Olive Oil is Golden

IMG_8561The Mediterranean produces the best olive oils. Although California is working on producing some very good olive oils, may I say they will never compare to the thousands of years Spain, Italy, and Greece has spent perfecting the product.

IMG_8654

Spain is the largest producer of olive oil. They have more than 300 million olive trees. They aren’t into blending the cultivars, however, and only 20% of the Spanish production is extra virgin. This is where Italy comes in. The country is the largest importers of olives. Even though Italy has an estimated 700 different cultivars of their own, they are also known for taking the Spanish olives and making blends. Because of this the Italians are also the largest exporters of olive oil. And this makes the rest of us very happy.

Greece produces about 400,000 tons of olive oil a year. Even though they have fewer olive trees and less production, Olive oil is a part of Greece in all ways, historically, culturally and economically. There are more than 2800 mills ready to press the olives, and they have about 100 different types of olives.

Other countries producing olive oil include Turkey, where there are 3 olive trees to every citizen. It exports olive oil because it just can’t consume all that they produce. Tunisia, Portugal, Syria, Morocco, Algeria, Lebanon, Albania, France, Argentina, Libya, Jordon, the US, Egypt, Israel, Cyprus, and Australia all produce the oil. Most import most of the olives they use, but many countries are trying to step up their own production, and many are striving to have the best product.

IMG_8589

As with all foods, it seems, there is an international competition in New York every year – the New York International Olive Oil Competition. In 2015 Spanish olive oil received more awards than the other country. In 2014 Italy had a dire year with the heavy rains, mold, and the Olive Fly screwing things up, and still there were able to enter 671 oils for the contest.  Forty three percent of their entries won, placing them overall 2nd in the event.

IMG_8561

When did the love affair with olive oil begin? Evidently it was about 6,000 years ago. The tree is the oldest known cultivated tree in the world.IMG_8579 Crete has grown the fruit since 3,000BC, before written language. Olives have been a significant part of many early cultures. It was even added to the Greek mythology. Rumor has it, the Goddess Athena brought the olive to the Greeks as a gift, and that’s how Athens received its name.

Standing_Liberty_Quarter holding olive branchThroughout history olive oil has been used for light, heat, medicine, perfume, religious rituals, francsoaps, cosmetics, and food. And of course the “Olive Branch” is a symbol of peace and is found on a number of coins.

Olive Oil is heavily regulated as more crooks are trying to counterfeit the product. Some estimate that as much as 69% of olive oil in the US is a fraud! Fake I say! The crooks!! The ruse is that some aren’t virgin, some aren’t Italian, and some aren’t even olive oil. Check out this article from UC Davis with very good ideas on how to avoid buying the fake stuff. And did you know the Mafia has a huge part in the olive oil fraudulent market? Can’t the mob stick to cigarettes and drugs?

There are a number of myths about olive oil and Nancy Jenkins, a self-proclaimed oleophile, dispels those myths in this article.

During my stay at Solebello in Morro d’alba Italy I had the great privilege of helping pick olives for olive oil. Picking olives in Italy! It was a great experience, and because of the company it was a lot of fun.

Next we took the olives to The Cantina Stefano Mancinelli Winery to press into oil. Stay tuned for part II.

Resources …

SCD Lifestyle

The Daily Beast – The Mafia and olive oil

UC Davis Report Olive Oil Study

The best Olive Oils

The New York International Olive Oil Competition

Peas Health

Olive Source

https://www.oliveoilsource.com/page/history-olive

Think On This New Stuff

Solebello Italy

Ancient oil press (Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology, Bodrum, Turkey) Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

'My Italy' 2015

IMG_8561The Mediterranean is where the best olive oils are produced. Although California is working on producing some very good olive oils, may I say they will never compare to the thousands of years Spain, Italy, and Greece has spent perfecting the oil.

IMG_8654

Spain is the largest producer of olive oil. They have more than 300 million olive trees. They aren’t really into blending the cultivars, however, and only 20% of the Spanish production is extra virgin. This is where Italy comes in. The county is the largest importers of olive oil. Even though Italy has an estimated 700 different of their own cultivars, they are also known for taking the Spanish olives and making blends. Because of this the Italians are also the largest exporters of olive oil. And this makes the rest of us very happy.

