Zeppole (credit Maria Gagliano, Open Salon)

March is a month of change and hope, hope and change.

Whether we’re talking about the weather (“in like a lion, out like a lamb”), the Ides of March (a turning point in Italian history), St. Patrick’s Day (ridding the island of snakes) or St. Joseph’s Day (saving Sicily from  famine), the events of March are about change and hope for better times.

Growing up in a community that had two Catholic Churches (one Italian and one Irish), early on I understood that these feasts were celebrated by cultural communities. Everyone wants to be Irish on St. Patrick’s Day (March 17) to wear green, and to enjoy green beer, parades, and parties (and a respite from Lent).

In many communities, St. Joseph needs a new PR agent—to boost things up a bit or for international parity. Just two days after St. Patrick’s Day, St. Joseph is recognized with his feast day on March 19, Festa della San Giuseppe, that reaches the level of Father’s Day in Italy. Wear red, come together with the community, dine on Minestrone and Fava Beans, and enjoy special sweet treats.

Legend has it that St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland. St. Joseph’s credit is due for saving the Sicilians from famine during the Middle Ages. So, the Italians also get a festival day during Lent. In Italy, entire villages come together for a feast.

Enjoy these sweet recipes for your St. Joseph’s Day traditions:

Sfinge (many spellings!)

– Remember the Italian Catholic parish mentioned in the beginning of this article? You can find the recipe from my home parish cookbook, posted online here.

Zeppole: a style of Italian doughnuts, fried, dusted with sugar, cinnamon, and honey—or filled with a yellow cream

– Rosetta Constantino’s Southern Italian Desserts  includes a recipe for Zeppole, with a variation for Sfinge. You can see the recipe for Zeppole di San Giuseppe here on One for the Table.

Pignolatta or Struffoli: reminiscent of the seeds of a pine cone, think of little friend pastry balls, and covered in honey, nuts, or chocolate

– See recipe and photo here at Roxana’s Home Baking.

Cannoli – pastry tubes filled with a creamy mixture, often made with Ricotta. We recommend a blend of Ricotta and Crèma di Pistacchio DOP Bronte! If you have cannoli shells, use this filling or start a new tradition with the recipe.

Enjoy the festivals of March. Be sure to celebrate the new season!

PistacchioPicStitch

Pistacchio Ricotta Cream Puffs

This  is a recipe crafted by necessity. The filling is magical in Cannoli, but we had no Cannoli Shells, and no time to make them. These mini pastry shells are available in in the freezer aisle at the grocery store. 

Bake puffs according to package directions. While puffs are baking, grate 1 Tablespoon of chocolate and set aside. Chop or break remaining chocolate in 24 small pieces to fit in the center of each small cup.

Remove puffs from oven. Working with puffs on the baking sheet, push centers in, and insert a piece of chocolate while puffs are still hot. Let cool 10 minutes before filling.

In a bowl stir together 1/2-3/4 cups each of Crema di Pistacchio and Ricotta. Gently spoon mixture into the pastry cups. Dust tops with grated chocolate. Place on a decorative serving platter.

Best kept at room temperature and served within three hours. If refrigerated, place on a warmed platter 20 minutes before serving.

Jan2014Large

We love it when visitors come into our shop in Fairfax, Virginia. First time visitors are inquisitive about the differences from the “extra virgin” olive oil they know and use every day (the common grocery store type). For a distinct experience, we provide a first taste of an intense, robust selection, most often from Tuscany or Umbria. Cough, cough.

Immediately, they grasp: there’s something better than the olive oil they have purchased elsewhere. True, authentic, artisan-produced extra virgin olive oil from Italy. (Yes, we are all about Italy).

Our online customers have already become fans of great olive oil. They’ve been buying the good stuff for almost 14 years!

What are the characteristics of fresh olive oil?

Zingy, layered aromas, and distinct flavors. Some possess aromas of fresh leaves, such as crushed olive leaves, or the scent of tomatoes leaves as you brush by them in the garden. Others exhibit the rich fruity smell of an orchard or fruit market. Sicilian oils in particular bring forth grassy aromas, and others may note herbaceous scents.

Take a taste. Does your olive oil evoke symphonies of flavors — a melange of artichoke, tomato, herbs, and grassy notes? Notes of apple, bananas, almonds, walnuts or flowers may come forth. Next comes the finish. It may be pungent and peppery (insert cough here) or milder and buttery–and still full of flavor.

How is fresh olive oil made?

