The Olive Oil & Vinegar Lover's Cookbook is a hefty book that deserves a big table for poring over the beautiful photographs by DL Acken and food styling by Nicole Kruzick. The book is beautifully designed by Pete Kohut with solid colored pages of coral, aubergine and saffron to complement the images and recipes.
I can see why some people collect cookbooks. They're a pleasure to look at, particularly with gorgeous food styling and photos such as in this book—all of them works of art.
"The table really is where loved ones meet," Lycopolus writes in the introduction to her book. The table is where she and her husband Stephen found olio nuova, "new" or "fresh oil," on the dinner table at Aunt Maria and her daughter Grace's ancestral home in Fano, in the region of Marche, Italy.
Emily and Stephen celebrated at a huge party that followed the harvesting of the olives in the aunties' grove. They enjoyed eating olive oil on toast for breakfast, with charcuterie and cheese, with pasta, and with potatoes and roasts.
When they got back home to Canada they were disappointed and frustrated by the olive oil available, all of it tasting flat, no matter what the price. Olive oil is meant to be consumed well within a year of its harvest date. In North America we tend to view oil as a condiment with a long shelf live.
Emily and Stephen Lycopolus opened a retail store in Victoria, British Columbia and taught people how to taste olive oil, enjoy it and integrate it into everyday life. Emily would type up her own recipes and print them on pages to give away. They also started offering cooking classes. The cookbook was the next step.
Olive oil and vinegar tasting shops have appeared in the area in which I live and the "perfect pairings" are a delight to sample. The cookbook has a list of such pairings such as Persian Lime Olive Oil with Red Apple Balsamic Vinegar.
When visiting an olive oil dealer, don't be afraid to ask lots of questions Lycopolus advises. She gives a list of questions such as, What's the date of harvest?
The recipes are inspiring in their use of fresh olive oil and vinegars. Lycopolus encourages fun in the kitchen as if it were a studio and you a painter with a palette of colors. And she encourages experimentation as that's where "happy accidents" can occur.
Sections of the book feature recipes using "fused" olive oils. When oils are fused, they've been "simultaneously crushed alongside a fresh fruit or spicy chili pepper, and it's referred to as the agrumato method." Lunchtime Jar Salad, for instance, is made with Blood Orange fused olive oil and Mango white balsamic vinegar. The dressing is put in the jar first and then layers of walnuts, cranberries, sunflower seeds, carrots, bell peppers topped with spinach and poppy seeds. Shake the jar when ready to eat!
Following the sections of recipes using Fused and Infused Olive Oils, are sections on Dark Balsamic Vinegars and White Balsamic Vinegars. Traditional balsamic vinegars are a product of Modena, Italy.
Imagine Chocolate Chili made with beef and Chocolate dark balsamic vinegar. Or Stewed Chickpeas, served on a bed of rice, with Lemongrass Mint white balsamic vinegar that takes only fifteen minutes to put together from start to finish.
Every once in awhile we cooks get tired of our recipes and the same old thing. Here's an opportunity to learn some new recipes with the possibility of some new flavor infusions. The author, Emily Lycopolus, is passionate about her subject which makes the book a pleasure to read.
Emily Lycopolus is the co-owner and founder of Olive the Senses, an artisan olive oil tasting bar in Victoria, British Columbia. Her charity and new social enterprise, EatFeedLove.com is an online marketplace and community for people and businesses who want to share their love of great food while also helping to end world hunger. Lycopolus can most often be found at local markets, in her kitchen creating and testing new recipes, or mingling in the store with enthused customers. Visit her store's website.
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