Every year about now, the best food purveyors bring in a small quantity of “olio nuovo”: fresh oil from the first pressing of the new olive crop. This oil is bottled without filtering and is meant to used within 3 or 4 months when it’s at its best.
New oil is a celebration of the harvest, appreciated by connoisseurs and enthusiastic fans like me! The oil itself is cloudy with olive particles and bursts with grassy, peppery, and pungent flavor. Olio nuovo from Italy can be luxurious and pricey -- but the olio nuovo from California is of very high quality, even fresher than imported oil, and more affordable, too.
Buy a bottle! Find any excuse to sop it up with bread, or drizzle it over greens, warm cannellini beans, grilled fish, or pasta. Dessert lovers should pour it over vanilla ice cream or anoint almond or hazelnut biscotti with it.
Don’t bother to bake or cook with new oil. But do, instead, make room for it in the pantry by baking with the older (filtered), but still excellent, extra-virgin oil you have on hand. Olive oil cannot replace butter in every cake or cookie, but below are three types of recipes which take beautifully and deliciously to this flavorful ingredient swap.
1. Substitute extra-virgin olive oil for butter in a classic genoise -- you can grate a little citrus zest into the bowl while you are at it.
2. Make a chocolate nut torte such as the iconic Queen of Sheba with extra-virgin olive oil: Use 10% to 15% less oil than the amount of butter called for. Then drizzle each serving with additional oil and a tiny pinch of flaky sea salt.
3. Make the classic delicate, buttery wafers called "tuiles" with extra-virgin olive oil instead of butter.
Get excited about Alice's forthcoming book Flavor Flours: nearly 125 recipes -- from Double Oatmeal Cookies to Buckwheat Gingerbread -- made with wheat flour alternatives like rice flour, oat flour, corn flour, sorghum flour, and teff (not only because they're gluten-free, but for an extra dimension of flavor, too).
My career was sparked by a single bite of a chocolate truffle, made by my Paris landlady in 1972. I returned home to open this country’s first chocolate bakery and dessert shop, Cocolat, and I am often “blamed” for introducing chocolate truffles to America. Today I am the James Beard Foundation and IACP award-winning author of ten cookbooks, teach a chocolate dessert class on Craftsy.com, and work with some of the world’s best chocolate companies. In 2018, I won the IACP Award for Best Food-Focused Column (this one!).