Top quality extra virgin olive oils are harvested from just-ripening fruit. The olive fruits release relatively small amounts of oil at this early stage, but they are bursting with the healthy chemical properties many are seeking. The olives are picked when young, and bruised fruit are discarded. They are pressed within mere hours of picking, in carefully controlled conditions. (Those same trees, if picked weeks later, would yield significantly more oil, but it would be of lower quality, and likely sold in a mass market operation).

Why are there so many extra virgin olive oil labels at Olio2go?

Just as there are many wine selections to pair with food, there are many olive oil matches. If you know wine, you know that the grape varieties, micro-climate, year of harvest, and the winemaker’s skill make a great difference. There are significant parallels in the world of olive oil. (And, many Italian wine makers also produce excellent olive oil). Whether you are purchasing a Tuscan olive oil for your grilled steak, or a Calabrian for your grilled vegetables, or a Sicilian for your fennel salad, the pairings will be perfectly matched.

What else should I know? 

By tradition, some producers decant, while others bottle quickly after harvest. Early bottlings are most often unfiltered, yielding oils that appear cloudy or even milky. Some producers label their first bottles as Novello, meaning new oil. Whether labeled or not, all extra virgin olive oil, promptly pressed, bottled, and (first) released is Novello.

Just as there are many wine competitions with producers striving for top quality recognitions, there are important olive oil competitions and awards.

Does olive oil get better with age? 

No! All olive oil will degrade in time. If you start with a top quality olive oil, store it well, and use it promptly once opened you will best enjoy this culinary magic. Some varieties of olives yield oils that last longer than others. Selections crafted from Frantoio olives (known best as a Tuscan variety) and Moraiolo olives (known best as an Umbrian variety) are among those with the best lasting power.

As an olive oil ages, those distinct flavor characteristics fade. In time, the olive oil will taste flat and fatty–and eventually rancid.

Our goal is to sell the current harvest olive oil as soon as it is available — and to sell out long before the “best by” date.

What should I know about olive oil storage? 

Extra virgin olive oil is best kept in a cool, dark place. The selections on our shelves are for show. We prefer to “pull” your oil from our cool, low-light, temperature-controlled warehouse, where the oils has been kept in the dark, in shipping cartons.

Where can I learn more about great olive oil?

Click these links for more information on the anatomy of a great label, authenticity, organic certifications, and the most recent olive oil awards.

How can I purchase great olive oil?

You can purchase online at Olio2go. There’s no minimum purchase and we offer a 10% case discount on six or more. Orders are shipped promptly! If you would like auto-shipping or an Olive Oil Club, please complete the form below to provide your address and budget. We will respond via email.

New2014

With the arrivals of the new harvest olive oils comes the first of the new awards and recognitions for high quality extra virgin olive oil.

The 2014 Flos Olei, published early in the harvest year, is the well regarded Marco Oreggia review of olive oils. In general, Flos Olei 2014 awarded the 2012 harvest selections. It is seen by many as a watchdog of consistent quality in the industry with the idea that the recognized producers provide consistently exceptional olive oils from year to year. You can see last year’s list here.

In the 2014 edition, Flos Olei’s Top 20 awards three of the olive oils we regularly carry. Most notably, we already have Quattrociocchi’s Olivastro Bio 2013, awarded Best Olive Oil from Organic Farming by Flos Olei’s Marco Orreggia.

From the Top 20

Farm of the Year: DeCarlo (new harvest coming soon)

Best Olive Oil from Organic Farming: Quattrociocchi Olivastro Bio 2013

Best Extra Virgin Intensely FruityFrantoio Franci Villa Magra

The Flos Olei guide lists an abundance of well-regarded olive oil producers (we will carry harvest 2013 selections – they are in stock or on order):

Trentino Alto – Adige

Frantoio di Riva, 2013 in stock!

Emilia Romagna

Tenuta Pennita, Alina in stock

Toscana

Tenuta di Capezzana, 2013 in stock

Oliveto Fonte di Foiano, samplers in stock, more expected in early January

Frantoio Franci, selections

La Poderina Toscana, Oro and Argento in stock

Fattoria di Monti, three selections in stock

Fattoria Ramerino, Guadagnòlo Primus in stock!

Marche

Azienda del Carmine, arriving January 2014

Umbria

Az. Agr. Marfuga, L’affiorante in stock

Lazio

Società Agricola Colli Etruschi, arriving soon

Az Agr Bio Americo Quattrociocchi, in stock

Campania

Madonna dell’Olivo, Raro and Itrans selections available

Puglia

Az. Agr. DeCarlo, restocking soon

Calabria

Tenute Pasquale Librandi, selections arriving January 2014

Sicily

Azienda Agricola Antonino Centonze, Arriving January 2014

Frantoi Cutrera, in stock

Planeta, selections available

Azienda Agricola Ravida, selections available

Azienda Agricola Biologica Titone, 2013 coming soon!

