Having taught culinary class for 13 years, you can imagine I have answered numerous questions. One of the most frequent inquiries is about olive oil. What to use, what is your favorite, how do you choose from so many available varieties, to site a few. On numerous occasions, I have held olive oil tastings offering a choice of extra-virgin oils from around the globe. Students are amazed at the difference in taste and intensity. Peppery, acidic, fragrant are a few descriptives I frequently hear. When all is said and done we conclude that palates vary greatly and the best olive oil is the one that suits yours. That said, there are a few rules in choosing a good oil. One is you don’t have to hock your first-born to buy a good quality for cooking. I always use extra-virgin, which is derived from the first press of the olive and is only 1 per cent acidity. It is considered the finest and fruitiest of the olive oils. It can range from a crystalline champagne color to greenish-golden to bright green. In general, the deeper the color, the more intense the olive flavor. There are different grades for sure, but one thing I always look for is cold-pressed, a chemical free process that extracts the oil using only pressure which produces a natural level of low-acidity. So extra-virgin, cold pressed are essential, but where it comes from is a matter of personal taste. For cooking choose a less expensive variety that you have tasted and enjoy, but I recommend always having a better quality oil on hand as well for use in salad dressings and as a finishing oil (that last drizzle you put on dishes right before serving). I know there are other grades to choose from like virgin (also first pressed but with higher acidity), fino, a blend of virgin and extra-virgin, pure, a combination of refined and virgin and light, an American marketing ploy indicating an extremely fine filtration which results in a lighter color and essentially with none of the flavor olive oils are known for. So, what’s the point, right? Olive oil is used primarily for its flavor so if that is processed away, I think you might as well save yourself the money. By the way, they are the same calorically.
Today I want to highlight one of my favorite quality olive oils. It is produced in Lodi, California by the Coldani Family Olive Ranch. The quality is superb and I treat it as, my precious, not for cooking, but those other purposes as I stated above. The name is Calivirgin and in addition to fine olive oils they also have the most powerful and delicious balsamic vinegars you can imagine. I kid you not. I strongly urge you to check out their website and sample their wares. If you choose to become a club member you will receive a package quarterly with three of their products, often including things not available to the general public. I do not work for them or receive a commission, I am just a fan and wanted to share. Check it out.
For breakfast this morning I made a recipe that includes four of my most beloved things. Rosemary, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Calivirgin olive oil and Calivirgin Very Berry Ginger balsamic vinegar. It doesn’t get much better than that! It goes down like this.
SAVORY PARMESAN/ROSEMARY WAFFLES Makes 16
Recipe by Jeanne Raffetto Tentis
2c unbleached all-purpose flour
1T baking powder
½ t baking soda
½ t sea salt
½ t freshly ground black pepper
¾ c grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2t fresh rosemary, chopped
2 large eggs, lightly beaten (remember farm fresh is best)
½ c good quality olive oil
Non-stick cooking spray or neutral cooking oil
- Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, sea salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl. Whisk ingredients together and add the Parmesan and rosemary, stir to combine.
- Put the eggs and milk in a separate bowl and whisk to mix. Slowly whisk in the oil to blend. Add to dry ingredients and stir until smooth.
- Lightly coat waffle-maker plates with non-stick cooking spray or a neutral oil such as, canola or grape-seed. Preheat your waffle iron as per manufacturer’s instruction.
- When preheated, pour a heaping cup (adjust quantity to suit the size of your iron) of batter into the center of the lower waffle plate. Close lid and cook until desired crispness is achieved, for my waffle iron, it is 3-4 minutes.
- Open lid and carefully remove the waffles. Repeat with remaining batter. For best results, serve immediately or if holding, place on a rack in a 225 degree oven to keep warm.
I served these for breakfast topped with butter and Calivirgin Very Berry Ginger Balsamic. They were so delicious! In addition to breakfast, these crispy, savory waffles would make a great accompaniment to soup or stew. I’m thinking they could also serve as a base for an open-faced sandwich. I’ll have to get to work on that
I will leave you with a bit of cooking advice. Your end product is directly effected by the quality of ingredients you use. With that in mind, it is worth it to use the best ingredients you can find and afford. Take the time to seek them out. You will be very impressed by the difference it makes. Ciao from Queen Jeanne, spreading the love, one dish at a time.