Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Gourmet Club Strikes Oil

t'll be a gusher this week when we welcome Thom Curry, owner of the fabulous Temecula Olive Oil Company. Thom will be in studio with Robert and me (Maureen is off to some amazing location again) to talk about the art of making olive oil. Okay, and vinegars too.

If you're not familiar with Temecula Olive Oil Company you should be. Thom is certified by the International Olive Oil Council as a Master Taster and sits on the California Olive Oil Council's Taste Panel. They have about 100 acres northeast of San Diego County, where they farm their own groves sustainably, harvest the olives from October through March and hand blend the oils.


I'm a big fan of their late harvest, more mellow Mission Olive Oil and Roasted Garlic Reserve Olive Oil, but I'm eager to try the younger, stronger grassy Rotture di Oro, or "tears of gold." The oils are easy to pick up, either at their shop at Old Town's Plaza del Pasado or Old Town Temecula. Or you can order them, along with olives, soap, vinegars and more, online.

And, as long as we're talking oils, I'm bringing in some bottles of other edible oils I've been discovering. Such as Stony Brook's Butternut Squash Seed Oil.

I got a sample of the oil recently from the company, Stony Brook Cookie Company. It comes out of the Finger Lakes region in Geneva, New York, from seeds leftover from nearby Martin Farms in Brockport. They're the processing remains of the farm's squash for a ready-to-cook preparation sold to grocery stores. The seeds are roasted in Stony Brook's ovens and then cold pressed. The oil is then lightly filtered. They claim that each 375 ml bottle of oil contains the seeds of 10 butternut squash.

The oil is astoundingly flavorful -- very rich and nutty, like sipping roasted pumpkin seeds. I've used it in vinaigrettes, drizzled it on squash soup and over roasted vegetables. You can cook with it, even at high heat, but you will lose some of that gorgeous flavor. You can order it online from Stony Brook Cookie Company.

I'm also going to bring in some avocado oils. Bella Vado is a local avocado oil produced by Corrinne and Cid da Silva. The couple bought their 40-acre Valley Center avocado grove several years ago. With no dedicated machine for avocados, they do the job using an olive mill and press. Currently they have two varieties of oil, regular and lemon flavored (the lemons are pressed with the avocados to extract the oil, not infused into it).

A good avocado oil is rich and buttery tasting, like a good avocado, of course. And the most remarkable green color. I'm especially fond of the Bella Vado lemon-flavored oil, which I recently tried with a new favorite recipe, roasted Swiss chard, which I got from the wonderful Chef Jennifer Goldman Carden of Todder Cafe. Just roughly chop up the chard, toss it with a few tablespoons of the oil, along with minced garlic, salt and pepper. Spread the mixture on a baking sheet and roast it at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes. Watch it so it doesn't burn. It comes out very crispy and, with the lemon-flavored avocado oil, has a hint of citrus to it.

You can buy Bella Vado oils at both Whole Foods stores in San Diego, as well as at the Little Italy Mercato on Saturdays, At Home on Main Street in Fallbrook and The Temecula Valley Cheese Co. in Temecula. Cid just told me that at some point before Christmas, you'll also be able to order it online.

I also like the Pacifica Culinaria line of avocado oils. My favorite is the blood orange, which is delightful on salads and in preparing fish, like salmon or cod, as well as shrimp. I also like the roasted chili oil. The company is local, based in Temecula, but I believe they bring these oils in from Mexico and then infuse them with flavors. So, it's a different process than what the da Silvas and Thom Curry do. I've bought the Pacifica Culinaria oils at the Ocean Beach and La Jolla farmers markets from the Peggy's Pasta stand. And I just bought a bottle at Whole Foods.


We'll sample all these oils, which I think will end up making you pretty hungry. The Gourmet Club is the tastiest meeting in town. Join Robert Whitley and me this Wednesday morning on signonradio.com from 11 a.m. to noon Pacific. You can also podcast the show and listen at your convenience.

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