Jul 042011

Kale chip recipes are everywhere these days, but after reading several, before attempting to make some, I became suspicious that these recipes had not actually been tried. The evidence – the use of the term “drizzle” for delivering extra virgin olive oil to the prospective kale chip.

There is no way that olive oil or any oil can properly coat the future chip by drizzling on it. The kale will be either under or over coated. Neither option makes for a tasty kale chip. I have an unorthodox olive oil delivery system which I will mention at the end of the recipe, and I ask your forgiveness in advance. So here’s how Olive Crazy makes kale chips.

1 bunch kale
extra virgin olive oil (perfect opportunity to try a flavored oil here)
salt (I use light salt)
Implements to have at hand: baking sheet, scissors, small spray bottle for olive oil, paper towels.

Wash kale and dry very well with paper towels. Cut off stem and any of the spine that seems too woody. Cut or tear into pieces about the size of a big potato chip. Place on baking sheet (pieces can touch). Spray olive oil over kale, evenly coating. Sprinkle salt over kale. Cook at 350F/177C for about 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool. Get snacking.

One day I decided I needed a way to spray my olive oil without buying a grocery spray can of mystery-olive-oil or going to a fancy store and buying some very expensive, TV-chef-approved glass or stainless steel spray bottle. I pondered for a bit and came up with a solution.

My unconventional olive oil delivery system is a cheap, colorful, plastic spray bottle with a levered spray mechanism. NO! Yes, it is. It’s the kind you find at the pharmacy on a bottom shelf in a basket. I know. I know. This defies some of my previous cautionary tales, but I promise I don’t actually store the oil in the bottle.

When I brought the bottle home from the store I thoroughly cleaned it (including the straw and the spraying part) with dish-washing liquid. I then rinsed it in hot water until most of the soapy residue was gone. Next I rinsed it in cold water. Normally I would have tapped out as much water as I could and let the bottle air-dry but I needed it right away.

I removed as much of the water as possible, poured a bit of the extra virgin olive oil I planned to use in the bottle, and shook it to coat the inside of the bottle. I then did some test sprays on a napkin to clear the straw and sprayer. I disassembled the bottle and turned it upside down on a paper towel – any remaining water runs off first. I added the amount of evoo I needed to use and sprayed. When I was finished. I did not store the oil in the plastic, but went through the above cleansing process again. This time I air-dried it and stored it away until it was needed.

I know it seems like a lot of trouble but the small bottles aren’t difficult to keep clean. Also a small bottle helps prevent users from succumbing to laziness and storing any evoo in the bottle to use the next day – please don’t do it. I’ve thought about it myself, but haven’t given in yet.

May the sun shine through your branches.


Jul 022011

I haven’t reposted any other writer’s work before. I usually write my thoughts and then link the article for you to read, but I like lots of points in this article and want to post it just the way it is.

Here is “Smell, sip, swirl, savour” by Jayanthi Madhukar for the Bangalore Mirror.

“First things first. Olive oil is not oil. ‘Technically, olive oil is extracted by crushing olives which are fruits, so olive oil is actually a fruit juice,’ says Michele Labarile, biologist and researcher who has been working on olive oil quality control since 1982. He is also one of the first Italian teachers of Extra Virgin Olive Oil tasting courses. Michele shares his tips on olive oil tasting.

But before that, what exactly is extra virgin oil? It happens to be the highest quality olive oil characterised by perfect flavour and odour. Extra virgin olive oil means that the oil has been produced by physically crushing the fruit with no chemical treatment to neutralise the strong tastes that can be categorised as defects (since these defects are not present). In many olive oil producing regions, extra virgin oil’s quality is judged by a panel of experts for taste, mouth feel and aroma.

A little like wine tasting (after all, both wine and olive oil are obtained by crushing the fruit), olive oil tasting can be a serious affair indeed. And just as the quality of wine depends on the minutest aspect of the grapes, so does olive oil. Now get geared for the taste of olive oil – and don’t cheat, a little sip of olive oil will not hurt!

