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Archive for November 10, 2016

TIP OF THE DAY & Gift Of The Day: Seasoned Olive Oil As Dipping Oil

Dipping Oil EVOO

Balsamic Dipping Oil

Bagna Cauda

[1] You can buy dipping oil, or make your own for pennies! Nice bottles like this one from A&A Alta Cucina Italia are welcome foodie gifts (photo courtesy Local Market South). [2] Another American tradition: Add a splash of balsamic to the oil (here’s the recipe from Lemony Thyme). [3] Bagna cauda, a hot dipping oil for crudités, is a popular holiday dish in Italy (photo James Carrier | Sunset | All Recipes).


Around 1990, an Italian restaurant in San Francisco began to substitute extra virgin olive oil for the butter served with bread (source).

While not an authentic Italian practice, it was a revelation to non-Italian Americans, raised on butter.

Other restaurants followed, and the idea spread nationwide.

At the same time, news of the heart-healthy benefits of olive oil gained traction, and many Americans looked forward to EVOO with their bread basket.

Some continued the practice at home, especially for entertaining. A product known as “dipping oil” or “bread dippers” emerged, to be placed in a dish and served with crusty breads and crostini (small toasted slices) and crudités.

Bread dipping sets appeared, with seasonings plus shallow dishes for the olive oil. “Dipping dishes” could be shallow white saucer shapes, or elaborate designs with olive clusters.

The commercial dipping oils were typically seasoned with Italian herbs. Then, home cooks realized they could:

  • Season their own olive oil with their favorite herbs, for pennies.
  • Use a flavored oil for dipping: basil, chile, garlic, truffle, etc., ditto, served plain or with extra seasonings
    In addition to dipping bread, the seasoned oil can be used:

  • As a pasta sauce: Toss it with spaghetti to create the Roman staple Pasta Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino, spaghetti (or other pasta) with olive oil, minced garlic and red chile flakes.
  • Drizzle onto grilled fish/seafood and meats, vegetables and starches (potatoes, rice and other grains) on veggies, steaks, chicken, and other grilled meats.

    Use fresh or dried herbs. NOTE: Make only what you’re going to use at a given time (within a few days). When manufacturers add seasonings to oil, the product is pasteurized, stopping any growth of any bacteria from the add-ins.

    So don’t make a whole jar of infused oil to give as gifts, or keep on the shelf. Keep the oil in the fridge; and if you aren’t using it fast enough as a dipper, use it to sauté, dress salads, etc.

  • Citrus zest
  • Herbs: minced basil, dill, garlic, oregano, parsley, thyme, etc.
  • Spices: celery seeds, coriander, cumin, dill seed, fennel, red chile flakes, etc.
  • Optional: splash of balsamic vinegar
  • Optional: salt or flavored salt
  • Extra virgin olive oil or flavor-infused olive oil
  • Optional: balsamic vinegar

  • Sliced crusty bread, regular or lightly toasted
  • Crudités (raw vegetables)

    1. POUR the olive oil into a ramekin or shallow dish. Top with the desired amount of seasonings and stir lightly.

    2. PLACE on a serving plate with the bread and/or crudités.


    Bagna càuda, pronounced BON-ya COW-da, is a variation of the French concept of crudités with dip (photo #3). Bagna caôda is an alternative spelling.

    The name means “hot bath”; the dip comprises olive oil and butter, seasoned with garlic and anchovies and served hot.

    A specialty of Italy’s Piedmont region, bagna càuda is served during the autumn and winter months, often as part of the Christmas Eve Feast of The Seven Fishes or other Christmas Eve menu.

    Want to make your own hot bath with garlic? Here’s a recipe.


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    FOOD FUN: Deconstructed Cannoli

    We love cannoli; can’t get enough of them.

    Although we’re rarely up for making the pastry tubes, we do relish a dish of “deconstructed cannoli”: the cream filling with a cookie on the side.

    A bonus with cannoli cream is that you can substitute your sweetener of choice for the sugar. When we’re dieting, we treat ourselves to lowfat ricotta cannoli cream with Splenda (and of course, the mini chips).

    We adapted this recipe from BelGioioso, a Wisconsin maker of classic Italian cheeses.

    Ingredients For 4-6 Servings

  • 16 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons semi-sweet mini chocolate chips or shaved chocolate
  • Optional: 1/2 to 1 tablespoon orange zest, to taste
  • Thin cookies: cookie thins (e.g. Anna’s Swedish Thins), lace cookies, gaufrettes, Moravian cookies, rolled wafer cookies, waffle cookies
  • Garnish: mint sprigs and/or raspberries
    Variation: Substitute chopped candied fruits for the chocolate chips.

    1. COMBINE the ricotta and sugar until well blended. Stir in the chocolate.

    2. COVER and refrigerate mixture for at least 30 minutes before serving.

    3. SCOOP a ball of cannoli cream onto a dessert plate. Garnish with a cookie and a sprig of mint and/or raspberries.


    Ricotta is a fresh (unaged) cow’s milk cheese that’s used extensively in Italian cooking. It’s soft and spreadable like cottage cheese.

    Technically, ricotta isn’t a cheese at all, but a by-product of the cheese-making process. The name “ricotta” means “recooked” in Italian (from the Latin recoctus).

    Ricotta is been made from the whey left over from making other cheeses. After the curds are coagulated from the milk with rennet, the whey is drained off and the curds are pressed into cheese.

    What to do with all the leftover whey had long been a concern for cheese makers. Many simply fed it to their pigs, a practice continued today. That’s right: The whey drained from making the “king of cheeses,” Parmigiano-Reggiano, is used to feed the pigs that become Parma ham (prosciutto).


    Cannoli Cream With Chocolate Chips

    Bel Gioioso Ricotta

    Chocolate Chip Cannoli

    [1]Deconstructed cannoli: Serve the ricotta cream with a cookie on the side. [2] Cannoli cream is simply sweetened ricotta cheese (photos courtesy BelGioioso). [3] A classic cannoli with chocolate chips (photo courtesy Gerardo’s Italian Bakery.

  • Ricotta breakfast recipes
  • Recipes for lunch, dinner and dessert
  • Recipe for homemade ricotta
  • Ricotta and honey for breakfast, dessert or snacking
  • What is ricotta salata

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