Real olive oil, fig vinegar, and a flavorful beet side salad
They also come with a great story and I'm excited to share about the Oregon Olive Mill, the Pacific Northwest's only olive oil producer, who sent me this fabulous, strongly flavored, 100% pure extra virgin olive oil and fig vinegar. And, I love this summerier use of beets as a side dish!
The Olive Oil Industry
First, I have to share a brief bummer about the major producers in the olive oil industry... Have you ever had real olive oil??
The Christmas before last, my mother-in-law, who is a bit of a foodie particularly for local and high quality/well-produced food, bought us a few samples of Oregon-made, 100% pure olive oil from the Oregon Olive Mill, in the Willamette Valley wine country. Along with the oil she gave us Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil, a book on the history of olive oil as well as the current issues (such as fraud and lack of regulations) with what is labeled "extra virgin" olive oil on US shelves.
Turns out she was ahead of the times with this gift, since recently there has been a 60 Minutes investigation on the current market practices - mostly it's about how the Italian Mafia has infiltrated the food industry, especially the olive oil business. This exposé identified that up to 80% of the olive oils labeled "extra virgin" in the US are counterfeit and contain other types of oils, chemicals, solvents, and other potentially harmful ingredients. It sounds pretty fantastical but apparently the Mob has an under-the-radar criminal reach, beyond the scope of US regulations. Since the 60 Minutes program, other news organizations have come out with additional warning reports and confirmed many of the claims.
It's so frustrating that most of the olive oils I've been buying at the grocery store for years, even the nicer quality ones, probably contain ingredients other than olive oil and thus do not have the health benefits (and safety) of pure olive oil. (For example, some are diluted with cheaper nut oils, the flavor disguised with chemicals - this could be very dangerous for people with nut allergies. Even worse are the industrial solvents and other inedible ingredients that some oils may be mixed with.)
I am really not the expert on this and I feel a little uncomfortable taking about this heated issue, but I do know from tasting that first sampler of Oregon Olive Mill oils (my mother-in-law got us the three-oil stacking set and we were amazed by the flavors of each one!, and just now the farm sent me the Tuscan variety to try), that real, pure olive oil tastes very different than any of the ones I've brought home from the grocery store. Something is different. The flavor of the real stuff is bolder, more complex, and the color is greener and more saturated. I can completely believe that a lot of the stuff in stores and restaurants is mixed with something else. Sigh.
Keeping it Quality/Domestic - The Oregon Olive Mill
As I mentioned, the Oregon Olive Mill at Red Ridge Farms is quite the asset to Oregon's wine country with 17 acres of olive trees and a state-of-the-art Italian mill as well as a nursery, vineyards and wine tasting, picnic experinces, tastings and tours, wreath workshops, and beautiful lodging accommodations. And you may have heard of them if you've been to Salt & Straw and seen their Olive Oil Ice Cream with the Arbequina Extra Virgin Olive Oil!
Their olive oil tasting packages sound so fun and interesting, and are very affordable, too. I can definitely get overwhelmed by all the information you can read out there about quality food, and I tend to learn better with an interactive experience - I would love to attend one of the tastings and maybe bring a new pure olive oil consumer with me!
I wanted to do something special with this rich, flavorful olive oil and came up with this recipe that highlights the flavor along with the aperitif style fig vinegar. I encourage you to find some pure olive oil near you (and/or order from Oregon Olive Mill online). You'll be shocked by how tasty and interesting olive oil can be!
Pure olive oil, fig vinegar, beet side salad
- About 3 medium beets
- 2 tbsp. high quality olive oil (I used this one)
- 1.5 tbsp fig vinegar or other high quality fruity vinegar
- 1/4 c. chevre, crumbled (optional - leave it out for strict Paleo or include it for primal)
- 1 tbsp. sliced almonds
- About 1 tbsp. fresh herb of choice (I used oregano but you could also use mint, or maybe basil)
- Sea salt
- Chop beets into big wedges and boil or roast (using coconut oil or other heat-safe fat) until soft. Strain beets if boiled. (I boiled mine since I didn't want to heat up the whole kitchen!) When cooked, peel (optional). Allow beet slices to cool.
- Combine olive oil, fig vinegar, and sea salt in a small jar; emulsify with a fork.
- When beets are cool, toss with oil/vinegar dressing. Top with cheese if using, almonds, and herbs.
Serve cold and as an exciting and flavorful early summer side dish!
The complex, earthy, slightly tangy strong flavor of the olive oil comes out even against the strong beet flavor. And the fruity, tangy vinegar makes it really exciting!
Check out the Oregon Olive Mill - you can buy their high quality olive oil online or at the farm.
I also linked the summery blue and white dishes and napkins I used with this dish - after almost 5 years of having only our pure white serving bowls from our wedding, I decided I should treat myself with some new goodies and I love them!
Thanks to Red Ridge Farms/Oregon Olive Mill for sponsoring this post by providing me the olive oil and vinegar to try!