The 2013 Olive Harvest Is Here!
In this issue of East Bay Appetizer, we celebrate the start of the California olive harvest. This oleaginous fruit has been central to Mediterranean cuisine since antiquity and is now becoming important in California as well. Here’s a bin full of opportunities to taste, cook, learn, harvest, preserve, mill, and generally enjoy our local bounty of olives.
Halloween Dinner Class at Il Fiorello Olive Oil Company
Sunday October 27, 3–6pm, 2625 Mankas Corner Rd, Fairfield
Think you can handle playing in the chemistry kitchen? Well you’d better be prepared to cook with the Ghostly Chef and eat until you expire. Wear costumes if you dare and drink the deepest darkest wine for moral support. The menu includes Olive Coffins, Jack-O-Lantern Soufflé, Frisee Salad with Roasted Vampire Hearts, Bloody Blood Sausages and Polenta, Clotted Witches Blood Pudding, and Sweet Trick or Treater’s Fingers!
Mondavi Chef Marvin Martin presents one spooky and delicious dinner at the visitor center of this Fairfield olive oil company. Chef Martin is an expert in olive oil and enjoys a 20-year tenure as a chef for Robert Mondavi Winery, working on a variety of private and public events in the U.S. and Europe, including the annual culinary series known around the world as Great Chefs.
Cost of the event is $75. Seating is limited. Reservations are required. Info and reservations: 707.864.1529,email@example.com, ilfiorello.com
Visit an Historic Olive Ranch
Free Open House events at Hillcrest Ranch in Sunol:
Saturday October 26; November 16, 23, 30;
December 7, 14, 21, 27; with January dates T.B.A.
Events run from approximately 10:30am to 2:30pm
Hillcrest Ranch, 925.209.7702
Drive or hike to Hillcrest Ranch to see one of the historic olive groves that can be found inside Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park and around this part of southeastern Alameda County. Hillcrest Ranch is home to Kathleen Elliott, a horticulturist, teacher, and olive producer whose olive grove dates back to the 1880s. Hillcrest open house events include:
• Complimentary tastings of extra virgin olive oil and baked goods made with olive oil
• Self-guided tour of the historic olive orchard and olive oil bottling facility
• Small olive mill demonstration
• Olive oil soap making demonstration
• Delicious lunches available for purchase
• An exceptional view!
• During the harvest season, both olive picking and olive brining are additional activities, and you can learn about olive tree pruning in January.
Olive Picking and Brining Class at Hillcrest Ranch
Sunday November 24, 10:30am–1pm
Cost $35–65 plus $12 supply fee to be paid to instructor
on the day of class.
Students who sign up for this Institute of Urban Homesteading class get to pick olives right from the 150-year-old trees as Kathleen shares information on every aspect of olive growing and production, from preserving and milling through bottling and cooking. You’ll learn the traditional process of brining and head home with a generous quart of olives. Carpooling/caravan will be arranged. Register here.
California Rare Fruit Growers’ November Meeting
Presents Jim DeFrisco, Contra Costa Master Gardener on Growing and Processing Olives at Home
Newcomers are always welcome at the California Rare Fruit Growers, Golden Gate Chapter meetings. The speaker at this meeting is Jim DeFrisco, a backyard olive grower, who will talk about how to grow, process, and eat olives, with tips on varieties that don’t need to be processed to be edible. Learn how to outwit those bothersome olive fruit flies that can spoil the fruit. Meetings always include lots of sharing: fruit from your yard, finger food, plants to donate for the drawing, and your questions. It’s a free event.
The venue is: Diablo Valley College, Horticulture Dept, Building OH, 321 Golf Club Rd, Pleasant Hill. Questions? Contact John at 415.246.8834 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Directions and more info here
Harvest and Mill Your Own Olives
Before California’s very recent emergence as an important player in world olive oil production, olive trees here were regarded more as landscape plants, due to their beauty and low water needs. But in fact, most of those trees produce olives that can be cured for table use or milled for their oil, provided the olives are harvested properly (which means no more than the day before), sorted for defects, and processed immediately so they do not spoil. Look around for that tree in your yard, a neighbor’s yard, or along a median strip, and you might find you can harvest enough olives to try your hand at these agricultural crafts that date back to antiquity.
