We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Gee whiz, it's getting breezy and blustery in Yankeeland today. Expecting to lose power to our servers any minute. If I lived near the shore, I'd throw out an anchor. But on to more interesting topics than the weather -
My pic in an oil shop in Spello, last summer. They have little paper cups for tasting. People design their own blends:
My lad quipped yesterday, as I was dressing the salad I had brought for Dad's birthday, "America needs to free itself from dependence on imported olive oil."
I was using a super-special oil I had smuggled home from Umbria along some of my precious but tiny supply of 25 year-old Balsamic that friends gave us as a dinner gift.
- As with wine in the past, California olive oil is now competing with Europe's finest.
- The fresher it is, the tastier and more fragrant. We use a lot of it here.
- To really taste it, dip a piece of bread in it - or just sip it to taste it as housewives and chefs do in Italy in the oil shops.
- For salads and for dressing cooked vegetables (eg asparagus, spinach, cauliflower, carrots, raw tomatoes, etc, with or without garlic), use the best you can get. For cooking, I don't think it matters too much but gourmets would dispute that.
- Costco's house brand oil (Kirkland) is much better than any supermarket brand for an everyday oil. It comes from their Tuscan orchards. Naturally, Dean & DeLuca has good oils. Cold-pressed extra virgin.
- High-end Italian oils are often blends of olive varieties from neighboring orchards. Reminds me that I have a friend who owns an olive orchard in Greece on a hill overlooking the Aegean, and each year he ships home 100 small casks of his own orchard's first pressing to give friends as Christmas presents. Nice.
- Do not dress a salad until immediately before it is to be offered. Also, never serve a salad with a meal. Only before. There are many good reasons for that.
- Do you prefer red wine vinegar to Balsamic? The store stuff is terrible. Make your own. When you drink a bottle of decent red wine, leave an inch or two in the bottle if you have the moral fortitude to do so, stick the cork back on top lightly or leave it off, and put it in the pantry. In a couple of weeks, it's good wine vinegar. The better the vino, the better the flavor. It's possible to go overboard with this.
Here's how we make and dress a simple Italian-style, home-style salad: Buttercrunch or Boston Lettuce, thinly sliced bell peppers - all 4 colors, red onion quartered then sliced thin, 1" tomato chunks. Then I drizzle a little balsamic over it - not too much - and toss gently. Then I drizzle the oil over it, season with salt and pepper, and toss gently again. Always the vinegar before the oil.
For fancy dinners, plain frizze or mache with balsamic and oil.
Years ago, I loved a certain salad dressing that my buddy, who's father owned a big restaurant in New Orleans, made from the Chef's recipe. Delicious - I couldn't get enough of salad and I swear if I had enough of it, I would have drank the dressing right from the bottle.
It wasn't until years later that my friend was visiting and made the dressing. He used a combination of virgin olive oils making his own blend, added some spices and stuff and vinegar on the side.
I never knew the there were different types of olive oil until the day he made that dressing in front of me.