Turkey.Bodrum042" by Georges JansooneTurkey.Bodrum042 by Georges Jansoone

Greece produces about 400,000 tons of olive oil a…

View original post 561 more words

French Fries in Italy

Hoeing the Fields (Pitting Potatoes) (caSome think potatoes were introduced through the Belgians or French (ya’d think the Irish) but it appears it was the Spanish. In 1537, some Spanish conquistadors apparently discovered potatoes in Peru where the Incas had been growing them since 8,000BC. The Spanish called them truffles. A far cry from truffles they are, but potatoes do grow in the ground. In the late 1500s, potatoes were brought back to Spain and introduced to Italy. Italy had the potato before Ireland! At least that’s one of the stories.

When did the potato arrive in Ireland? No one knows, nor do we know who introduced the spud to the island, but we do know it was in early 1600. It could have been Sir Walter Ralegh, Sir Francis Drake or John Hawkins, they have all received credit at some point.

The-Introduction-of-the-Potato-into-Ireland-2What we do know is that the potato came from South America, first domesticated in the Andes, landing in Europe in the 1500­1600s. And thank goodness it found it’s way over.

Over 100 countries cultivate the plant and have created 4,000 varieties specific to different areas. It has now become the third most important food crop in the world after wheat and rice. It is more efficient is water use than the grain crops, an important quality in the drought prone areas.

It was only recently that a vicious campaign against carbohydrates gave potatoes a ‘bad rap’. There is nothing wrong with potatoes. In fact, they are a great source of potassium, fiber, magnesium, Vit B­6, calcium, and protein… and comfort.

Today we have a wide variety of potatoes to use, and we prepare them in many different dishes. They are served at breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner around the world. We have baked, mashed, scalloped, au gratin, gnocchi, latkes, croquettes, roasted, boiled, shredded, sliced, cubed, in stews, casseroles, salads and soups. But most of all we have FRENCH FRIES! And Italy, one of the earliest pioneers on making the potatoes what it is today, has stores dedicated to French Fries. A French Fry shop. Shear genius.

https://www.facebook.com/scartozz

References & More Information

Today I found out

Potato Goodness

History Ireland

International Potato Center

19th Century Paintings

 

Jennifer Lucero to Join Celtic Farms

jeni 1Please let me introduce and welcome Jennifer Lucero to the Celtic Farms Food & Photography. I started this blog a few years ago as something fun to do while working my day job, but now I’m retiring and want to focus on food blogging and photography, and create a new business. In my first career I incorporated two businesses and developed and ran a counseling agency. As with any business it’s about having vision, developing an effective plan of action, and then putting one foot in front of the other.

Well, as any professional blogger knows it is a full-time job just getting the blog out there, linking up, signing up, following up, advertising, and promoting, and …. how can one person do all that AND write and shoot? I can’t and figured the blog would just be a hobby. And then came Jennifer. She is creative, motivated, focused, tech friendly, and a baker of cakes. She opened and ran a beauty salon for many years.

Jennifer is the promotions and marketing department of Celtic Farms Food & Photography! She might even be a guest contributor and share cake recipes.

Chowder

IMG_8590The origin of Chowder is not as clear as many other foods. The first recipe appeared in 1751 in the Boston Evening Post but traces of the term go back much further.

It looks like the fish chowder was born from the English Channel. References to the soup are found in the fishing villages of the coast of Northwestern France and Southwestern coast of England, right across the English Channel from each other. The French word ‘chaudiere’, a cooking pot, may have evolved into the word Chowder. The village would have a large cauldron ready for the catch the fishermen brought home. Of course, there would be a celebration.

Meanwhile, across the Channel, Cornwall was cooking up their own variation of clams and oysters in broth with potatoes and pork. The Old English term ‘jowter’, meaning fish peddler, could be where our word ‘chowder’ originated. Layering ingredients, called the “layering technique”, made the first chowder. Onions were on the bottom to protect the pork from burning

When someone mentions clam chowder, not that it comes up in conversation that often, most of us probably think of New England Clam Chowder but there are a few more to explore. Chowder is a thick, chunky soup with a key ingredient, like clams or corn, and typically onion, bacon or pork, and potatoes. While the base is not always cream or milk (why not is beyond me), most people think of a cream based soup when they think of Chowder (pretty sure I asked all of them.). There are a couple chowders made with only a tomato base, but either way chowder is a thick, rich and hearty soup that with bread makes a great meal.

