Posts Tagged ‘olive oil’

Vanessa wrote a comment/response yesterday to the post: Pinzimonio–olive oil dip.

“What could be better than the best olive oil served with vegetables? The Italians have really got it right.”

…which prompts me to share a simple story (and recipe)  recounted in my cookbook--Delicious Dishes for Diabetics.

Many years ago I had lunch in a tiny worker’s café in the centre of Florence only open at midday. I watched the owner put down a plate of steaming broccoli–that was all there was on the plate–in front of a burly Italian and place a large jug of olive oil and salt & pepper beside it.

The man poured on the oil, seasoned the irresistible plateful and began to eat.

That’s simple eating.

Of course, he may have had a veal chop after I left!

500 g/18 oz broccoli–stems stripped of rough outer layer and cut into bite-size pieces, florets cut


BBBS--Before Being Bite-Sized!

olive oil

salt pepper

lemon quarters

  • Steam the broccoli until tender, but careful not to overcook it–the colour dulls.
  • Test from time to time with the end of a sharp knife.
  • Transfer to a serving bowl and pour over the oil–be generous.
  • Season to taste and mix carefully.
  • Serve with a small jug of olive oil for those who are never satisfied–and some lemon quarters.

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An autumn/winter soup this–with a big presence.

Adapted from Leslie Forbes’ lovely book  A Table in Tuscany.

In the early eighties she had the bright idea of eating her way round Tuscany’s restaurants and watering holes–an arduous task to set oneself.

This soup–one of the best bean soups in Tuscanyshe credits to the restaurant of the Fattoria dei Barbi near Montalcino and the unnamed English cook, married to an Italian, thus providing the important advantage of a Tuscan mother-in-law!  This is 25 years ago mind–things have a habit of changing.

The book remains a gem (used copies available on Amazon for a penny!).

2 carrots--chopped small

2 sticks of celery–chopped small

2 leeks–cleaned and chopped small

6 tablespoons olive oil

3/4 tinned tomatoes–chopped up with their liquid

A sprig of fresh thyme

1 large garlic clove–pulped

Half a green cabbage–stem removed and shredded

The other half of the cabbage shredded thinly–this for a topping (see below)

1 tablespoon olive oil

About 800 gms/24 oz of cooked white beans [canned or bottled or dried, soaked and cooked]–drained but their liquid retained

1 pint/500ml stock–I use organic vegetable stock cubes
  • Heat the oil in a large saucepan and sweat the celery, leeks and carrots until they are tender–about twenty minutes.
  • Mix in the tomatoes, garlic and thyme and let them cook on for five minutes.
  • Add the cabbage, season with salt & pepper and cook on for ten minutes.
  • Purée three-quarters of the beans in a mixer with a little of their liquid.
  • Add the bean water and the bean purée and stir it all together.
  • Cook this thick mix for an hour–stirring it regularly to stop it sticking and burning.
  • Add a little of the stock each time you stir it.
  • This is meant to be a thick soup–up to you how loose to make it–just be careful not to dilute the depth of taste.
  • While the soup cooks on sauté the rest of the cabbage to serve as a topping when you present the soup.

  • Keep tasting the soup as you go (you may find yourself doing that anyway!).
  • Serve with a drizzle of good quality olive oil.

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Two old favourites

As an appetizer before dinner last night Meredith served our friends Hilton and Lindsay pinzimonio–without quite knowing…!

Pinzimonio, I discover (by a chance re-reading of Lesley Forbes’ lovely book,  A Table in Tuscanyis a Tuscan olive oil dip, best made with the oil from newly-harvested olives.

It’s usually served with raw or lightly-cooked vegetables such as fennel, red and yellow peppers, celery, radishes and artichokes.

Simply pour some beautiful green olive oil on the plate, add a little sea salt and black pepper and dip a slice of vegetable in it.

Sometimes a little lemon juice is added–but this is frowned upon by Tuscans, according to  Wilma Pezzini in her Tuscan Cookbook!

Meredith substituted rough country bread for the vegetables and left out the salt and pepper–‘It didn’t need salt and pepper!,’ she just said disdainfully.

A parsimonious pinzimonio!

I watched in dismay from the stove area as the three of them dipped and dipped–putting away  helping after helping of this simple but morish dish.

You won’t have any appetite left!‘ I cried in vain!

But pinzimonio proved a true appetizer–they all managed some butternut squash soup and a healthy plate of spatchcocked chicken, romanesco broccoli (aka Roman cauliflower), green salad, Italian peccorino cheeses and baked apples!

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The green “gold” that won 2nd prize at the Fiera dell’Olio in Cavriglia, Tuscany last Sunday.

Our friend Keith has emailed to say their new season olive oil from his Podere [farm]Boggioli won second prize at the local fair this week. A good enough reason, if I needed one, to cook one of Helen’s signature dishes for lunch today.

Helen cooked this delicious pasta after the last olive was in the basket and the picking was done for another year.

Two of the team stayed to eat it with us–Lucio and Ivan. Both still had  their own trees to harvest.

I like to think they’d had the dish before and knew it was irresistible.

for 2  [for 4–double up on the beans and their liquid and add 4 oz/100 gms more pasta]

200 gms/8 oz wholewheat penne

4 tablespoons olive oil

8 cloves of garlic–peeled but kept whole

a handful of fresh sage

2 small red (hot) chilies–chopped

1 tin  [about 200 gms drained] of white beans–drained, but their liquid retained

4/5 tablespoons of stock–I dissolved half an organic vegetable stock cube in a mug of hot water


  • Heat the oil in a large saucepan.
  • Add the garlic and let it colour a little.