According to Michele, a typical professional tasting session is done with a coloured (blue) glass tumbler that resembles a votive holder. ‘This way, one will not judge the oil by its colour alone,’ says Michele.

The actual procedure involves the following steps: Pour a little olive oil (about 1 tablespoon) in a wine glass or a blue tasting glass. Cup the glass in one hand and cover it with the other. Swirl the oil and warm it for a few seconds. Now uncover the glass and take a good whiff of the oil. By ‘nosing’ the oil, you will be able to detect aromas like the smell of freshly cut grass, cinnamon or a fruity smell which includes vegetable ‘notes’ like artichokes and herbs as well.

Next, take a small sip of the oil and suck it in. This will help vapourise the oil and coat the tongue (which has different taste buds in different areas) and mouth. Suck air through the oil to coax in more aromas. According to Michele, good quality extra virgin olive oil will not leave a greasy feel in the mouth or a greasy aftertaste. ‘The oil will be very non-greasy,’ he informs.

Now in terms of attributes, extra virgin oil has three positive attributes. One is the fruity attribute. The second attribute is the pungency that can be detected in the throat when one swallows the oil. Pungency can range from mild to intense. The third attribute is the bitterness – it is a prominent taste in fresh olives.

For a second session of tasting, spit out any oil remaining in the mouth and drink some water or bite into a piece of green apple to avoid mixing different flavours of olive oil.

An inveterate olive oil taster will be able to detect some desirable traits in olive oil like almond (nutty), artichoke, buttery, fruity, peppery, pungent, spice, sweet and tropical. Undesirable traits include metallic, rancid, musty, brine, greasy, burnt and even bland with no positive traits. It takes some amount of experience to decipher the taste of olive oil.

Tips for Buyers

For the layman or a consumer who wants to buy a bottle of olive oil off a supermarket’s shelf, here are some tips:

– Quality extra virgin oil comes in a dark bottle as light can affect the quality of oil.
– Check the date of production. It’s advisable to buy a product that is not more than a year old.
– Cross check how the bottles are stored. There should be no exposure to direct sunlight and high temperatures.

Myths About Olive Oil

Ishi Khosla, clinical nutritionist, debunks a few myths about olive oil.

Myth 1: Olive oil cannot be used for cooking as high temperatures will destroy the goodness of the oil. Wrong. In fact, olive oil has a high smoking point and is a highly stable oil with a smoking point of 210C.
Myth 2: Olive oil can’t be used for Indian cooking. Extra virgin olive oil can be used for any type of cooking including Indian cooking. The thicker (and greener) the oil, the better it is. Deep frying can also be done in the oil but if required, a less expensive olive oil can be used for frying purpose.
Myth 3: Olive oil is very expensive. Right. But consider the fact that when one uses thick olive oil, the consumption is highly reduced – at least by one third. And when you see the health benefits of the oil, it outweighs the cost factor.

Health Benefits

– It has anti carcinogenic properties and is good for the heart. Extra virgin olive oil is high in polyphenols (a powerful antioxidant) and monounsaturated fat which contributes to lowering bad cholesterol. A diet rich in olive oil is said to reduce incidence of colon, breast and skin cancers.
– It has antithrombotic properties which means that the oil reduces the risks of blood clots. It also reduces the risks of clogged arteries.
– Olive oil consumption improves bone health.
– It has anti-ageing properties as well.
– Its method of extraction ensures that the goodness of olive oil is retained in the composition.”

May the sun shine through your branches.

www.olive crazy.com

Jun 282011

I must share this article with you, not just because the author, Peter James-Smith, writes about olive oil in squeeze bottles, but because he is very, very funny. Peter’s article “Pink Sauce” also talks about another favorite condiment of mine, the entitled Pink Sauce, only I didn’t know it had a name. It is delicious and very fattening. In this case delicious trumps fattening. I particularly love it on fries. I am drooling as I sip my Slim Fast.

Now to the olive oil matter at hand, olive oil in a squeeze bottle. I first saw this phenomenon mentioned in James-Smith’s article. He said that he found a bottle on his desk from an olive oil company named Willow Creek (South Africa), no doubt they wanted a favorable review of their groovy, new bottle. James-Smith then had many witty things to say about it.

