LOCATION AND CLIMATE

 

As you might expect, olives grown in cooler areas where there is more moisture (rainfall and dew) exhibit leaner, more restrained characteristics.  This doesn’t however mean that great oil can now be made in Iceland – you need a minimum amount of sunshine to make your Extra Virgin Olive Oil taste remarkable, similarly to tomatoes or stone fruit.

Olive trees are sensitive to winter freeze (the Casaliva cultivar is more resistant to cold, hence being grown in the Garda region).  It is also easier to farm organically where the climate is more stable and less chemical sprays are required to keep the trees healthy.

OLIVE MATURITY

 

Here’s the thing – all olives are green.  When they become fully mature, they turn black.
Olive maturity at the time of harvest is a major factor in flavour and quality: olives harvested earlier (green olives) feature more bitter, grassy characteristics, with lower yields and with the highest anti-oxidant content.  The oil is a much more intense green colour and has a longer shelf-life.  In terms of production, milling can take longer with green olives (a longer malaxation - the action of slowly churning milled olives to release droplets of oil - is needed and can be more complicated) but the results are far superior!  Don’t choose olive oil from over mature fruit: it lacks all the potential goodness and flavour.

ATTENTION TO DETAIL IN GROVE AND MILL

 

People who care passionately about what they make and follow it personally every day have the capacity to create products with far higher quality, with integrity, and that taste of where they come from.  They are also able to do this by caring for the environment they inhabit.

FRANTOIO DI RIVA BOX

This box contains 6 bottles of extra virgin olive oil made exclusively by Frantoio di Riva from groves on the banks of lake Garda.

Frantoio di Riva, 46°PARALLELO green label x 3 bottles (50cl)
Frantoio di Riva, 46°PARALLELO organic white label x 1 bottle (50cl)
Frantoio di Riva, 46°PARALLELO blue label x 1 bottle (50cl)
Frantoio di Riva, ULIVA Garda Trentino DOP x 1 bottle (50cl)

Finally Spring

Finally spring! Frankly we’ve had enough of cavolo nero and cabbage, and long for the fresh flavours of the new season, like freshly podded peas and broad-beans, and the king of vegetables that is artichoke… To celebrate spring we have created a menu that takes in all the flavours of the season, using oils to match. This is a meal for consenting adults only, combining the freshness of the new season, bold flavours and a lot of garlic. It is also mostly vegetarian.

Two starters:

Broad-bean hummus with gremolala of feta & olive inspired by a similar dish in Suzanne Goin’s Sunday Suppers at Lucques, as a central dip and

Braised fennel with capers and olives as found in Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty More – this dish oozes full flavours. As the fennel softens, it gets infused with the classic mediterranean scents of garlic, tomatoes, olives and capers. Served with a little fresh ricotta to add a soft saltiness, it is a very satisfying starter, that contrasts the freshness of broad-bean hummus, which is rich in garlic, and has a tangy feta gremolata, adding an extra high note.

For the hummus we used: S’Ciappau from Paolo Cassini. An amazing 100% Taggiasca from the Ligurian hillsides with an incredibly high polyphenol content.

For the Fennel, we used: monocultivar Lea from the Gregori brothers in the Marche. New to our portfolio, these guys are desperately hard working and precise. We love their interpretation of Lea, made only by 5 or 6 producers in the Tesino valley as it stretches down towards the Adriatic sea. Rich in polyphenols, it pairs well with pulses, nuts and fully flavoured vegetables.

We drank: Zanotto Rude Col Fondo. Out there and interesting bottle fermented sparkling wine.

Main Course:

Mixing black rice & farro gives nuttiness, depth and and a visually very satisfying base to any dish. The rice and the farro are cooked separately in a risotto method with onions, bay and a little chilli, then combined later when plating. The vegetarian main option was Vignarola (pictured), a wonderful Roman spring vegetable stew, that can only be cooked for a very short period, when artichokes, broad-beans and fresh peas are all available at the same time. We wrote about Vignarola in the past and it’s a dish that is easier than it looks, although it needs attention, and one that can be really cooked to personal taste. As a classic roman dish, it is growing in popularity and can be eaten with soft cheese or as a starter by itself. The non veggie option was tangerine infused seabass, again inspired and adapted by Suzanne Goin’s recipe in the stunning Sunday Suppers at Lucques. In Italy the seabass we get is much smaller than the cold water ones in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, so we need to be more gentle with the amount of marinade, but end of season tangerines have an extra sweetness, that balances beautifully with the black rice & farro bed on which it is plated. The original recipe calls for pea-shoots to be added, but they were not available (not quite in season yet), so we mixed in some fresh tarragon from the garden.