Here are several opportunities for small-scale local olive growers to come together and create a blended community olive oil from their freshly picked olives. Participants get to take home an amount of oil that’s equivalent to the percentage of olives they contribute. It is important to contact the milling location in advance for details and in some cases to make an appointment.
Sunday November 3, 9am-3pm
The Olive Press in Sonoma has offered a community milling day since they opened in 1996! Come to the Harvest 2013 Kick Off Party and First Community
Press Day of the season and enjoy a day of olive milling, coffee, food prepared by Green String Farm, fun for the kids, and expert advice from North Bay olive-brining guru Don Landis. Late-Harvest Community Press Day is December 1, 9am-3pm. Info: here.
Sunday December 1, 9am–noon
Got no more than a bucket of olives? Bring it to the community milling at Ii Fiorello Olive Oil Company, 2625 Mankas Corner Rd, Fairfield. Info: 707.864.1529 or ilfiorello.com
Seasonal Fare and Local Olive Oil at Boot and Shoe Service
Review and photos by Kristina Sepetys
The olive oil from Capay Valley’s Séka Hills is a favorite of mine. In browsing their website, I found I wasn’t alone. Dozens of local markets carry their product, including the Pasta Shop, Star Grocery, Berkeley Bowl, Monterey Market, Mi Tierra Foods, and Piedmont Grocery. Restaurants and food artisans that cook with Séka Hills oil include the Cheese Board, Benchmark Pizza, Sketch Ice Cream, Three Stone Hearth and Oakland’s Boot and Shoe Service.
Boot and Shoe Service was the one place I had never visited, so I headed over on a recent afternoon for lunch. The restaurant, which has been around for several years, is a Charlie Hallowell project (he of Temescal’s well-loved Pizzaiolo). It’s pleasant and comfortable as an old shoe, with exposed brick walls, high ceilings, rough, repurposed wood, and earnest, functional tableware. Besides lunch, they serve dinner nightly (except Mondays), and brunch on weekends.
My dining partner and I enjoyed seasonal fare that included a ceci ragu ($10) from their wood oven. Rich with nettles, delicata squash, an egg, and chile oil, it was baked in a clay dish. We also tried a pizzetta with rapini and housemade sausage ($12), and a dish of autumn chicories with shaved fennel and pomegranate ($8). Just as they source their olive oil locally, they get all produce, poultry, meat, and fish from farms, ranches and fisheries in the area that follow principles of sustainability. Good to know and delicious to eat.
Boot and Shoe Service
3308 Grand Avenue
Book Review and Recipes
Southern Italian Desserts by Rosetta Costantino
(Ten Speed Press, 2013)
Review by Kristina Sepetys
If you like your olive oil baked into delicious sweets of the Italian variety, grab a copy of the beautiful new cookbook, Southern Italian Desserts, by Rosetta Costantino. The 76 recipes from Costantino’s homeland in the very southern region of Italy include confections like Pitta ‘Mpigliata (pastry rosettes filled with walnuts, raisins, and cinnamon), Calzoncelli Con i Ceci (fried half-moon pastries filled with a chickpea-chocolate filling), Fichi Secchi al Cioccolato (chocolate-dipped dried figs filled with almonds and candied orange peel), and La Deliziosa (sandwich cookies filled with hazelnut cream). Besides olive oil, the recipes call for ingredients easily available to us in superlative form in Northern California: figs, honey, pistachios, almonds, cherries, persimmons, and citrus. Note that the simple and in some cases minimal, ingredients belie the complexity in both taste and preparation for many of these desserts.
