Well, I thought I did. Go to store. Pick up glass bottle, or when I need alot of EVOO (yeah, short for the extra virgin olive oil, and no, Rachel Ray did not invent said acronym, sorry Rach) one of those honking big rectangular cans of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Imported from Italy, Spain or Greece, with those pretty graphics on the packaging, it must be the real thing, right? Not. So. Fast.
Let’s start with the definition of Extra Virgin Olive Oil: from the first press of fully ripe olives, cold pressed and free of defects (meaning the experts deemed the best flavor, taste and aroma). That means no heat, and no chemicals used to further refine. And in this case ‘refine’ does not mean better. EVOO, once pressed and oil is separated from the olive juice, is ready to use. Taste, yes, that it has, and varied: grassy or peppery sound familiar? Beautiful greenish, yellowish color? No color and no taste? Then there is something in that bottle besides EVOO. And another thing missing? All the health bennies like vitamin E, polyphenols, and antioxidants. Start ‘refining’ and poof, all the ‘good for ya’s’ go right out the window. Some of these “extra virgin” olive oils can contain as little as 10% actual extra virgin olive oil. Oh, and goodness knows how long some of those oils have been sitting on the shelf, exposed to light and temperature extremes. I may love heat and lots of light but EVOO? Not so much.
So who can I trust to supply me with real EVOO (that they have lab tested)? Old Town Olive Oil. Located in the heart of Old Town (and next door to The Spice House, hello, how perfect is that?). I might have spent alot of time in Old Town ‘back in the day’ but the past number of years, not really. So, though Old Town Olive Oil is been around for four years, I just discovered them at the Evanston Farmers Market.
Walk into Old Town Olive Oil and in there in front of you, vats and vats of EVOO sourced from small batch farmers in Italy, Spain, Greece, Tunisia, Morocco, California, and this time of year, Chile and Australia. And can we talk about the flavored EVOO’s they have? Meyer lemon, Persian lime, Garlic, Harrissa, and more, but my current fav? Mushroom and Sage. Not overwhelming at all, and sooooo good on roasted potatoes, mushrooms (hum, really?), and as a salad dressing mixed with Cinnamon Pear Balsamic Vinegar? Beyond good.
Yes, now that I brought it up, Old Town Olive Oil also has real balsamic vinegars (from Modena, Italy, using Trebbiano grapes, and aged for a minimum of 12 years). Loving the Cinnamon Pear, but so many to try. Stand outs for me are the fig, 18 year old, and honey- ginger. Seriously, just go in and start tasting the vinegars and the olive oils (the owners and staff are super helpful, and bottle your selections on the spot). All incredible, and flavors that can please any palate. And think beyond just dressing your salad greens. Drizzle on ice cream, marinade for meats, kick up a cocktail (check out their website for a Strawberry Balsamic Martini. I tested the recipe for you. mighty tasty if I do say so), or swap out the butter in your cake and holiday cookies recipes (psst, see below I have already tested a sugar cookie recipe).
Being that we are in the throes of the gift buying frenzy, a stop at Old Town Olive Oil (or call to) is a great way to avoid the chaos at the malls and the big box stores. They have a nice assortment of gift bags and baskets. My favorite is a basket of five smaller bottles that you can mix and match. Seriously, who wouldn’t love this gift? I know I would. No really, that was not a hint, no, not at all.
Mo’s Meyer Lemon Olive Oil Sugar Cookies
3/4 cup Meyer lemon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 vanilla extract
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
Cream together oil, butter, sugar until mixed well (won’t really be fluffy like when using butter and sugar only).
Sift together dry ingredients, then add to sugar mixture and mix well. Add egg, vanilla and lemon zest and mix again until well combined.
Chill dough for at least one hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Roll out chiled dough to 18/” thick. Cut into shapes. Place on baking sheet.
Bake for 10 minutes, do not brown. Remove for oven and place on wire rack to cool.
Decorate as you normally would – iced, frosted, sugared….