Subsequently, I searched Willow Creek’s website and could not find mention of the olive oil squeeze bottle. I posted a comment at James-Smith’s Pink Sauce article site requesting a photo of the bottle, and am hoping he will provide one. It isn’t that I don’t believe it exists, it’s just – why?

Condiments that come in a squeeze bottle aren’t easy to extract without the help of some utensil or other, in other words, they are thick and a squeeze bottle is an excellent delivery system. I have not yet met an olive oil that is thick enough to warrant the squeeze bottle delivery system. Is there some mutant variety of olive in South Africa of which I am not aware? Probably not.

Perhaps there is a market for the olive oil squeeze bottle. Who am I to say what some folks will buy. What would the bottle be made out of? Plastics, I assume.

Whoa! Plastics and olive oil are not a good combination and over time the plastics alter the taste of the oil. I cannot see purchasing an extra virgin olive oil that is housed in plastic. What is the point? Isn’t it enough that you’ve probably paid a good bit for your evoo, and that you already must worry about it’s oxidation process once it’s opened or is sitting next to your warm stove in the sun?

So far, all this commentary is supposition, and to be fair, I await evidence of the legendary olive oil squeeze bottle.

May the sun shine through your branches.


Mar 172011
It wasn’t until I spent time in Europe and North Africa that I realized that olive oil didn’t have to taste nasty.For years, my Mom’s kitchen pantry housed a small cone-shaped bottle of Pompeian Olive Oil. I’m not sure when she bought the bottle, but I know it made many moves with our family, from Florida to Tennessee to Pennsylvania to a trash can in Augusta, Georgia. No one but Mom used the increasingly stinky, gluey mess inside. Sometimes she used it in her food, declaring it delicious, and sometimes she used it on her hair, extolling the resulting shine and manageability. Years later I realized Mom was on to something, but just not from that poor, rancid bottle. 

Olives come in many varieties, for example, frantoio, koroneiki, kalamata, mission, and arbequina, to name a very few, and the oil that is pressed as Extra Virgin, Virgin, Olive, and other grades of olive oil fit for human consumption vary in taste not only by variety of olive but by grade. Extra Virgin, which is the first press, generally has a stronger flavor than the other grades you can find on your grocery store shelf. But this strong olive fruit flavor isn’t what happened to Mom’s little, well-traveled bottle of olive oil. The olive oil in Mom’s bottle became rancid.

So why does your olive oil taste so bad? It is probably rancid too.

From the time an olive is picked and on it’s way to a press it is in danger of spoiling due to oxidation of the fatty acids in the olive fruit. Once the olive is safely pressed, stored, bottled, shipped to your grocery, and being used in your food the oxidation process slowly continues. There are three ways your bottle of oil oxidizes the fatty acids, the first is by photo-oxidation when light super accelerates the process, second is auto-oxidation which happens during storage in the absence of air the anti-oxidants absorb the free radicals until their aren’t anymore anti-oxidants left and the oxidation process accelerates, and third is called enzymatic peroxidation which is a natural plant enzyme reaction between oxygen and polyunsaturated acids.

Before I give you some tips on storing your olive oil, please do yourself and your family a favor and toss the old olive oil. Add olive oil to your shopping list and experiment with a few different grades and vendors. Have a tasting party with your family and decide which dishes you would prefer enhanced by Extra Virgin, Virgin, or Olive Oil.

Here are three tips for storing your olive oil:

1. Store in a dark cupboard away from sunlight and heat.
2. Store in a cool place, not the refrigerator, at a temperature between 64°F to 68°F or 18°C to 20°C.
3. Decant a large bottle or container of olive oil into well-sealed, small, dark glass containers and store according to steps 1. and 2.

Most olive oils have an 18 to 24 month shelf life from the initial harvest. Once you open the bottle the shelf life declines. So enjoy your new olive oil by pouring it on fresh pasta or toss in a leafy green salad. You’ll find the natural flavors of olive oil will make you Olive Crazy too.

May the sun shine through your branches.