Tag Archives: Nudo olive oil

Olive Oil Scandals; Best Meal for the Price in NJ;

Think you’ve heard and read everything you need to about being ripped off by extra virgin olive oils? So did I until…

My true education about extra virgin olive oil began in December 2011, when two seemingly unrelated things came my way. The first was the publication of Tom Mueller’s book, Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Extra Virginity CoverOil (Norton). The second was a Christmas gift from my daughter, who had “adopted” an Italian olive tree (for one year) in my name. That meant that over the next twelve months I would receive two packages of extra-virgin olive oils from Nudo, a collaboration of small-scale artisanal olive oil producers in the Italian Apennines. (Nudo has since modified its adoption program to include four shipments a year.)

The company was founded in 2005 by an English couple, Jason Gibb and Cathy Rogers, who had bought a place of their own with an olive grove. The oils I received from the olive groves under their umbrella in Liguria and Le Marche were, in a word, delicious. costa chica etc 004

If I hadn’t read Mueller’s book, “deliciousness” would have been the only criteria I would have asked of these extra virgins. Sure, I had heard about the global olive oil scandal – especially the Italian side of it. But my thinking went something like this: Hey, if I like the taste of a particular olive oil and it’s priced right, what do I care if some of the claims on the label aren’t accurate. Maybe not all the olives (or maybe none) are from Italy, or maybe it’s not cold-pressed or first-pressed. Until I read the book for myself, all the reviews and interviews I chanced upon harped only on these shortcomings.

To be sure, these are serious shortcomings and a total rip-off, but what changed my thinking was that these low-quality, adulterated oils are not just frauds, they are often harmful to your health. It’s not just that they don’t meet some obscure scientific criteria, like 0.08% acidity, or some “expert” taste test, it’s that they at best lack the healthful qualities that give the scientific basis to their role in the Mediterranean Diet and at worst contain levels of substances that impair health, like free radicals and peroxides. Some are adulterated with machine-grade olive oil. (Who knew there even was such a thing?)

Near the end of the book, Mueller provides an exhaustive list of resources for quality extra virgin olive oil. I was happy to see among them Zingerman’s, the reputable Ann Arbor specialty food store with an extensive mail-order business. The number of companies reliably offering single-estate olive oils, like Nudo, is growing. Italities also offers verifiable, traceable estate olive oils from Italy via the Internet. The Doylestown-based business was founded by Roberto Cetrullo, who had been in the pharmaceutical/nutrition industry for decades, after he read the widely reported 2010 study by the University of California, Davis that found that 69% of imported olive oil and 10% of California olive oil did not meet the international or U.S. standards for “extra virgin.”

Olives on tree

Olives on tree (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

California companies, too, are offering their own estate-grown extra virgins, often sustainably grown, milled on-site, and award winning. Worth checking out are Olivina, Da Vero, and Dry Creek Olive Company.

Here are two recipes that make use of good-quality olive oil. The first is an easy, can’t miss pasta dish from Jason Gibb of Nudo. The second is a rarity: a Bundt cake that replaces butter with olive oil and is dairy free to boot. It comes straight from the folks at about.com.

Jason Gibb, Nudo

(Slightly adapted from the Nudo website version)

1 large or 2 medium whole heads garlic
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 tablespoon butter, softened
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling on garlic
Salt & fresh ground pepper to taste
1/4 to 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
12 ounces tagliatelle
Freshly ground pepper to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut off the tops of the garlic heads so you can see the flesh peeking out. Place them on a square of tin foil, drizzle them with olive oil, and loosely wrap the garlic so its sides aren’t touching the foil. Roast in the oven for about 50 minutes, until the garlic is soft.
  2. When garlic is cool, squeeze out cloves and combine in a blender with the peas, butter, 2 teaspoons olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Blend into a smooth paste then mix in the grated Parmesan.
  3. Cook the tagliatelle according to the instructions on the package. Drain and mix in the pesto. Serve immediately.
    Serves 4.

Ashley Adams: dairy free cooking on about.com 

1/2 cup vanilla soy milk
1/3 cup lemon juice plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice, divided
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
6 large eggs
1 cup olive oil
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Lightly oil and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan. In a small cup or bowl, combine the soy milk and 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice, mixing until just combined. Set aside.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, and nutmeg. Set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, use an electric hand mixer on medium speed to beat together the sugar, eggs, and olive oil. Beat continuously for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the mixture is pale yellow in color. Add the remaining 1/3 cup lemon juice and beat until combined.
  4. In several additions, alternately add the flour mixture and the soy milk-lemon juice mixture to the wet ingredients, starting and ending with the flour mixture and beating well between additions. Mix until just incorporated. Carefully pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake emerges clean. Allow cake to cool for 30 minutes in the pan on a wire rack, then carefully turn out the cake onto the cooling rack to cool completely. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and serve at room temperature or cold.