For the Vignarola we used Frantoi Cutrera Primo Bio. We have recently switched to the ‘organic’ version of Primo. Same great, classic Sicilian style bursting with tomato leaf and decisive wild herbs but with the added certification of its organic olives.

For the Seabass we used Frantoio Librandi Carolea, which is a delicious delicate olive oil from the organic Librandi estate in Calabria that recalls the fresh olive and features sage and pine nut in fine balance.

We drank: San Polino Helichrysum Brunello di Montalcino 2012.  Epic, majestic and very well judged from this beautiful biodynamic estate.

Dessert:

Olive Oil Choccolate Cake by Diane Henry

This is a super luscious, dark, adult cake, that infuses the richness of chocolate and nuttiness of olive oil, served with a bit of sour cream. It’s a perfect ending to a long healthy spring meal.

We used: De Carlo’s Il Classico, the ideal butter substitute!

Nothing can really be prepped in advance in this meal, so give you self an early start and plan the sequence well. Start by marinating the fish, then do the cake, and when it’s in the oven, cook the rice & the farro at the same time. Pod the broad beans (it always takes much longer than you remember), and the peas. Then start working on the braised fennel dish, then the vignarola, and when the starters are finished you can cook the fish. There are no particularly complicated passages, but you need to keep your pace up, since there is a lot to do!

The recipes for Suzanne’s Goin’s dishes can be found online here and here , however we recommend you buy her cookbook to get the original understanding of these dishes.

THREE SEASONAL RECIPES, ONE EVOO

One of the most under the radar oils we bring to you is Tenuta Torre di Mossa from Frantoio De Carlo in Puglia.

This Monocultivar Coratina ripens later than other cultivars giving it a fabulous viscosity which makes it an amazing alternative to butter.  And for this reason it works brilliantly over vegetables.  In addition, it has a very high polyphenol count, making it extremely good for you.  Coming from a single parcel of land, the oil features a broad selection of aromatic herbs plus ample peppery spice on the finish.

Here are three quick and easy recipes to try with this EVOO.

 

Piselli alla Fiorentina (peas with prosciutto)

This recipe comes from Rachel Roddy in her brilliant book Five Quarters.  She recommends it as a great side dish to roast chicken and we have taken her advice many times!

300 g frozen peas (or 900g unshelled fresh peas)

2 garlic cloves

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

50g pancetta, prosciutto or bacon chopped

2 tbsp finely chopped flat leaf parsley

salt and pepper

Peel and squash the garlic and sauté in olive oil on a medium low heat adding the pancetta, until the garlic is fragrant and just coloured and the pancetta has rendered its fat.  Remove the garlic and add the peas turning them until they are coated.  Add the parsley and season to taste.

 

Melanzane alla Parmigiana

We love this dish served with crusty bread and a green salad and accompanied by a chilled glass of Vermentino.  It seems perfect for those evenings when you begin eating outdoors as spring fades to summer.

(serves 4)

2 medium aubergines

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves peeled and finely chopped

5 ripe tomatoes, skinned and chopped or 400g passata

300g mozzarella, sliced

oregano

50g grated parmesan

Slice the aubergines and lay out on a board covered with kitchen paper.  Sprinkle with salt and then lay further paper on top and weigh down with a heavy chopping board.  Leave for 30 minutes to allow the bitter juices to be drawn out.

Preheat the over to 180C.

For the tomato sauce, you can use a tin or jar of passata if you’re stretched for time, otherwise you can just make a quick sauce by heating the oil and adding the garlic, once you begin to smell it, add the tomatoes and season with salt, pepper and oregano.  Simmer for 15 minutes.

We prefer to roast rather than fry the aubergines; it uses less oil and seems to give better results for our palate.  Once you have patted dry the slices of aubergine, lay them on baking sheets and brush with oil on both sides.  Roast for around 20 minutes until they have taken a light colour.

Layer your ingredients in an oven dish: tomato sauce – aubergine – mozzarella.  You will probably manage 2 or 3 layers.

Sprinkle the top with parmesan.

Cover with tin foil for the first 15 minutes of cooking time then remove the foil and bake for a further 15 minutes until the top is golden.

 

 

Bruschetta with Cavolo Nero and fresh Pecorino

It’s the end of the cavolo nero season but this makes such a great quick lunch and is packed full of goodness.  Strip back the stalks and then boil the cavolo nero in seasoned water for a few minutes.  Once cooked, drain and then toss with olive oil, milled nutmeg and a touch of flaked sea salt.

