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)

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Interview: Giulia Scarpaleggia

Giulia has written five cookbooks and has an acclaimed blog featuring delicious, faithful Tuscan recipes.  She also runs cookery classes from her countryside kitchen.

What made you realize that food was at the centre of your world?

I’ve always loved food, since I was a child. Cooking with grandma and with mum was fun, one of my favourite activities on a sunday morning. But I really realised that food was at the centre of my world when I was working in an office, in a communication job I really did not like.

I would come back home and cook: fresh pasta, risotto, a cake. Anything that I could improvise with a bunch of random ingredients from my mum’s pantry and fridge. This is when I started my food blog, in 2009, and slowly my passion for food and cooking took over every single spare moment.

I like to think that it is my honesty and authenticity. I am a Tuscan born and bred food lover, and all my recipes are usually related to memories or family stories. I like simple, seasonal food, and I share recipes that are easy and fun to make.

What is your favourite month of the year in the kitchen and why?

I love seasonal produce, so I am usually excited when the months pass as new ingredients are introduced into my cooking routines. But if I have to choose one month, it would probably be October. After the summer heat, it is finally time for squash, mushrooms, soups, stews and bruschetta with new olive oil.

2018 was an incredible year for you personally and professionally – would you like to share a couple of highlights?

Well, first and foremost my wedding in late September. We had a homemade country wedding, we prepared fresh ravioli for all our guests, liqueurs and jams for the cheeses, we held the ceremony in our tiny country church and we gathered with family and friends after the wedding in the nearby agriturismo. It was exactly what we had hoped for: simple honest food and the people we love around us.

Your speciality is Tuscan food.  How do you suggest people living abroad source the best ingredients to recreate your recipes?

I think farmers’ markets are always a good place to start. And speciality stores, off line and on line, now are definitely supplying everything you might need. Oh, yes, a trip to Tuscany might also be a good idea!

This said, I think that when you share a recipe you should also give the instruments to guide your readers to be able to replicate it with what they have.

What is your greatest extravagance in the kitchen?

I like quality, so I prefer to buy local meat at the butcher, seasonal vegetables at the market, local stone ground flours from farmers. So probably my greatest extravagance it the time I spend sourcing for the ingredients I like, and the bucket of Maldon salt I buy every year to sprinkle over tomato salads, fish, meat and chocolate cakes!

You undoubtedly use Extra Virgin Olive Oil in almost all of your dishes… can you think of a recipe that is suitable for January that you would share with us that includes EVOO?

After the first frost cavolo nero is at its best, so in January cavolo nero is tender, sweeter, less fibrous. A bruschetta with cannellini beans and boiled cavolo nero, sprinkled with salt and black pepper and finished with a generous drizzle of EVOO is my idea of winter comfort food.

Do you use a variety of different olive oils in your kitchen?  Can you talk me through this?

Oh yes! I have a good quality 100% Italian EVOO oil that I use for cooking, including frying. Then I have a local Tuscan EVOO and a Sicilian EVOO – from Nocellara del Belice olives – that I use to drizzle over salads, soups, grilled meats and fishes, or simply toasted bread.

I like the Nocellara EVOO in summer over tomatoes, and I prefer the Tuscan over my grilled meat.

I also bake with EVOO, in this case I am happy when I can use a lighter EVOO, a Leccino monocultivar from Tuscany, or a Ligurian EVOO.

What are your kitchen new year’s resolutions for 2019?

I want to eat simple honest food, and I want to get better at baking with my sourdough starter!

 

To discover some of Julia’s brilliant recipes, visit her blog: https://en.julskitchen.com/blog or follow her on Instagram @julskitchen