California Olive Oil

by Michele Pesula Kuegler | March 10th, 2011 | Tasty Thoughts

One of my favorite work-related events is attending the Boston Wine Expo.  Every year I am amazed at the number of interesting product I discover and intriguing people I meet.  This year was no different.  Of course, the majority of the booths are filled with wineries, which are delicious in their own right, but there also are booths with food vendors.  At one of these booths, I met Mike Forbes, who is marketing director for California Olive Ranch.

A favorite indulgence of mine when dining at a restaurant is enjoying fresh bread and dipping oil.  Well, on a weekend that is all about indulgence, it was my delight to find the California Olive Ranch booth, for they had an assortment of oils to be sampled.  Mind you, these oils weren’t infused with herbs or spices.  No, these oils were served straight up with a piece of bread.  After one bite, I knew why they were done as such.  These were exquisite olive oils.

Mike was kind enough to offer send samples for me to try at home.  Being raised to be polite, I accepted his offer graciously.  The olive oil samples arrived a few weeks ago.  Since then I have had numerous occasions to cook with and enjoy both the Arbequina and Miller’s Blend oils.

Of course, we had to sample them plain first.  As noted in its description, the Arbequina truly has a fruity flavor to it.  The Miller’s Blend has more of a nutty flavor infused with fruit.  These olive oils are prime examples of the way olive oil was meant to be made.

Next, we infused each of the olive oils with herbs and spices.  The Arbequina was combined with basil, oregano, salt, and pepper.  The Miller’s Blend had garlic, red pepper flakes, and salt added.  Both oils blended well with their seasonings and produced some of the best infused dipping oils I have had.  Using a higher quality olive oil gave so much more flavor and a better mouth feel to the dish.

Finally, we have been cooking many different dishes using both oils. What I have noticed with each and every item is that the olive oil provides a little something extra.  For example, instead of simply being used to prevent onions from sticking to the pan when sautéing, the olive oil becomes a key flavor in the onions.  The olive oil gives the onions a richer, deeper flavor.

Through the last few weeks of culinary exploration, I have had a revelation.  Getting a better quality olive oil is imperative.  Oddly enough, I have skimped on the olive oil I purchase.  I always buy extra virgin, but I haven’t made the effort to look for an olive that is the best.  As it often is used as a pan coating or is infused with other flavors, I thought that buying the best olive oil may not be that important.  Apparently, I was wrong.

To learn more about California Olive Ranch, visit their website.

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