Monday, July 23, 2007

Olive oil tasting party the perfect summer rendez vous !

Which olive oil do you use? Do you have more than one in the pantry? All olive oils are different and each one, like good wine, has a unique flavor profile.
As you may know, Olives are grown all over the world : France, Portugal, Greece, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Turkey, Egypt and, of course, Italy. Our own growers in California produce wonderful olive oils, too.
As a Personal Cook and Cooking Instructor, I am always curious about new ingredients, new flavors. Last, Saturday I drove into Old Town Temecula to some Olive Oil tasting at the Temecula Olive Oil Company where they grow and crush their own olives for a variety of products.
So-Cal towns : Murrieta, Riverside, Ontario, Corona are known for their Malls, superstores and Fast –food chains so this is not the ideal spot to find unique, quaint shops and boutiques. Temecula Olive Oil Company (TOOC ) is one of them. The boutique is located on the main street of Old Town ( Temecula) hidden behind plants and leaves. Then once you enter, you love this place, the scents, the wood floor,the decoration, so European. I went straight to the “ Tasting Room” since I told Nancy one of the owner last week that I would stop by for some tasting. In fact I am going to use TOOC products for my cooking classes.

Jennifer was the one who conducted the tasting. She liked the idea that I was French since she went to study in Paris last summer and loved it . I was doing the tasting with another couple. It was the perfect size for tasting. You actually drink little shots of olive oil, straight in plastic tiny cups. We started with the “Mission” Olive oil a nice, warm with a buttery taste oil, than you can use in all of your favorite recipes. Then we had the “Rotture di Oro” that offers a strong “ grassy/oily” taste great . It was nice and sweet.
Then the “ roasted garlic” was a great surprise not too strong, with great flavor. Just perfect.I loved it . So many recipes can use this oil.
The “ citrus” was a pure gem, so light and delicious… perfect for all your baking and salads. It brings some sunshine in your cuisine and your Kitchen! I tried also the “just dip it” oil but was not very thrilled about it. And while tasting it I had hard time imagining how to use it in my cuisine. It supposed to be one of the top selling at the shop…
Then we tasted also two Balsamic vinegars. The “Vanilla & Fig” Balsamic vinegar. First I love the name, very sensuous. It was good but I really could not taste the fig flavor and the Vanilla was too light in my opinion. Then we had the “ White Balsamico” and it hit me. It was really delicious, very fruity and cooling I loved it.
This tasting was really great. Even friends from Temecula did not know about this place and about Olive Oil tastings.
I will host soon an olive oil tasting party, in my own kitchen.
I already know the buffet I will prepare to pair the different oils and vinegars :

- Panzanella Salad
-Roasted chicken with lemon and garlic.
-pasta with fresh tomatoes,roasted garlic and a drizzle of olive oil , and of course Basil from my organic garden.
- A colorful platter of grilled or roasted onions, eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini and peppers, drizzled with olive oil.
- My famous Bake Olive Citrus Cake. See recipes below

CONVERSION OF BUTTER TO OLIVE OILBUTTER = OLIVE OIL1 teaspoon = ¾ teaspoon1 Tablespoon = 2-1/4 teaspoons¼ cup = 3 Tablespoons1/3 cup = ¼ cup½ cup = ¼ cup + 2 Tablespoons2/3 cup = ½ cup¾ cup = ½ cup + 1 Tablespoon1 cup = ¾ cup

Panzanella Salad (Tuscan Tomato & Bread Salad)
4-5 large vine-ripened tomatoes, cut into large cubes or wedges½ pound stale country-style Italian bread, crusts removed and cubed (about 8 cups)
1 ¼ cups thinly sliced red onions
2 teaspoons minced garlic
¼ cup TOOC white Balsamic Vinegar
½ cup TOOC Extra Virgin Mission Olive Oil
1 bunch fresh basil, stems removed, washed and spun dry, torn into pieces

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepperIn a large bowl, combine tomatoes, bread, and onions.In a small bowl, whisk together the garlic, vinegar and olive oil. Pour the dressing over the bread salad and let sit for 1 hour at room temperature. Add the basil and salt and pepper, to taste, and toss to combine. Then refrigerate. Serves 4-6.