The Foundation of Chowder:

  • The main vegetable, seafood, or meat.
  • Stock or broth.
  • Cream or milk, or a thick tomatoes base.
  • Diced onion, bacon, and potatoes.
  • A thickening agent, such as cornstarch, flour, or puree potatoes.

The whole debate of ‘tomatoes or no tomatoes’ in clam chowder is long standing. If you ask me, chowder should include cream (and nutmeg). In fact, in 1939 the state of Maine introduced a bill into legislature to make the use of tomatoes in clam chowder against the law, it was so frowned upon.

Untitled

The Union Oyster House

Two of the oldest restaurants serving clam chowder: The Union Oyster House was established 1826 in Boston, MA (you know,  “Boston” Clam Chowder!). The building itself has been a part of history. Built in the early 1700s, it has been an importer of fancy dress goods, a fish store, in 1771 it housed the ‘Massachusetts Spy‘, the longest newspaper in the US. Hancock and Quincy’s wives hung out at the house mending clothes for the colonists. Louis Philippe (king of France from 1830 to 1848) lived in exile on the second floor of the Union Building in the fall of 1797. For more, perhaps interesting, on Phillippe and the exile check out the History of Massachusetts.

0000And on the West Coast one of the oldest restaurants serving clam chowder is Alioto’s Restaurant, a classic seafood restaurant now run by the fourth generation of the Alioto family. Alioto’s began as a fresh fish stall on San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf in 1925, and now serving fresh fish in an elegant restaurant on the bay.

There are a number of clam chowders now: New England, Manhattan, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Delaware, Hatteras (North Calolina), Minorcan , and more. Wikipedia does a good explaining the differences, check it out.

This recipe was using what ingredients I had available. It was for a little contest with mushrooms as the main ingredient, and it was a wonderfully rainy day (in Northern California every rainy day is a beautiful thing!). I would have used potatoes but had none.

Mushroom & Corn Chowder

Ingredients:

  • 1 qt. Broth (Chicken or veggie)
  • All the veggies should be diced ¼ – ½ in.
  • 3 Cups mushrooms – cut into ½ in. pieces
  • 1 Cup corn – frozen is helpful when it’s out of season
  • 1 Leek – diced
  • 1 Celery stalk – diced
  • 1 Carrot – diced
  • 1 Sweet red pepper – diced
  • 1 Onion – diced
  • Parsley – minced
  • Salt, lots of white or black pepper
  • 1 to 2 tbsp. grated nutmeg
  • ¼ or less cayenne
  • Olive oil
  • Thickening agent. I used flour
  • Cream to taste

To Do:

  • Cut bacon into approximately ½ in. pieces and brown in a big pot. Remove, drain on towels, and set aside.
  • Pour off the grease, keeping a tbsp. Add 1 tbsp. of olive oil, heat and add diced onion. Sauté onions 2 minutes.
  • Add the flour to 1 cup of broth and whisk out any lumps. Add to the pot and simmer on low to thicken. When the flour doesn’t smell like flour it’s done. Be careful not to brown the mixture. You may need to add some butter or broth as it’s thickening. (You can also use cornstarch or other thickening agent.)
  • Stir in 2 cups of broth.
  • Add the leek, celery, carrot, pepper, mushrooms, and spices, cover with broth and simmer until almost done.
  • Add the corn and stir and simmer until the corn is hot and the veggies are cooked al dente.
  • Add more broth as needed. Chowder is meant to have a thick cream base, but if you want it a bit thinner, that’s OK with me.
  • Add bacon and cream.

* The Alioto and the Union Oyster House photos are not mine They do not give photo credit on their websites but that is where I got the pictures.

References

These are the helpful references I used in this blog. I did not check their sources but feel pretty good about efforts. Many thanks.

History of Chowder 

Seasoned Advice

The Chicago Tribune

A Mexican Clam Chowder that looks great.

A spicy Chorizo chowder from A Ducks Oven.

Wikapedia

Hungry Monster

Union Oyster House

Alioto’s Restaurant

(Any links to other sites or mention of products, stores, and such, are not compensated through advertising dollars. I wish they were.)IMG_8613

Portobello Mushrooms & Red Meat Sauce with Lindsey’s Black Olives

IMG_8568The organizers of IFBC (International Food Blogging Conference) generously offered a big discount for attendance to the 2015 conference, in exchange for writing 3 blogs about the conference and/or the sponsors. Not only is that a great deal, but for a beginner like me, it’s motivation to keep the momentum going.

