March 2012


In part 1 of the Olive Oil Buyer’s Guide, we took a look at the anatomy of a great label on a bottle of extra virgin olive oil. For a refresher, take a look the detailed and revealing look at Primo DOP from Frantoi Cutrera in Sicily.


In this update, we’ll take a look at the symbols of Organic Certification. And, let’s talk terminology: Biologica is the Italian term for Organic. On labels, this is sometimes shortened to Bio.

There has long been significant cooperation on Organic standards between the U.S. and the European Union (EU). For years, agencies in Europe have been certified to meet US Department of Agriculture standards, and the olive oils imported to the US were able to use the USDA Organic seal on their labels.

We’re now at the cusp of a transition in labeling and a new agreement features a freshly designed symbol for EU Organic products. As a result of the trade agreement, both the EU Organic seal and the USDA Organic seal may be used. For products imported to the US, either seal represents that the product meets the organic standards in the US.  We’ve already noticed early arrivals of Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil carrying this attractive new leaf symbol.

Organic certification can be costly and some smaller olive oil producers will continue to elect to grow their olives organically, without adding the costs of certification. Within the product descriptions at Olio2go, those are noted as “organically produced”.

While we have many biologica/organic olive oils on our web site at OLIO2GO, we think that the labels on Titone, Trampetti, and Volpaia do a great job of illustrating the application of the seals. Titone’s neck label clearly shows the DOP and USDA Organic symbols, Trampetti carries the leaf on the front label, while Volpaia’s label includes the EU leaf on the back of the bottle.

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Mary and Luanne sharing olive oil tips.

College Classes on Olive Oil Tasting?

That would be our wish. How about a super nutrition class on why good food is better and worth the effort? Does anyone know of a liberal arts seminar on this?

Until then, we’re happy to help out with tastings at culinary programs, like this week’s session in the fabulous test kitchen in NOVA’s Culinary section of the Hospitality Department (Northern Virginia Community College). We’re practically neighbors, and we appreciate their interest in …..food!

We shared a tasting beginning with a bland, disappointing, fusty and rancid oil.

Then we moved on to select premium extra virgin olive oils from Liguria, Tuscany, Puglia, and Sicily:

Liguria

Vittorio Cassini Classico

Tuscany

La Poderina Toscana Biologica, DOP Seggianese

Frantoio Franci: Villa Magra dei Franci and Olivastra Seggianese

Puglia

Crudo

Sicily

Santisi Novello

Olio Verde Novello

Zisola DOP Monti Iblei Val Tellaro

We had fun noting the characteristics such as fruity, grassy, and herbaceous. The peppery burn (pizzicata) was well noted! The best question of the day: Where does the peppery sensation go when the great olive oil is on food?

If you are looking to expand your travels to an undiscovered destination in Italy, be sure to read this New York Times’ piece on Francis Ford Coppola’s Palazzo Margherita in Bernalda, in the Basilicata region of Italy.

Basilicata is just above the arch of the boot, with moutainous terrain that has made communications difficult until modern times.  Basilicata has been one of Italy’s least developed provinces. This is a region for true travelers as it possesses few resorts and fine accommodations. The cooking of Basilicata is bold and vibrant with outstanding produce, tasty cheeses, a wonderful variety of fresh and dried pastas—and outstanding cured meats.  Visit the Italian Tourism web site for more on this fascinating region.

From Basilicata, we have Bochicchio, with a new shipment coming soon!

The most popular blog post this week. The Cefalu photo is a favorite!

Olio2go's Authentic Olive Oil Thoughts

Phil Noto called from Sicily today to provide an update on the harvest at Santisi. It’s a very good year, with a plentiful harvest and an exceptional quality olive oil. The oil is sweet to the palate, and yet, the novello is very peppery, as it should be! Santisi is crafted from Sant’Agatese olives are grown in the province of Messina. 

While Santisi extra vergine is a monocultivar of Sant’Agatese, a nearby estate produces a “biologica” (EU Certified Organic) oil with Nocellara Messinese — the lovely purple olives in the photo. (You can click to enlarge the photos for a better view). The gentleman with the donkey is another neighbor taking part in the annual ritual of bringing his olives to the press. Lastly, in the final stages notice the lovely green olive coming from the press, guided by Phil’s “cousin” Angelo Noto. (In my family everyone’s a cousin!)

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Over a dozen years ago, Francena captured the recipes she learned at her grandmother’s side and recorded them as a gift to future generations. Since that time, this charming and folksy cookbook has sold 10,000 copies.

Filled with family photos from the 1950s, you might think Francena was related to the Godfather—or my extended family. Written for the love of food and tradition, Francena’s recipes for Stuffed Mushrooms, Chicken Parmesan, or Breaded Veal will take you back to your own Nonna’s kitchen.

This will remind you of those wonderful church and community cookbooks.  It’s a family treasury of Francena’s family favorites. Perhaps your grandmother made braciole (with beef) in January, as mind did, or Cucuzza (fried zucchini) in August. These are not difficult recipes. These are friendly and achievable!

Our favorite quote: “Olive oil, Parmesan cheese, garlic, onions, and pasta are staple ingredients I always have on hand.”

You won’t find the Braided Easter Egg Bread, Panettone for Christmas, or Polenta for any season. This is a classic Italian family cookbook with recipes from the mid-century, packed with family heritage, and filled with such recipes as Frittata, Eggplant Parmesan, Manicotti, and Baked Ziti.

Each recipe page includes a beverage recommendation, usually wine, among them such as Merlot, Pino Grigio, Sangiovese, and Asti Spumanti!

Enjoy this tribute to a grandmother to as Francena has recorded for future generations.

We have been granted permission to share Francena’s Biscotti recipe with you. You can click on the recipe image and print the recipe.

You can purchase the book for $12.95 including postage and shipping (cash, check, or money order). Please contact Francena at this link.