Olio Nuovo è arrivato

This week we received our annual shipment of Olio Nuovo from Italy.  Olio Nuovo is the fresh new olive oil of the season, pressed just a few weeks ago between mid-October and Thanksgiving.  This super fresh oil is quite intense, a little cloudy, bold and peppery.

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In the northern hemisphere olive harvests happen in autumn, typically sometime between late September and December.  If you live here in the San Francisco Bay Area you may have noticed folks harvesting olives in the parks and along the sidewalks as olive trees have become more popular as foliage here over the years.  So each year as the year comes to a close the fresh oil is pressed and stored for shipment later in the new year. Typically we start to see the new season oils in the late spring and early summer of the next year. This time is necessary for the oil to settle and mellow a bit, and for the previous years oil to sell through.  Often the oil may be filtered and either bottled or kept in the tank until time for packaging and shipment.

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Olio Nuovo is not allowed to sit and mellow.  It is the freshest, brightest expression of the olive fruit; unfiltered, cloudy, with bits of olives and leaves, and bursting with flavor and aroma.  Olio Nuovo is meant to be consumed quickly, and if you lived in Italy you might pour it over everything for the next couple of months – raw veggies, slow cooked beans, grilled meats, mozzarella, ice cream, pasta, and toasted bread with a pinch of salt.

We have 3 Olio Nuovi from Italy this year:

Tenuta de Capezzana from Tuscany – Beautiful lime green color, scents of green apples and fresh-cut grass. Lovely, velvety texture with a very full, clean flavor of olives, green tea and a delightful peppery finish. A mouthful.

Filippo Contini Bonacossi comments on the 2012 Capezzana Harvest:  “I am very satisfied with the quality of this year’s oil; it has not been this good in years!  The olives appear beautiful, with good pulp, and a level of anticipated maturation, in fact, the ripening began in early October”.

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Olio Verde from Sicily (made from San Francisco’s favorite Castelvetrano Olive) – Dark olive, sage leaf, almost military green color with strong golden highlights, full of Sicilian sunshine. Rich notes of freshly cut grass, artichokes, tomato skin and aromas of banana peel. Strong olive fruit and white pepper flavors. Rich, velvety texture enfolds a well-balanced spiciness which kicks back at the end. OUR BEST VALUE!

Frescobaldi Laudemio from Tuscany – Absynthe, vibrant esmerald deep green.  Rich aromas of artichoke, leafy greens, asparagus and black pepper, as when present in a frantoio when the oil is being pressed. Flavors of freshly sliced artichokes with a noticeable bitter spicy finish typical of Tuscany which will awaken all your tastebuds. 

Lamberto Frescobaldi says about the 2012 harvest: 2012: what a great year for Laudemio! I don’t recall such a vibrant, rich aromatic Laudemio . For our great wines, we look for low yields instead for a great Laudemio we hope for a generous crop of olives . The reason is simple: a considerable amount of olives makes them mature more slowly and remain smaller, thus the aromas are more concentrate and the colour is greener.  We had the right amount of rain in Spring and early Summer, then a terrifically hot dry summer. From October onwards we monitored the olives and we started picking on the 20th, almost the same date as of last 3 years. Picking and pressing within few hours is one of the secrets of our quality.

A side note…  About 10 years ago I was in Italy with a group of friends staying in an old farmhouse on the Capezzana property situated between olive trees and vineyards near Carmignano, outside Firenze.  One morning I awoke to the sound of tractors and excited Italians – the olive harvest was happening outside my window.  I watched as multiple generations of the family spread out large nets below the trees, and shook the trees vigorously forcing the olives to fall to the ground.  I thought to myself simultaneously – wow, how cool, and oh boy, that’s a lot of work!  Unfortunately, it was our last day in Italy and I never had an opportunity to know more about those olives… I always think of that day when we receive our Nuovo Olio.

Now’s the time to get a bottle of Olio Nuovo as we will sell out quickly.  The Frescobaldi Laudemio comes in a nice gift box perfect as a stocking stuffer!

Rancho Gordo Beans

We just received a shipment of dried beans from Rancho Gordo in Napa.  On Saturday I cooked a package of Rancho Gordo Flageolet beans at the store and sampled them throughout the afternoon.  The recipe/technique was dead simple – just soaked them overnight, and the next day I cooked them at a soft boil/simmer for about an hour.  Simply seasoned with red onion, bayleaf, and a little dried Italian seasoning we had available.  Once tender, I seasoned them with salt, a good dash of sherry vinegar, and a little Cappezzana nuovo olive oil we had on hand.  At home I might have seasoned them further with Pancetta, or maybe even serving them with Confit Duck Leg.

In addition to dried beans, we also received dried hominy, popping corn, and New Mexico chile powder from Rancho Gordo.  I was so inspired by the beans we prepared on Saturday that I brought home a bag of dried hominy to cook for my Sunday dinner at home the next day.  When I was a kid we ate hominy regularly.  Where I’m from it’s quite common, but in our house the hominy was always from a can.  My dad liked to cook it with lots of butter (margarine actually), and I liked to mix it in my mashed potatoes 🙂  Initially I was thinking to make Posole, or maybe a green chile stew with hominy, but I ended up making a “kitchen sink” hominy stew instead.

I soaked the hominy in water before going to bed.  Like many dried grains, it plumped overnight to about double.  The next morning I drained the water, and added fresh water to the pot.  I brought the hominy to a boil, and lowered the heat all the way and let it simmer for a couple of hours.  The hominy doubled in size again, and became soft yet chewy in texture.  To make the stew, I browned a couple of slices of Pancetta we had in the fridge, and sweated chopped white onion with a crushed garlic clove, mexican oregano, thyme, and bayleaf.  I deglazed with white wine, and filled the pan with chopped kale, coarse chopped carrots and fingerling potatoes, a bone in chicken leg quarter, the cooked hominy, and topped it with stock.  After about an hour of gentle simmering I removed the chicken and bay leaf, shredded the chicken and returned it to the pot, and seasoned the stock with salt, cayenne, and sherry vinegar.  Oh, and I chopped a little cilantro for garnish in the bowl at serving.  We ate the stew with bread, and Manchego cheese.  It was delicious.  Leftovers will be even better!

Hominy Stew

  • 1/2 cup dried hominy
  • white onion
  • kale
  • garlic
  • carrots
  • potatoes
  • bone in chicken thigh(s) or breast(s)
  • mexican oregano
  • thyme
  • bayleaf
  • cayenne pepper
  • stock – veggie, chicken, veal – it’s all good
  • options – pancetta or bacon to build the base; cilantro, parsley, or chives for garnish

Enjoy!

-Ray