While most of the folks at the Jersey Shore were wilting under miserably hot and humid temperatures this past Thursday, a fortunate few were experiencing a fun, educational and tasty afternoon at the very cool (as well as air-conditioned) Taste & Technique Cooking Studio in Fair Haven, where Sickles Market’s Guest Chef Gioacchino Passalacqua and I taught a class on Green Gold: The Fine Artisanal Olive Oils of Italy and California. Chef Gioacchino is a passionate supporter of fine artisanal Italian foods and had much to share with the class participants, including how extra virgin olive oil is made, where it comes from and how to properly taste it. I offered everyone creative olive oil pairings with everything from orange marmalade with sea salt and seven grain bread to olive oil drizzled over goat cheese and melted Sicilian chocolate. The highlight of the tasting was Chef Gioacchino’s preparation of organic, Slow Food lentils from the tiny island of Ustica, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil. They surprised everyone with their delicate yet distinct texture and incredible depth and richness.
|Gioacchino preparing the lentils|
We ended the class with our “Bottle Shock II” Competition: A blind tasting between Aulente, a lively Italian olive oil composed of three varietals, from the northern coast of Sicily, and Talcott, a blend of olive oils from organic Tuscan olives located in the Domaine Carnernos region of Napa, California. It was close, but Talcott won the competition and I was all smiles, being a California girl myself! Talcott also received a SOFI Silver Award at the Fancy Food Show this past spring, so you may want to come by the store and ask for a tasting!
|Cheri: California Girl holding the winning Talcott Oil!|
I have Chef Gioacchino’s lentil recipe for you below as well as a link to an informative video from one of our favorite Italian olive oil companies, Merico, giving us an insider’s view of the olive harvest. The family has been making olive oil at this small farm in southern Puglia since the 1700’s, with olives from trees that are over 500 years old. If you missed our olive oil class but would like to experience a class or a series centered on a particular food, our own Bakery Manager, Chef Carol Maxwell will be featuring a different fruit or vegetable each time in her Cooking Through the Seasons Series. Tomatoes, blackberries, peaches, and of course, New Jersey corn, are just some of the tempting classes on the horizon.
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SICKLES MARKET’S GUEST CHEF GIOACCHINO’S ITALIAN LENTILS
3 stalks celery, 3 carrots, 1 sweet onion, all sliced thinly (this is called mirepoix)
¼ cup fine artisanal extra virgin olive oil
1 carton of Pacific Vegetable Broth (1 quart)
1 Bag of Lentils from Ustica, rinsed (available at Sickles Market)
Sea Salt to taste and freshly ground Pepper
Simmering water in a separate pot
Sauté celery, carrots and onions in olive oil until they are softened. Add vegetable stock and rinsed lentils. Bring to simmer and cook for about 20 minutes. Season with freshly ground pepper and sea salt to taste.
NOTE: While cooking down, add hot water, a ladle at a time, if you need more liquid to complete cooking.