  • Add the sage and chilis and let them cook on for a few moments.
  • Add the beans and cook gently for about fifteen minutes–adding the bean liquid little by little to make a thick runny sauce.
  • I continued cooking the mix a little longer, adding the tablespoons of stock–a couple at a time–to keep the mixture loose without losing the thick viscous quality of the sauce.

  • Some of the beans will melt into the sauce.
  • Season with salt and taste.
  • Cook the penne in plenty of salted water until just tender.
  • Drain the pasta.

  • Add the sauce to the pasta and let it meld in.
  • Helen doesn’t serve grated parmesan with this pasta–but it’s up to you, of course.
  • I poured over a little of the new olive oil–naturally!

  • Meredith added a little parmesan–that’s marriage for you!
  • We ate it “al fresco” in the late autumn sunshine.

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Helen, our hostess here in the Tuscan hills, is an insoucient cook–(a quality I have yet to achieve).

Helen with paprika sauce

She will throw some of this and a little more of that into her tall saucepan and very quickly the aroma of lunch fills her kitchen.

Angelino, one of our host Keith’s expert olive picking team, brought up a very large cauliflower from his garden one morning last week and Helen made a sauce of olive oil, paprika and lemon juice to bathe it in before roasting it in a moderate oven for 40 odd minutes.

She served it with slices of pork fillet roasted with rosemary from her garden the night we arrived.

The cauliflower dish turned out to be one of those you find your fingers sneaking back to when the hostess isn’t looking. Ju-ust one more little piece…uum!

Helen says she’s happy for me to reproduce the recipe here.

1 cauliflower–stem removed and split into smallish florets

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 teaspoon of paprika–(I’m going to try it with the sweet smoked Spanish stuff back at the ranch)

juice of a lemon plus a little extra water (I noticed Helen fill the squeezed lemon halves with water and squeeze them out again–getting the most out of a lemon!)

salt and pepper

oven at 170C/325F

  • In a large bowl whisk the oil, paprika and lemon juice together into a dark red viscous sauce.
  • Add the cauliflower to the bowl and turn them over and over in the sauce.
  • Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Spread out the cauliflower in a shallow roasting tray.
  • Roast in the oven for about 40 minutes.
  • Don’t expect much left over!!

Meredith, not usually a fan, gave it the thumbs up as the best cauliflower dish she’d ever had.

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This is quickly done and delicious–but the mackerel really does need to be fresh.

The incomparable Nigel Slater does a thyme dressing for the tomato salad (see below) and it is the clincher for this combination.

Back in May I bought a couple of  “green” tomato plants at the market in Lautrec.

The young woman assured me they would produce beautiful sweet green tomatoes.

Really?– seems a contradiction in terms.”

“You’ll see!”.

She was right. I’ve been eating my words and the green tomatoes for a couple of weeks now!

I thanked her today at the market after buying the mackerel from the fishmonger.

She said she was pleased I liked them.

“People are reluctant to buy them–obviously not ready–not ripe, they say”.

Worth a try I say–with the zeal of the newly converted!

for 2

2 very fresh mackerel–in fillets

salt and pepper

olive oil

tomatoes for the salad–cut up or sliced as you like (of course you can use RED!)

for the dressing:

1 garlic clove–peeled and pulped with a good pinch of salt

1 tablespoon thyme leaves–chopped


4 tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper

making the dressing:

Pound the thyme leaves with the garlic clove and salt.

Add some pepper.

Mix in the lemon juice,

then the olive oil.

Cooking the mackerel

  • Heat the grill to hot.
  • Brush the fillets with olive oil and season them well.
  • Lay some foil over the grill pan–brush with oil.
  • Place the fillets, skin side up, on the foil.
  • Place under the grill.
  • The skin will start to scorch and bubble–which adds to the flavour.

(Careful not to overdo it though.)

Dress the tomato salad, add the cooked fillets and drizzle the fish with a little more of the dressing.

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Bottled gold--aka--olive oil

Our friends Helen and Keith just left–heading back to the Tuscan hills where they make world class green-gold nectar from the olives on their farm.

They have a thousand trees high above the valley of the Arno, south east of Florence.

Last November we went to “help” with the harvest.

Our job was to sort the leaves and branches from the purple green fruit–

–while trying not to crush the newly fallen olives underfoot, and get in the way of the real workers.

These were five and it took them three weeks–(rain stopped play every other day when we were there, which

gave our backs a chance to recover.)

They brush the trees with long poles in downward strokes, teasing the olives onto the nets laid out below.

Fitted to the ends of the poles are what look like pairs of hands, which “clap” pneumatically.

“Well done, olives–but time to go to the press!”

Every two days Keith loads up the van and heads to the frantoio where the olives make the journey from fruit to oil.

Stone pressing is a thing of the past; now the olives are processed by centrifugation–a horrible word but a cleaner method that produces better quality oil.

The unromantic centrifuge

The liquid gold emerging.

A proud moment–for a beginner!

Proud parvenu!

Keith says he gets about a litre of oil per tree.

Last November’s harvest was his all-time second best–that pleased us!

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