Thinking about what I could do with Lindsay Olives (they gave us coupons for free olives) I wanted to do something other than tapenade (though that will be next). Coincidentally, a red meat sauce was simmering in the slow cooker. It was a simple sauce, with onion, mushrooms, tomatoes, ground beef, and spices. How could I use the olives? It’s always an experiment…. right?

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms with Red Meat Sauce and Lindsey’s Black Olives

The freshest mushrooms are firm and the connective white membrane is still mostly in tact. Use those. Remove stems and with a spoon, scoop out the gills making a little bowl.

Add a couple spoonful of sauce (see below) to a baking dish and place the mushrooms on top, bowl side up. Using a slotted spoon drain off the liquid and overfill each mushroom (or you can smother them with the sauce, like I did). Layer the top with slices of fresh Mozzarella, or other cheese of your choice. And, if you like, crumble the breadcrumb mixture on top. Bake in 350-degree (175-C) oven, about 35 – 45 minutes or until the mushroom is fork tender and the cheese and topping are golden brown.

Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes. No need to burn the roof of your mouth. Garnish with sliced Lindsay black olives.

Serve with a little salad and crispy bread and this makes a lovely meal.

The Tomato Meat Sauce with Lindsey Black Olives

  • Roma tomatoes: About 10 large Roma cut into big pieces.IMG_8575
  • Onion: 1 medium chopped.
  • Mushrooms: 2 cups, thick sliced (you want them to hold up over the long looking time).
  • Canned tomatoes: 16 oz. can chopped or crushed tomatoes.
  • Herbs: 1 tbsp. dried, or 2 to 3 tbsp. fresh chopped oregano, or Herb de Provence.
  • Bullion: Chicken, beef, or vegetable bullion: 2 cubes or 2 tbsp. powered bullion.
  • Red wine: 1 to 2 cups of a hearty red wine.
  • Celery salt: 1 tsp.
  • Spice: Salt & Pepper

Simmer all the ingredients in the slow cooker on medium 4 to 6 hours to thicken. (Or longer if you like having something going all day long. Maybe it’s a rainy day!)  This is a thick sauce

  • Ground beef: 1 to 2 cups of cooked, well-drained ground beef.
  • Lindsey olives: 12 oz. canned, sliced olives. Same some for garnish.

IMG_8545

When the ingredients reduce down into a sauce add the 1 to 3 cups of cooked, well-drained ground beef and the sliced olives and continue cooking 1 to 2 hours. > Kidney beans are a good substitute for the beef.

Assembly: You can use the sauce to stuff mushrooms, over pasta, or on it’s own. Fill the mushrooms, place cheese on top, cover with the breadcrumbs.

  • Sliced mozzarella: > Goat cheese, Gouda, Cream cheese are good choices, too.
  • Breadcrumb topping: To a cup of broth or milk add 4 tbsp. olive oil and/or melted butter and drizzle over Italian or Panko Bread crumbs until moist enough to form clumps. Season well. Set aside in the refrigerator until ready to use.

I’ve used Lindsey olives for decades, since my mom was cooking and I was a kid. The company, Bell-Carter Foods, has been around 100 years. It appear they are one of the good companies, working with its employees to make a healthy working environment and company, and with their new line of natural products they’re also keeping up with consumers needs for clean food.  A California company, they are the largest producers of olives in the world! The company is still family owned and operated. I did a bit of research on this company and really couldn’t find any negative information. On the contrary they are conscientious and concerned about their employees, customers, community and products. They are in support of, and in compliance with, full product disclosure. Bell-Carter Company – coupons.

Food conferences are fun!

I just returned from the International Food Bloggers Conference (IFBC) in Seattle Washington. It was more much then expected. The event was run by friendly and accessible people, all ready to answer a question or solve a problem. They made the whole event look seamless. The vendors and sponsors were so generous (please check out the IFBC sponsors.). In addition to the gifts they gave us we had breakfast, snacks, and two nights of food and wine tasting that turned into full meals. The venue, the Sheraton Hotel, was a great choice. The staff, from housekeeping to the front desk, were also friendly and helpful. The conference cost and the hotel rates IFBC negotiated were so reasonable. IFBC is doing a good job at making this conference accessible for even beginning and hopeful food bloggers and/or photographers. It was just so much fun! The attendees were open and supportive, we all exchanged cards and were excited for each others work and success. What field do you see that? And friendships were forged. I’ve attended many professional conferences from my first career on child abuse, trauma, mental illness, and none were near this much fun. Yes, I do see the nature of those trainings – all the more important to add fun and laughter! I finally realized what they were missing – wine!  ;)  Another thing I noticed is that after decades in my old field I wasn’t learning much at conferences anymore, but the IFBC was all new information and a good challenge for me. From the presentations to all the bloggers I am inspired to combine and pursue three of my passions, food, writing and photography.

