Olive Crazy: All About Olives and Olive Oil
Jan 112013

by Tahni Segars

Until recently, eating healthy has never really been a priority. I’ve always just been after whatever tastes the best, no matter the calories, the nutrients, or the fat content. But I turned a new leaf and made a commitment to eat better and live better. And at first, I thought that meant sacrificing flavor and foods I liked. But after I picked up a spatula and started experimenting and creating my own menu, I realized there’s plenty out there to keep my taste buds and my heart happy.

The only thing that still trips me up is when I’m stressed and overwhelmed with work and all the surprises life throws my way. During those times I can’t quite make it to the grocery store and am tempted to find a drive thru and gorge on something quick, greasy and fried. I have to remind myself there are other options.

MetroFresh, a restaurant in Midtown Atlanta, has specialized in “fast food” that’s healthy, fresh and creative since it opened in 2005. This alternative to common burger-laden menus offers a constantly updated menu of unexpected fare that’ll make your mouth water.

“We don’t have a deep fryer or a microwave,” said Bryan Kraatz, executive chef at MetroFresh. “Our freezer is like someone’s freezer at home … our food is fresh and we buy most of our produce locally. I get all my produce that day and it gets made that day, so it’s impossible for our food not to be fresh.”

The secret to some of Kraatz’s amazing cuisine is olive oil. The former front man of a rock band and a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Kraatz brings a lot of creativity to the menu. His take on cooking is to highlight ingredients’ natural flavors.

“Because (olive oil) is such a strong flavor and I like to let the natural flavor of things stand on their own, I only use olive oil to finish a dish — like marinating or in salad dressing.”

When this man mentions marinating, you listen — he’s the only chef who’s convinced to me to eat kale and actually want more. His marinated kale sent my taste buds swooning.

One of Kraatz’s favorite olive oil recipes is a basil vinaigrette dressing. So next time you’re looking for something quick, easy and tasty, pull out the food processor and try your hand at dressing up the food in your kitchen or head to MetroFresh for a sampling of Kraatz’s fun take on fresh and fast food.

“(MetroFresh) is unlike any other restaurant I’ve worked at,” Kraatz said. The eatery’s ever-evolving menu keeps him pretty busy with a daily to-do list that calls for freshly made soups, sides, sandwiches and dinner entrees. “You have to be quick, creative, be on your toes, which is something I like. Otherwise, I’d get bored.”

Basil Vinaigrette

1/4 lb fresh basil (stems discarded)
1 cup white balsamic vinegar
1/8 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic
1 peeled shallot (coarsely chopped)
Kosher salt (to taste)
White pepper (to taste)
1 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1. Combine all ingredients except olive oil in food processor.
2. Pulse ingredients until smooth.
3. Add olive oil in a steady stream with food processor on high to emulsify.
4. Remove vinaigrette and enjoy.

May the sun shine through your branches.


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