The Olive Citrus Cake
grated zest and juice of one lemon
grated zest and juice of one orange
¾ cup The TOOC Citrus Olive Oil
1 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
3 medium eggs
1 1/2 cups semolina
1 cup ground almonds
tightly packed1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon almond essence
1 teaspoon orange flower water
1/4 cup Cointreau or Grand Marnier

One round springform cake pan, 9-inch diameter, lightly oiled and lined with parchment.Preheat oven to 325°Reserve a little of the grated lemon and orange zest and put the remainder in a bowl with the oil, sugar, salt, orange and lemon juice, and eggs. Beat together with a whisk until light and fluffy and doubled in volume.Sieve the semolina and baking powder into a second bowl and add the ground almonds. Fold the almond essence and orange flower water into the egg mixture. Pour all at once into the dry ingredients, fold together, but do not overmix. Spoon into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle the reserved lemon and orange zest over the top.Bake near the top of the oven for 40-45 minutes or until pale gold at the edges and firm in the middle. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean.Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Drizzle the liqueur over the top. Push the cake out, still on the loose metal base, and let cool on a wire rack for another 10 minutes. Remove the base and paper. Serve in 8 to 12 wedges, warm or cooled. Do not refrigerate.Serves 8-12. The cake will keep in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

Monday, July 9, 2007

July 14th Bastille Day!

It has been a while since we have celebrated correctly Bastille Day ( French Bank Holliday) on the July 14th!
So when I heard that Muriel and her family was coming to San Diego to give Cooking classes to her best American clients during 3 evenings, I knew I would have to meet her.
But my schedule could not match hers while staying in SD. Then, she mentionned that she will visit the Temecula Wine Country on July 14th.I decided to have a party with her family and our closest French/ American friends.

Because it is very hot and warm right now in So-Cal we will have a BBQ, salad, pizza potluck. It will be an Homemade Potluck. This is what I request fresh not processed food. Actually it will be a potluck with a French Twist since half of the people are French.
Muriel proposed to bring some artichokes… I guess she will do something delicious and very French.
When I was in the Travel Industry organizing customized trip to France for Americans who wanted to discover the real France. I was able to propose to my clients some cooking classes with Marguerite. It is Muriel's Chef name!
Actually you can visit her website While working with different providers in France, Muriel was always the one I loved to work with. Always available for me at any time, very well organized, precise and professional. In a few years, she had been one of the Top 10 Cooking classes instructor in Paris her classes are sold out most of the time.
She is amongst few instructors who also conduct a Farmers Market's visit before the cooking class and I think this is wonderful. This is one essential step in the French Cooking. You need to meet, discuss and chat with your butcher, your vegetable/ fruits supplier and cheese maker, this is the best way to get the perfectly ripped tomatoes, soft cheese and some time best deals too!

On July 14th, we will welcome Muriel and her family around 7 pm in our garden. Joel will make his delicious Sangria... wonderful during Summer time.
Since we have delicious Zuchinis in the organic vegetable garden, I will make chilled soup. Soup and summer do go together when you serve this chilled vegetable soup, made creamy with the addition of Vache qui rit cheese / the laughing cow wedge cheese a French favorite since 1921

Chilled Zucchini Soup
3 1/2 cups chicken broth 8 cups peeled sliced zucchini 1 onion, chopped 1 clove garlic, crushed 1 teaspoon crushed dried basil 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon pepper5 Vache qui rit wedges
1. Combine chicken broth, zucchini, onion, garlic, basil, salt and hot pepper sauce in a large stockpot and simmer for 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender add Cheese. Remove from heat and let cool.
2. Pour soup into a blender or food processor process until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Makes 8 servings.

Our dearest and best friends: Fabrice, Jocelyne and their daughters will join us. Caroline and Mark will be there with their 2 sons and I guess 2 or 3 couples and few single persons will join us too!
It will be a party for about 20 people. Since this is a potluck I need to review who will bring what…..this is my next task... I will let you know what is a French Potluck.
We do not have Potluck in France. The hosts provide averything guests do not bring anything sometimes, flowers, wine and dessert.... In my opinion Potluck is really a great American idea...because you can taste other favorite casseroles, salads.... people like to show off their culinary talents!