Talk about Bang for the Buck! $29 3-Course Dinner at Bar N

I had been meaning to dine at the bar at Restaurant Nicholas literally for years, but didn’t get a chance until earlier this week. I truly cannot think of another instance in which the price/quality ratio was better. Here’s what it consisted of that particular evening:

  • Pickled heirloom baby beets, olive oil mascarpone, Meyer lemon, spinach puree
  • Bourbon braised suckling pig, Parisienne apples, toasted pecans, maple jus
  • Dark chocolate ganache, coconut sorbet, white chocolate powder
Coffee Service at Restaurant Nicholas

Coffee Service at Restaurant Nicholas

It’s worth noting that the suckling pig is this top-rated NJ restaurant’s signature dish, and that there’s a different menu each evening. I was pleased to discover that even after all these years Nicholas remains on top of its game. Oh yes: I sprung for the extra $20 to get generous pours of these matching wines:

  • 2011 Entre Deux Mers, Chateau Turcaud (Semillon & Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 2011 Argentina, Malbec, Fabre Montmayou
  • 2010 Maury, Mas Amiel (Grenache dessert wine from Languedoc-Roussillon)

I do have a couple of complaints. One, ever since dining there I feel as though I’m not getting my money’s worth anywhere else. Two, I have to drive well over an hour to reach this Red Bank restaurant. Clearly, it belongs in my neighborhood.

Gift Ideas for Foodies; Diabetes Type 2 Fundraiser; Princeton Holiday Events

Holiday Gifts for Food Lovers

Here, for 2012, are my recommendations for gifts for the foodies on your list. Everything from books and gadgets to ingredients and luxe foods like the single-estate olive oils shown here, as well as chocolates from as near as NJ and as far away as India, all in this week’s column in US 1. costa chica etc 004

Is Your Family Dealing with Type 2 Diabetes? Check Out This New Initiative

The Garden State Community Kitchen is a community based, grant and crowd funded non-profit program that combines agriculture, cooking, exercise education and support. It’s the brainchild of Allison O’Brien, 27, of Monmouth Junction, a former server at the Princeton Salt Creek Grille.

English: Salt Creek Grille at Princeton Forres...

English: Salt Creek Grille at Princeton Forrestal Vilage (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s set to officially launch in May 2013, but its  first fundraiser will be held Sunday, Dec. 9 from 11am – 2pm at Princeton’s Salt Creek Grille on Route 1.

The fundraiser includes a light luncheon of food that’s representative of the food they will be serving their clients, a silent auction and a presentation on diabetes and on the GSCK program. Tickets, $50, will be sold at the door.

Come to Princeton for the Holidays

I’m not prone to boosterism for the town I live in, but I have to admit that Princeton really is a wonderland this time of year. Just strolling around Palmer Square is delightful, but there are so many holiday-related events, too. Here are just two examples:

McCarter Theatre Center

McCarter Theatre Center (Photo credit: afagen)

Friday, the 14th: Morven Museum & McCarter Theatre team up for one night for a special cocktail reception with the cast of A Christmas Carol followed by a performance. Food will be provided by the area’s best caterers, there will be door prizes, goodie bags and a live choral performance before guests stroll and carol their way over to McCarter. The Morven package is appropriate for ages 12 and up. All inclusive price: $65 per person. For further information, please contact Megan Johnston at 609-258-6526.

A couple of notes:
If you’re thinking, oh, but I’m so tired of the Scrooge story, I’ve seen/heard/read it a million times in a million variations, I can only tell you that when I saw the McCarter production a few years back, I – who suffered the same disillusion – was enraptured. Without giving away too much, I still vividly recall how at one point it startled me right out of my seat! McCarter Christmas Carol

If you have never visited Morven – the beautiful Colonial home of a signer of the Declaration of Independence and until 1982 the NJ governor’s residence (before Drumthwacket) – I urge you to return and visit it after the holidays when its Wednesday afternoon guided tours- and-tea resume. They’re among Princeton’s best kept secrets.

Through Dec. 29: Holiday trolley tours of Princeton by the Princeton Tour Company. These lively one-hour tours in heated trolleys (imported from Cape May) introduce you to the history of Princeton while seeing homes and hangouts of Albert Einstein, Woodrow Wilson, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Michael Graves and others. Sign up for one of the $15 tours, and get more info, heretrolley