Saturday, May 24, 2008

Delicate Olive Oil is Perfect Match With Light Wine Vinegar

Summer harvests that produce ripe vegetables and amazing green salads that pair well with light entrees have been much discussed at Vivande in recent days. Our readers know that Carlo has been touting the attributes of Santa Chiara olive oil and Tiburtini white vinegar. The two together "work like gangbusters," he told me, especially with fruit, fish or seafood salads.

The Tiburtini vinegar is purposely made with dessert grapes, delivering a light and fruity flavour that is haunting.

We had a couple 90-degree days in San Francisco last week, so I made up a light dressing and served it with some fruit and cheeses. Wow! I washed it down with my favourite Pinot Grigio and headed off to Yoshi's. I couldn't get the savoury flavour out of mind.

Carlo and Lisa found some trial sizes of the Santa Chiara olive oil, so you might consider checking out this hard-to-find product with a smaller size.

Labels: ,

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Experiment With White Wine Vinegar

Serious home chefs are not normally hesitant to try new and different pairings. Yet we often find limited experimentation when it comes to vinegars. Carlo Middione encourages his restaurant staff at Vivande Porta Via and his cooking students to view vinegars the same way we view a vintage wine or extra virgin olive oil.

Carlo reminds us that vinegars offer great diversity and discovering new pairings is virtually unlimited. An interesting white vinegar is Tiburtini Aceto Fratelli POFI, made from the Malvasia grape, a sweet, aromatic grape with almond and apricot flavors often found in dessert wines. Tiburtini blends Greco grapes which impart smokey and toasted nut flavours. The grapes are grown organically near Rome and hand harvested. Tiburtini is aged for a full year in chestnut (castagna) barrels, and annual supplies are limited.

So be bold and try different vinegar pairings! You can find the perfumey, fruity Tiburni brand in speciality stores or many upscale Italian delis, or order through Carlo says you can even sip this vinegar straight!

Labels: , ,

Friday, May 02, 2008

Rosmarino Farm: Home of Santa Chiara

Good extra virgin oil is made with olives harvested in very late fall and early winter. Picking olives directly from the tree in November, December and January -- as soon as the olive starts to change colour from green to black -- is the peak time to harvest.

Only olives pressed within 48 hours of harvest and imparting no taste imperfections can be labeled "extra" virgin olive oil.

In the mid-1990s, the Rosmarino Farm in Liguria, a cool coastal swath on the Mediterranean Sea in Northern Italy, was producing vintage supplies of superior quality extra virgin olive oil for the most demanding chefs and gourmets. To this day, supplies of Santa Chiara are still limited by the Ligurian harvest of Taggiasca olives.

Today's home chefs and discerning gourmets are seeking this delicate oil that connoisseurs describe as "light and fruity with a slight peppery aftertaste." If you are looking for a superior extra virgin oil for use as a finishing oil with salads, fish, and pasta sauces, you will want to give Santa Chiara Costa Dei Rosmarini a try. We use it here at Vivande Porta Via. We have limited supplies available for shipping at

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Shells or no Shells?

I am still asked, when preparing spaghetti con le cozze (spaghetti with mussels), should one leave the shells on the mussels? I covered this nicely in my book The Food of Southern Italy:

“When I left Puglia, the battle was still raging between two old men I had met in a restaurant there about whether it is necessary to remove the shells from the mussels of spaghetti con le cozze or not. One felt the shell look unsightly on the plate, and no host or hostess who wanted to make a bella figura (“look good”) would do such a thing. The other man maintained you get more flavor with the shells left on, and if your hosts were really considerate, they would let you pick them up and suck on them to get every last drop of sauce. It really depends on the host and guests, whether to shell the mussels or not. Me? I never take the shells off!”

by Carlo Middione from The Food of Southern Italy, William Morrow, 1987

That should settle it!


Labels: ,