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#1103 - Olive Oil and Vinegars
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September 25, 2012 #1103 Olive Oil and Vinegars
Last week we began a discussion about olive oil that we continued this week. At one time in our history, olive oil was relegated to the ethnic portions of our society, and it was hardly mainstream. Today it's everywhere, and our sophistication in using it has grown enormously. Not only are many of us conversant with different styles and qualities of olive oil, we're getting used to using oils with infused flavors.
We had the pleasure of discovering a fabulous new store that deals exclusively in olive oils and balsamic vinegars, and it was an education sampling from the dozens of products they offer. The store is called E.N. Olivier, and it is located on Falls Road, just across from Princeton Sports. For a dedicated foodie, this store is a must-visit. You will find oils made from different varieties of olives, which cover the spectrum from mild (Peranzana) to medium (Picual) to robust (Picholine).
Then there are the flavored oils: gorgeous high quality oils infused with flavors that demand kitchen creativity. The citrus flavors (lemon, lime and orange) get their flavor from fruit that is crushed simultaneously with the olives. Other flavors (basil, butter, herbes de Provence) acquire flavor through the addition of essential oils later in the production process. Regardless of the selection, they all have remarkably clean, pure flavors, and the array of nuance that trumpets high quality.
Balsamic vinegar is likewise a mainstay in the up-to-date American kitchen. What we need to use more often is an item called White Balsamic Vinegar, one of our favorite ingredients. Classic balsamic vinegar is dark and almost syrupy in consistency. The Cadillac of balsamics is the "traditonale" of Modena, which can cost nearly $100 for a small bottle. Fortunately, less expensive vinegars are produced for the rest of us, which still have fabulously high quality.
Flavored balsamic vinegars stimulate a cook's imagination. Black Mission Fig vinegar wants to pair with blue cheese. Pomegranate wants to dress a salad of tangy greens and shaved Asiago cheese. You'll want to mix lavender with ground lamb, and use the black cherry as a glaze on duck or pork. And the dark chocolate balsamic vinegar was put on earth to adorn ice cream and desserts.
White balsamic vinegar is pale and thin and packed with flavor. Straight up white balsamic is a marvelous addition to your bag of tricks - it can offer a mellow tanginess to sauces, dressings, or soups without altering their color. Al loves it sprinkled on oven-baked beet slices. The flavored varieties also spark one's imagination. Oregano insists on appearing in tomato sauces of all kinds. Cranberry/Pear wants to glaze a poached anjou pear. Apricot seems to want to run with lightly grilled asparagus, while lemon white balsamic vinegar is something of a universal salad dressing component.
A trip to E.N. Olivier is also a chance to add to your collection of gourmet salts, which are becoming very popular garnishes these days. The nicest feature of the store is that you can sample everything. If you taste from barrel to barrel and your imagination doesn't begin to run wild, then you probably should give up cooking. But if you are like us, you will feel like a kid in a candy store.
Here are the particulars: E.N. Olivier at 1407 Clarkview Road; phone is 410-823-6457. Visit Liz Nuttal, the owner, or chat with her knowledgeable and friendly staff.