Posts Tagged ‘olive oil’

I was cleaning out the pantry recently, and there, in a corner where I haven’t looked for years, was a green 5-liter jug with a plastic cap on it. It brought a smile to my face because although I haven’t seen it in many years, it reminded me of a wonderful trip my wife and I took to Italy when we were still dating.
Our first European trip together was to explore Rome, the Isle of Capri, and the Amalfi coast. We stayed at many wonderful hotels, including an old castle, and we made an effort to sample the local cuisine when possible.
At one of our stops, we walked through a small, quaint village and found a local eatery named Da Roketa (The Rocket.) As I recall, the food was homemade and fantastic, the bread to die for, and the homemade olive oil from the family’s own olive trees something you wanted to drown in.
Much to the surprise of the owners of the restaurant, we asked if we could buy their olive oil to take home to the states with us, and we somehow wound up with this massive 5-liter jug, which we carried with us throughout the rest of our trip.
Although this was after 9/11, the limitations about carrying on liquids had not yet been established, so I ducked taped the plastic cap securely, making sure there’d be no leaks, and I placed the jug in a small duffel bag, cushioned by clothing. I carried that bag right onto the plane!
But first I had to get through security…
Placing my duffel bag on the conveyor belt in Rome as we walked through the x-ray machines, one look at the security agent’s face and it was clear I was going to get pulled side.
The female agent asked me what was in the bag and I matter-of-factly told her: olive oil. She didn’t believe me, so I opened the bag for her and there was my beautiful 5-liter bottle, nestled in some “fragrant” dirty laundry. She looked at it, and her stern look morphed into a smile: “It looked like a bomb on the x-ray screen!”
I explained about the amazing food at Da Roketa, and how we were obsessed with the olive oil. She chuckled, shook her head, and let me zip it up and walk away with it.
The rest of our journey, even when we landed at customs in the United States, was uneventful.
I doubt that even now, even if I checked my luggage, I’d be allowed to bring in an un-hermetically sealed container of olive oil into the states the way I did that day.
We used that olive oil every opportunity we had, and yes, we did eventually finish it.

You’ve probably read about the crazy European olive oil business and how many olive oils are mislabeled and don’t contain what they claim. Some don’t even contain olive oil! Some things I’ve learned:

  • Avoid blends. If the bottle says the olives come from different countries, pass on it. Many that do this use the lowest quality oils they can scrape up from old olives. And many even add oils like peanut oil…dangerous if you suffer from nut allergies.
  • Many producers label the country of origin as Italy, even though the olives didn’t come from there. Italy sells.
  • Go local…or more local, anyway. To me, the European olive oil market is bogus, and I’ve found great olive oils grown and pressed in California.
  • Ask a favor. If you’ve got friends traveling to Italy, Greece, or other olive oil-producing country, they can buy them straight from the olive grower. Ask them to bring some home. You won’t get a lot, but what you get will be really special, and the real deal.

Considering that vegetable oils like canola, corn, safflower, sunflower and others are highly processed and should be avoided, searching out good quality olive oil is worth the effort. The only oils I use for cooking are olive, avocado and coconut.

And the obvious: If you’re paying cheap bucks for a bottle of so-called extra virgin olive oil, you can bet your ass that’s not what you’re getting!

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Just when the olive oil scandal has you shaking your head, a new scandal appears: most almond milks contain as little as 2% almonds! That means they have to fill the container with water and additives that thicken them or prolong their shelf life.

Most almonds are grown in California, in the area where the drought has hit the hardest. Almond milk’s surge in popularity has forced many farmers to use techniques that are environmentally unsafe. So now they’re telling you to drink other milk substitutes like soy, rice or coconut milk.

Soy has a world of problems associated with it, the least of which is the non-organic soybeans that are sprayed with Monsanto’s Round-Up. And they contain plant-produced estrogens which can be bad for both men and women.  Coconut milk has loads of sugars. And rice milk has little or no nutritional benefits.

My solution is to make my own almond milk. It’s easy to do, and I know what’s in it; two simple ingredients: almonds and water.

1 cup organic raw unpasteurized almonds
water
cheese cloth

Make sure the almonds are raw and unsalted. Soak the almonds in a bowl of filtered water overnight. The next day, rinse them well and put them in a blender. Add 5 cups of fresh filtered water and blend well.

Strain the liquid through a double-folded piece of cheesecloth. (For just a few bucks, you can buy nylon material that is made just for this purpose and can be washed and reused.) Toss the solids in your compost pile and refrigerate the almond milk.

The almond milk will stay fresh about a week. I don’t sweeten or flavor mine because I mix it with oatmeal, cinnamon and a little maple syrup…or I use it in fruit smoothies. But you might want to tweak the flavor if you’re drinking it straight.