Even though I’ve posted a few recipes on this blog, it’s only been about once a year. A slow start. The IFBC was the jump start I needed to get things rolling. The conference provided me the vision needed to organize my passions into stories, recipes, and photographs people would enjoy. That, and retiring soon has me so excited for my new career (‘career’ – that thing that occupies most of your time, and provides satisfaction and compensation). I’m not retired yet, however, so for a few months I’ll be writing about other people, places, and events vs my own recipes. Now that I have time I want to travel more, mostly around food, of course. That will fit the theme so you can expect some musings and pictures from my Italy trip in October.  This will be a wonderful exercise for me to just start writing, and it will keep the momentum going. This blog has yet to take shape. There will be glitches, the majority will probably be a misplaced comma until I get an editor on board. Someone might advise, “Don’t risk posting mistakes, wait until you find that editor.”. That makes sense. But the thing is much of my life I’ve been waiting until the “right moment”, the “right people”, the “right tools”, and never took a step forward. I’ve spent so much of my life waiting. This is all new to me, and I’ll make mistakes with writing (being a little dyslexic can add humor to it), and post some less than great photos, but I’m pushing 60, and do not have time to wait around for anything anymore.  What I can promise is that I will improve, and if you stick with me you’ll be part of this new adventure. My goals are lofty, typical of me. Others in the food blogging world started not that long ago and are well received and making an honest, albeit humble living. One of the other great benefits from attending the IFBC event is now I have some knowledgeable and supportive mentors. Let’s face it, this was one big love fest for me. :)

The first presentation at the IFBC, Introduction to Blogging, was presented by Dr. Jean Layton. Jean covered a lot of material and made it easy to understand. She painted a clear picture of the essence of blogging and the practical application. While we’re all sharing recipes and beautiful pictures, reviews and travel logs, more then that we’re sharing our story. No one has asked me to share ‘my’ story before. My blog was going to be recipes and pictures. I might have said a thing or two to introduce the recipe but that would be all. Over 30 years as a therapist I have been listening to other people’s stories, and now I get to share mine?

OK, not counseling type stories, of course – everyone has their own! A great quote form the movie Hope Floats is this: A grandchild asks, “Gandma, mom says childhood is the best time of your life”. Grandmother responds, “Oh bull shit, childhood is something that happens to you, you spend the rest of your life trying to get over.”

And one way to help heal our hearts and souls is to find the joy in the foods we grow, prepare, and eat, and joy in the people we meet and break bread. Since the dawn of time people share food. It is a universal symbol of accepting and nurturing.

As I said, the next many posts will be about the conference, Seattle, and Italy as I get organized on line, and my day job hours decrease. So, please be patient as I practice a little here, and get my proverbial feet wet. Let us see how much improvement there will be and how far I can take this new adventure. ….. and thanks for your support. <3

Here we go ….

The Wild Ginger Asian Restaurant in Seattle was one of the generous vendors at this year’s IFBC. The “Wild Ginger Asian Restaurant, features freshly prepared, authentic cuisine that spans the Pacific Rim from China to Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.” (taken from their FB page)

I don’t know if Executive Chef: Jacky Lo and Cuisine Chef: Nathan Uy created this soup for this event, but either way I’m so glad they brought this delight to us hungry food bloggers.

Wild Ginger Soup

Wild Ginger Asian Restaurant & Satay Bar

When I think of ginger I think of a sharp flavor drowning out the ingredients, it’s suppose to enhance. In truth I don’t think everyone knows how to use ginger well, and since I don’t care for it all that much, I also don’t care to learn … but wait, this soup has changed my mind.

Wild Ginger Soup

Wild Ginger Soup

It is a balanced blend of flavors, all floating together in this perfect broth of coconut milk, waiting for you.

Wild Ginger Soup

Wild Ginger Soup from the Wild Ginger Asian Restaurant & Satay Bar in Seattle Washington.