom – Great insightful writing. Inspiring.

A Global Garnish – foodie adventures from around the world

The Faux Martha – nothing faux here, great stuff and nice pictures

Becoming Madame – a wonderful blog about French culture, food and ‘becoming French’. I look forward to every post!

Daisy’s World – beautiful photographs, lovely different recipes

A Toast and Tea – a nicely done blog with various recipes.

Homemade Delish – Fun!

Back Road Journal – More Foodie Adventures

Simply Tia – she’s always got something cooking!

Yummy Lummy – Food perspective from down under and world traveler

Tinkerbelle – Laughter is catching

Savory Simple – Always enjoyable!

Domestic Diva – Delightful! Bring a cup of tea, enjoy a good story and a great recipe.

That’s all folks!

Chocolate Pate and the Premio Cake Blog di Qualità

My dear friend Barbara at My Italian Smorgasbord, surprised me with this lovely award:

Premio Cake Blog di Qualità

Thank you So much!

I have been in a quandary as to what to post for this award. I have taken far too long to celebrate the honor. For that, I apologize.

Just as I figured out what to make, we went out-of-town to visit friends for a weekend get away.

Lucky them, they got to eat the vast amount of Chocolate Pate I made for this post.

Barbara at My Italian Smorgasbord has a lovely blog full of warm delightful recipes. I encourage all of you to go read her blog and make one of her recipes. You will be back for more!

The “rules” of the game is to share a sweet recipe, tell 7 things where sweet has influenced your life and then pass it along to 3 other fellow bloggers.

I thought long and hard about what to make for this award. Barbara’s Swedish buns were amazing.

What could I make that would be deserving of this award?

Not being much of a cake baker, I looked at other desserts I was known for at my restaurant. It was a toss-up between Chilled Key Lime Souffle and Chocolate Pate with Raspberry Coulis.

Chocolate won. I’ll make the souffle another time.

Chocolate Pate

  • 12 ounces  dark chocolate: get the best you can buy, chunks or chips
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup raspberry coulis (recipe follows)
  • 2 ounces butter
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • pinch salt

NOTES:

    •  Do not get any water into the chocolate. Even one drop will seize it up and makes it very hard to get a smooth melt. Make sure your bowl is dry!
    • To make a double boiler, simply place a heat proof bowl (Stainless steel bowl is best) over a pot with boiling water. Make sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the top of the water.
    • Check and make sure the flame from a gas stove is not reaching around the bottom of the pot and touching the sides of the bowl. This will burn the chocolate. Use a towel or pot holder to hold the edge of the bowl. It will get hot during the process.
Method:

Melt until smooth

In a double boiler, add the chocolate. If the chocolate is in bar form, break it up into bits for easier melting.

Bring the cream to a boil, add to chocolate. Stir to melt smooth.

Add the raspberry coulis, vanilla, salt, and butter. Stir to  incorporate and ensure everything has melted smooth.

Line your chosen molds with cellophane wrap. Give the wrap a light spray with a pan release spray. This allows the chocolate to be removed from the pan easily once it has chilled.

Line the molds with cellophane wrap

Pour the lined molds with chocolate to the top. Fold the cellophane wrap edges over the chocolate and chill at least 12 hours.

Fill and cover with cellophane. Chill

The chocolate pate will become firm but not hard. Remove from the mold, unwrap, and slice to serve.

You can serve it with Creme Anglaise (Vanilla Sauce) and Raspberry Coulis accented with fresh berries and mint (or basil!) for garnish.

Crème anglaise made from milk, eggs, sugar and...

Creme anglaise made from milk, eggs, sugar and vanilla (in beans) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

raspberry coulis

raspberry coulis (Photo credit: thepinkpeppercorn)

Raspberry Coulis

Use fresh or frozen berries

  • 1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup of granulated sugar or simple syrup

Place 1 cup of raspberries into a blender or food processor.

Add the sugar or syrup and blend until liquified – 1-2 minutes.

Adjust the sugar content to your taste. You may want more, others less.

Using a fine wire mesh strainer, strain the mixture through, rubbing the seeds with the back of a spoon to extract as much pulp as possible.

The bright pink seedless result is coulis. You can use almost any fruit to make a coulis.

Coulis  is simply pureed fruit or vegetables, strained so it is smooth and full flavored.

Imagine savory coulis . . . with roasted vegetables . . . the possibilities!
Plate set up:

Plated Pate

Spoon a small amount of Creme Anglaise onto a plate; spoon Raspberry Coulis beside the Anglaise. If desired, draw a toothpick, skewer or knife tip through the anglaise and coulis to create a swirled design.

Add fresh berries and a mint leaf to the plate and serve.

Please excuse the quality of the photos; I didn’t have the lighting equipment with me.

7 Sweet Things That Influenced My Life

1) Dulche de Leche – the first time I ever tasted it in Little Havana in Miami, I knew it would be in my life forever. It is one of the reasons I love Miami.

2) Fireball Jawbreakers – As a kid these were my ‘go to’ candy. My molars suffered and have had required dental treatment. My advice is to stay away from jawbreakers and dentist chairs. They go hand in hand.

3) As I love Miami, I love France for their Fleur de sel caramel. ’nuff said. I learned to make them which is a dangerous skill. It means I can have them available ALL the time. oops 😉

4) Short breads are another weakness, especially freshly made ones, with lemon glaze, and a cup of tea. This makes me a very happy girl!

5) Anything with puff pastry or pie dough. I like making them both, making things with them, eating things made with them. There is never a scrap thrown away.

6) Ice cream and sorbet especially home-made ones. Fun thing to do with gatherings of people. I love having just a small “amuse bouche” between hot courses of a meal.

7) This isn’t a like, but really a dislike: cake. I hate cake; making them, frosting them, the way they look, smell, even the sound of the word. Cake, ew. If I had to use a word, ‘gateau’ would work much nicer that ‘cake’.
The last cake I made I punched it down to the ground. Then kicked it. Cake murder. I vowed then never to make another cake. So far, I haven’t had to. YAY!

(Hum, will they take the award away now? The award name has ‘cake’ in it!)

This is where I pass it along!

The Premio Cake Blog di Qualità Now Goes to:

Choco chip Uru

This young lady’s blog is full of fun and delicious creations. She shares what works and what doesn’t with a great sense of humor. Check her out!

Mandy at The Complete Cookbook

Mandy presents interesting foods and beautiful photography. Her new cookbook is also available, ask her about it. Her posts are delightful.

Frugal Feeding

Everything Frugal does is mouth-watering. From his breads, to his desserts and he also estimates how much the dish cost to put on your table. Drop in and see what is on his table today.

Thank you again Barbara, I am flattered.

The Bread Show

We had a wonderful weekend in the North Carolina mountains visiting friends. This post is to provide a quick link to the bread show we did on Charlotte Cooks not too long ago.

In my mind, the show was a comedy of errors with too hot lights, dough rising way too fast in response to the too hot lights. . . Sometimes, you just have to laugh!

If you want to make m “No-Knead Sourdough Bread“, here is the visual.

Spero, this one’s for you!

SPOILER ALERT!
I am working on a post about some amazing Greek olive oil I discovered this weekend.
Watch for the next post for a chance to try some too!