FarroSalad_Large

 

This can be served warm as a side dish or cooler as a salad. This makes a large family or party sized dish. With the nutty grain and addition of fruit (raisins) this dish brings forth Sicilian style, making a Sicilian olive oil the perfect choice. As always, our salad recipes are guides – your tweaks and adjustments may be marvelous improvements.

 Ingredients

Farro Perlato from La Valletta

1 lb. Brussels sprouts

1/2 lb. Baby Carrots

1/2 jar Villa Cappelli Sun Dried Tomatoes (10 oz jar), slivered

1/3 C Raisins

1/3 C Sun dried tomatoes, slivered

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Sicilian preferred)

Cattani Organic White Balsamic Vinegar

Vincotto Fig Vinegar

Salt

Pepper, freshly ground

Note: Our farro package contains 3 cups of dried farro. When cooked, this yields ~8 Cups. You can cook the whole package and freeze the portion not needed immediately. It defrosts well.

Start cooking the farro. Prepare the vegetables. Cool the farro, add the roasted vegetables, sundried tomatoes, raisins, and dressing.

Cook 1.5-2 C Farro by placing the farro in a pot, covering it with 1” of water. Bring to a boil, then lower the flame and simmer for 20 minutes. Drain and proceed.

Roast vegetables:

Preheat oven to 450F.

Trim ends and cut carrots lengthwise.

Trim and halve Brussels sprouts. (Quarter large Brussels sprouts).

Drizzle with 2-3T olive oil and roast at 450F for 20 minutes.

Dressing: Recommended proportions: 1:1:1

– 1/3C full and fruity Sicilian extra virgin olive oil. Olio2go Suggests: Primo, Ravida, Planeta

– 1/3C Cattani Organic White Balsamic Dressing

– 1/3C Vincotto Fig Vinegar

Toss together. Let flavors marry for 20 minutes, then serve.

StillLife_OliveOil

Here we are in the middle of summer with this glorious bounty of produce — and the Italian specialties that bring it to life — packed with flavor for your dining!

Left to right:

Olio Librandi Organic, Calabria
San Macario, Lucca, Tuscany
Verrini Munari Oro, Modena, Emilia Romagna
Olio Verde, Sicily
Zisola DOP, Sicily
Cattani Organic White Balsamic Vinegar, Modena, Emilia Romagna
Luna Vera, Sardinia
Crudo, Puglia

If you’re looking for a flavor-filled experience, with Italian authenticity, we invite you to visit Olio2go enjoy the fabulous treats in this photo.

We are often asked how often we travel to Italy on buying trips (usually twice a year) but there’s one event in the U.S. that brings amazing choices to our shores.

The Fancy Food Show just concluded in New York. As always, we found a phenomenal range of food (olive oil from China?), ice pops made with kale, and more cheese than you can imagine. We stayed true to our mission to find the best selections from Italy!

We met with favorite producers such as Salvatore Cutrera from Frantoi Cutrera, and planned the fall purchases, starting with the zesty Frescolio. We also learned the the flavorful Cutrera Gran Cru Cerasuola has the highest polyphenol level of any of the Cutrera monocultivars. It is over 600!

The most unusual selections were those from Pantelleria, a tiny island far south of Sicily, and very close to Africa, known for the production of capers. Look for these in a few months!

In 2012 our big discovery was pistachio cream from Sicily, an item that has sold out quickly. Sometimes we don’t know just how good our good ideas are. We didn’t find any pistachio cream this year, so we are glad that connection has already been made for our discerning customers. We should be well stocked again by September.

We had a fortuitous moment when we met with a very experienced importer who is bringing in a very exclusive line of hard to buy olive oils. (Those wine producers can be tough negotiators). Look for new selections from Tuscan wine producers after the next harvest.

The Rogers Collection, known to us as an olive oil importer, is also a big mover in the cheese world. We scheduled our visit to their booth to attend this special and ceremonial opening of a new wheel of Parmiggiano-Reggiano DOP. This is a 36-month aged cheese, and even more special in that it is from brown cows. There are only four producers who craft DOP Parmiggiano-Reggiano from brown cows’ milk. Fabulous.

Other photos show our friends from Italian Products, Compagnia del Montale of Modena, pasta and rice selections, and the grand show floor, in the Italy Pavillion.