Orange-scented olive oil cake
Costantino’s orange-scented olive oil cake is lovely enjoyed with coffee or tea on a beautiful fall afternoon. Choose a high-quality extra-virgin California olive oil, like Seka Hills or Corto. Make your own candied-orange peel or purchase ready-made, together with the olive oil, at shops like The Pasta Shop, the Spanish Table, and Piedmont Grocery. —KMS
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus a pinch for the egg whites
4 large eggs, separated
1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 cup mild-flavored (buttery) extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons packed finely grated orange zest
2 cups fresh orange juice (about six large oranges; zest before juicing)
2 teaspoons pure orange extract (optional)
1/3 cup packed finely chopped (1/4-inch) candied orange peel (see recipe)
Preheat the oven to 375° with a rack in the center of the oven. Butter and flour a 10-inch (12-cup) ciambella, Bundt, or tube pan, knocking out the excess flour.
Stir together the flour, baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt in a bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and 1 1/4 cups of the sugar until thick. Whisk in the olive oil, orange zest, 1 1/2 cups of the orange juice, and the orange extract, if you are using it. Stir in the flour mixture just until it is combined.
Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt in the bowl of a stand mixer at medium-high speed until medium-firm peaks form that are not at all dry. Use a large spatula to gently fold the egg whites into the batter. Fold in the candied orange peel. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan.
Bake until the top of the cake splits and begins to turn golden, about 40 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the cake should come out clean.
Let the cake cool in the pan until you can easily handle it, about 20 minutes. Unmold the cake onto a wire rack top side up and place the rack over a rimmed baking sheet. (When using a ciambella pan, the cake is traditionally served split side up.) Let the cake cool completely.
To make the soaking syrup, strain the remaining 1/2 cup of orange juice into a small bowl and stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar until it dissolves. Slowly pour the syrup evenly over the top of the cake, allowing it to soak in as you pour. Use a pastry brush to brush the remaining syrup all over the outside of the cake.
To serve, cut the cake in slices using a thin, sharp knife or serrated knife. Store leftovers at room temperature, well wrapped, for up to 2 days, or freeze for up to one month.
Scorze d’Arance Candite
Candied orange peel
Each year in early spring, using the last oranges from our abundant backyard crop, I make candied orange peels to last throughout the year. What does not get used in cannoli, gelato, and other desserts will surely be enjoyed as candy, on its own or dipped in melted dark chocolate, or given to friends as holiday gifts. You can purchase candied orange peels, but they are costly and are never as good as homemade. Blanching the peels five times removes their bitterness and enhances their texture and flavor. Choose organic fruit that has not been sprayed or coated with wax, because you’ll be eating the peels. Segment the leftover orange flesh and add it to fruit salads. —RC
Makes about 35 pieces
5 large navel oranges with thick peels
4 cups granulated sugar, plus more for coating
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 cups water
Use a paring knife to cut the peel from the orange, pith and all, in wide strips running from top to bottom. They will have an elongated diamond shape, about 1 inch at the widest point.
Put the peels into a large soup pot and cover them generously with cool water. Bring to a boil, boil for 2 minutes, and drain. Repeat the boiling and draining twice more. Return the peels to the pot, cover with cold water until cool enough to handle, then drain.
Lay one strip skin side down on a flat surface and use a paring knife running parallel to the rind to cut away most of the white pith inside, leaving about 1/8 inch of pith along with the peel. Repeat with the remaining strips. (Discard the trimmings.) Return the peels to the pot, cover with cold water, and blanch two more times as before, for a total of five blanchings. Drain the peels and set aside.
Stir the sugar, lemon juice, and water in the pot. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes to slightly thicken the syrup. Add the peels and cook until they are shiny and translucent, about 1 hour. Remove the pot from the heat and let the peels plump in the syrup overnight.
Transfer the peels to a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet to dry. As you remove each peel from the syrup, run it between your thumb and forefinger to squeeze any excess syrup back into the pot. When the peels are no longer tacky—24 to 48 or more hours later—transfer the peels, a few at a time, to a shallow bowl of sugar, tossing to coat them well. Return the peels to the rack to dry overnight.
Transfer the peels to an airtight container with parchment paper separating the layers and store in the freezer, where they will keep for at least a year.