Plate up with sourdough toast and slithers of fresh pecorino cheese (also works with goats cheese).  EVOO from Puglia has a fabulous viscosity and is the best alternative to butter, which is why it works so well over vegetables.  Tenuta Torre di Mossa from the De Carlo family is one of our favourites and has an extremely high polyphenol count, making it very good for you.

EVOO PAIRING: Le Trebbiane

We are often asked to recommend a good, benchmark Tuscan Extra Virgin Olive Oil and one of our favourites is Le Trebbiane from Frantoio Franci.  A medium intense oil from a single East facing grove that benefits from the cooler morning sun, Le Trebbiane is a blend of Frantoio, Moraiolo, Leccino and a small amount of Olivastra and features complex, herbal notes with a hint of artichoke and a good peppery kick.  For this reason, it works well with grains, pulses and red meat where it balances the earthiness and lifts the natural flavours.

Spelt Salad with pickled vegetables and edible flowers

Cook the spelt in lightly salted water (approx 30 mins) and then cool. You can add anything you like, any seasonal veg. Here we had it with some preserved vegetables (aubergine, peppers) plus lightly sautéed onion, carrot, fennel. Throw in some radicchio leaves and a few edible blue flowers if you can find (borage, chicory or bergamot would work).
The dressing is with apple cider vinegar which adds a touch of sweetness and Le Trebbiane which imparts a lovely peppery persistence.

Roasted Spring Lamb served with Cannellini beans

Lamb isn’t hugely loved in Italy.  Italians often say that they find the flavour too strong, which to me, having grown up near the Welsh border, means that they have been eating mutton.  New season lamb is delicate and one of the finest meats you can enjoy (ecologically as well as flavour-wise), so now is the season to make the most of it.

Here we serve it with cannellini beans that have been soaked overnight before cooking and then quickly sautéed with garlic, rosemary and white wine, salt and pepper and extra virgin olive oil.  We also drizzle with oil at the point of serving to add a freshness and peppery bite to the dish.

 

Penne with new season asparagus and ricotta salata

This simple pasta dish is brought together with the use of lemon and extra virgin olive oil.

The Italian kitchen still lives so much by the seasons and the window for asparagus really is only around 6 weeks, so we take full advantage.  Super fine, wild asparagus has not only a fine intensity but retains its bite when cooked, so creates a great texture in this pasta dish.  Ricotta is also at its best in the spring months and we’ve gone for a hard ricotta here, but the dish can work with fresh ricotta or even pecorino as an alternative.

The asparagus just needs a couple of minutes to cook and once drained can be stirred through the pasta with some olive oil, lemon zest and shavings of ricotta.  It works well with the addition of some lemon thyme.

Dill Mayonnaise

Frantoi Cutrera, Primo

An extremely simple but well made mayonnaise can make all the difference to your dish, especially if it’s made with incredibly good Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  It works well with many different fish dishes, including crab.

Ingredients

1 large free-range egg yolk

½ tbsp. honey

½ tbsp. dijon mustard

1 tsp fine sea salt

about 450ml extra virgin olive oil, we use Frantoi Cutrera Primo for this one

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

20 grams of chopped dill

Which EVOO to use?

Primo from Frantoi Cutrera in Italy is a fabulous choice for this type of dish as you have quite bold flavours in the other ingredients.  Made of monocultivar Tonda Iblea it features a distinctive scent of tomato leaf and freshly mown grass, which is an uplifting addition to dill and beetroot.

Method

1.     Using a stick blender, combine the egg yolk, honey, mustard and salt.

2.     Whisk on full speed for 30 seconds until smooth.  Then keeping the blender on, begin to add the oil very slowly.  After adding a third of the oil, add the vinegar and then continue with the rest of the oil.

3.      Just before serving add the freshly chopped dill and stir through.

Piselli alla Fiorentina (peas with prosciutto)

Frantoio De Carlo, Tenuta Torre di Mossa

This recipe comes from Rachel Roddy in her brilliant book Five Quarters.  She recommends it as a great side dish to roast chicken and we have taken her advice many times!

Ingredients

300 g frozen peas (or 900g unshelled fresh peas)

2 garlic cloves

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

50g pancetta, prosciutto or bacon chopped

2 tbsp finely chopped flat leaf parsley

salt and pepper

Which EVOO to use?

I used to always put butter on my peas but since discovering amazing Puglian olive oil, I have to say that this is far superior!  We used Tenuta Torre di Mossa for this dish with its complex character of herbs and artichoke and good peppery kick.

Method

Peel and squash the garlic and sauté in olive oil on a medium low heat adding the pancetta, until the garlic is fragrant and just coloured and the pancetta has rendered its fat.  Remove the garlic and add the peas turning them until they are coated.  Add the parsley and season to taste.