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Archive for July, 2010

NEWS: Extra Virgin Olive Oil Alert

Olive oil has long had its shady side. Purchasing a bottle of extra virgin is no guarantee of getting high quality, extra virgin oil. Studies over the years have pinpointed the shenanigans of some bottlers. The latest study, conducted by the USDA and the International Olive Council, showed that they continue. That container of EVOO may not even be 100% OO.

The study showed that nine of ten California samples (90%) met the standards for extra virgin olive oils, meaning that 10% of what is sold as extra virgin isn’t. Imported oils rated much worse: 69% of imported olive oil samples failed to meet the standards. That means that almost 1/3 of the imported extra virgin olive oil sold, isn’t.

The full report on the can be downloaded from the UC Davis Olive Center. Here are the highlights:

  • The extra virgin olive oil isn’t extra virgin. To be graded as extra virgin, according to the IOC (Intermational Olive Council) and USDA standards, an olive oil needs to have less than 1% acidity. Virgin olive oil can have up to 3.3% acidity.

You paid for extra virgin olive oil, but
what’s really in the bottle? Photo by Ramon Gonzalez | SXC.

  • It can be processed. In addition to selling higher acidity oil, the investigation showed that products labeled “extra virgin” can be lower grade olive oil that has been processed to get the acidity below 1%. However, processing destroys the nutrients that people seek in olive oil, as well as the fine flavor.
  • It isn’t 100% olive oil. While not the focus of the latest study, government investigators in Italy have found evidence indicating that the biggest olive oil brands there have been diluting their extra virgin olive oil for years with cheap, highly-refined hazelnut oil imported from Turkey. (As much as 20% hazelnut oil can be added to olive oil and still be undetectable to the consumer.)
  • It isn’t where it claims to be from. Olive oil from Greece, Morocco, Spain, Tunisia and Turkey are imported into Italy, bottled and sold as the more desirable “Italian olive oil.”

 

What can you do about it?

Be wary that “bargain” extra virgin olive oil may not be that much of a bargain. Know that the risks are higher with imported olive oils from large bottlers. And seek out products from members of the California Olive Oil Council.

  • Find our favorite brands of olive oil in our Gourmet Oils Section.
  • You’ll also find instructive articles on olive oil that will help you become a savvier consumer.

 

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TIP OF THE DAY: Low-Carb, Low-Calorie Bruschetta

Make this BLT bruschetta with more“L”
when you serve it in endive or romaine
instead of on bread. Photo courtesy
National Pork Board.

Bruschetta has become a popular hors d’oeuvre and snack. It’s delicious and supplies veggies, but it would be even better for you with less bread.

While slicing the bread thinner is one alternative, here’s a healthier, crunchier one:

Serve the bruschetta topping in hearts of romaine or endive leaves. You can pre-fill the leaves and arrange them on a platter or present a bowl of bruschetta topping with a basket of leaves and let guests help themselves.

Bruschetta Recipe
Here’s a basic bruschetta recipe. You can freestyle and add your favorite ingredients, from artichoke, capers and onions to mozzarella, garlic and anchovies. You can switch out the basil for oregano or other favorite herb.

  • Seed and chop 2 large ripe tomatoes (in a pinch, you can use canned chopped tomatoes), 1/2 cup finely-chopped fresh basil, 1/2 cup chopped black olives and 1 tablespoon capers.
  • If you like, add 1 tablespoon freshly-grated Parmesan cheese.
  • Let the flavors blend for an hour or more; taste and add salt and fresh-ground pepper, if needed.
  • One of our favorite variations of the recipe adds crumbled bacon for a bruschetta “BLT.”

 

Eat as many romaine/endive bruschettas as you like—they’re low-calorie and good for you!

Discover our favorite low-calorie foods in the Diet Nibbles Section.

Find more bruschetta recipes.

 

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TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Happy Goat Caramel

Artisan caramels are on the rise—a small treat that’s a little chewy, a little melt-in-your-mouth and a lot buttery.

Now, lovers of goat cheese, as well as those who don’t tolerate cow’s milk well, can happily expand their horizons.

For sure, the lovely handmade goat’s milk caramels from Happy Goat will make many people happy. Even our tasters who said they didn’t like goat cheese enjoyed them.

The goat’s milk and butter used to make the caramel come from happy, free-range California goats, who will make you happy in return.

Be happy, eat Happy Goat caramels.
Photo by Katharine Pollak | THE NIBBLE.

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TIP OF THE DAY: Mint Water

Photo by Liv Friis-larsen | Fotolia.

We love the refreshing mint-flavored waters from Hint and Metromint. But in our double desire to save money and save the environment, we’ve been making our own mint water.

Unlike other flavors, it’s easy to make mint water. Using a clean medicine dropper, tap water and a recycled 16-ounce bottle (or other vessel of choice), just add three or four drops of peppermint or spearmint extract. You can add more or less extract, depending on your palate preference.

We have six bottles of homemade mint water in the fridge, ready to grab-and-go.

If you have fresh mint, crush the mint in your hands to release the oils, then place it in a pitcher or quart jar of water. Let it infuse for three hours or longer. The infusion of fresh mint is, not surprisingly, more wonderful than extract.

After the mint has infused, you can fill grab-and-go bottles, straining out the mint.

Serve fresh mint water at the table, with or without slices of lemon or lime, for an invigorating, non-caloric drink. Not only do you get great taste and hydration, but there are nutrition and health benefits from both the mint and the citrus. And a glass pitcher of water with mint sprigs and citrus slices looks impressive, any time of the year.

 

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GOURMET GIVEAWAY #2: Kuhn Rikon Watermelon Knife

The most whimsical yet useful kitchen gadget for the summer season must be this nonstick watermelon knife from Swiss premium cookware manufacturer Kuhn Rikon. Not only is it a conversation piece; this handy kitchen tool with an 11″ serrated blade makes it easy to safely slice through thick melon skins. Check it out in action on YouTube, and read more about it in our review.

  • THE PRIZE: One winner is sure to impress friends at the next picnic or barbecue by bringing along this cute, yet functional watermelon knife. Approximate retail value: $24.95.
  • To Enter This Gourmet Giveaway: Go to the box at the bottom of our Gourmet Kitchen Gadgets Section and click to enter your email address for the prize drawing. This contest closes on Monday, August 2nd at noon, Eastern Time. Good luck!

Cut your melons with flair with this Kuhn Rikon Watermelon Knife. Photo courtesy Kuhn Rikon.

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