Sunday, May 25, 2014
|EVOO and blackberry balsamic dressing|
One cannot fully enjoy the kitchen without engaging in the many wondrous uses of olive oil. It’s as essential a tool in preparing foods, as a fork and spoon are to eat them with! EVOO must be within easy reach to pour and drizzle into a pot, pan, or mixing bowl at any given moment. Growing up in an Italian kitchen groomed my palate with the taste for olive oil; however, my culinary creative juices were further stirred upon recently discovering Beyond the Olive specialty EVOO store in Old Town Pasadena—consisting of a friendly knowledgeable staff, amazing local products, educational tasting and cooking classes, and live opera music! (Okay…small clarification…live opera is not the norm. Teacher, Chef Debbie, is married to an opera singer, and I was lucky enough to attend her cooking class in which her husband made an appearance and sang for us. A night at the opera is not to be expected on a regular basis!)
Located at 10 N. Raymond, Beyond the Olive was founded in 2009 and specializes in more than 25 extra virgin olive oils, over 25 flavored olive oils, and more than 30 different balsamic vinegars, aged over 18 years. Owners, Crystal and Chip Reibel, proudly carry olive oils only of the highest quality from homegrown companies in California they have direct relations with; thus, foregoing the unknown quality of mass-packaged and imported products, resulting in being distinguished as the best specialty EVOO boutique in the San Gabriel Valley. Moreover, Beyond the Olive was nominated “One of the Top 10 Places in the World to buy Olive Oil” by the Olive Oil Times in September 2012.
Personally speaking, the true fun and feasting started when I first attended a Beyond the Olive cooking class. What’s not to like about being served delicious foods prepared by local chefs’ Cherie Twohey and Chef Debbie?!?! Both chefs brought their delightful personalities into the experience, which made learning the many uses of the store’s flavored EVOOS, and balsamic vinegars, entertaining, unique, and memorable; furthermore, inspiring me to bring new flavors into my own kitchen—balsamic fig vinegar over green beans and shallots, blackberry vinegar brushed over grilled fruit, smoked olive oil drizzled over black bean salads, quick and zesty romaine salads dressed-up with Meyer lemon olive oil—the tantalizing possibilities are endless!
My original recipe, to follow, is only one of many plates inspired by the medley of specialty EVOOS, and balsamic vinegars, Beyond the Olive has to offer. Once you’ve made your way into the boutique’s convenient tasting bar, the flavors and aromas will have you fancying fun and new dishes of your own, consequently, the only dilemma being pushing aside the ingredients in your pantry to make room for more bottles!
Zesty Blackberry Spinach Salad (Serves 4)
3 tablespoons EVOO
1½ tablespoons BTO Blackberry balsamic vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
3 slices fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 teaspoon honey
½ teaspoon fresh lemon thyme, finely chopped
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 (6 ounce) bag baby spinach, rinsed and dried
1 extra-large cucumber
4 medium-size steamed beets
1 large avocado
¼ cup chopped pecans
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the first eight ingredients, mixing in the orange juice last. Set dressing aside.
Chop the spinach, cucumber, beets, and avocado into bite-size pieces. Place all the ingredients in a large salad bowl, adding the pecans and blackberry dressing. Toss together gently and serve.
For extra recipe ideas visit BTO on their website beyondtheolive.com!