Never one to turn down a challenge, when The Olive Press, an all-world olive oil store in Sonoma and Napa put out a challenge to several food bloggers to do four courses with four of their olive oils, guess who signed up? This guy.
Guess who is going to win? This guy! (No offense, I come by my arrogance naturally.)
You smell that? I just opened a can of whup [bleep] and four bottles of olive oil including:
The Arbequina a light (they call it delicate) Spanish olive oil with an almost Spring-like flavor of fresh cut grass and wild flowers.
The Mission, a Northern California olive oil that tasted the most like the store-bought olive oils I am used to, though with deeper notes and more complexity.
The Italian Blend, a robust oil that delivered strong olive oil flavor.
The Blood Orange which was sweet and citrusy and is my new favorite olive oil, hands down.
So, given these four oils as the canvas on which to make my four course masterpiece , I had to come up with a theme. My first thought was Italian: caprese salad, pesto, olive oil gelato and caponata. I was feeling pretty good about things. For about two minutes.
That menu just felt safe. I knew I could pull it together and it would be good, but was it enought to stand out? Could I win the prize pack from the Olive Press with it? Let’s be honest, if the good folks from the Olive Press were sitting down at my table (or if Emeril ever perfects smell-o-vision), I’d do that menu in a heartbeat. But I knew for this competition, all I had was my words and a few pictures. So I had to rework my theme.
I asked Twitter. My tweeps were no help. At all. Most of the uses for olive oil they came up with can’t be repeated on a PG blog. Google, on the other hand, was a great help and within no time I had a new theme: world cuisine with olive oil. Four cuisines, four olive oils, four courses, four chances to delight the taste buds.
Better yet, the total cost of this menu was about $40 and it only took 2 hours to put together. Can you say party time?
Anyway, without further ado, let’s get to the menu:
First Course – Greek Appetizer Trio
This trio of hummus, baba ghanoush, and flavored olive oil gets things started using the robust Italian Blend olive oil. I choose it because it had the boldest flavor of all the oils (hence “robust”), which all three appetizers needed. The hummus and baba ghanoush would both have been flat and monotonous with a good olive oil flavor and, of course, flavored olive oil is just going to be disappointing without a strong olive oil base.
The baba ghanous recipe is from The Olive Oil Source, the flavored olive oil is just Italian Blend olive oil, parsley, oregano and garlic. The hummus is chickpeas, olive oil, garlic, lemon, salt, and tahini smoothed out in the food processor.
Second Course – Spanish Tuna/Olive Tapas
Spanish course, Spanish olive oil, right? Sadly, no. That would have made sense, but the delicate flavors of the Arbequina would have been lost beneath the saltiness of the tuna and kalamata olives. Instead, I used the Mission in this recipe from EricWeisstein as a base, but used package tuna (due to time considerations) and topped with sriracha for a nice kick of spice. Be careful not to use too much, though.
Third Course – Asian Hot Pot with Shrimp
Ah, the famous Sichuan hot pot… this is the dish that really got me excited. I got even more excited when I tried the Arbequina since I knew it would be perfect for this. See, the chilies in the dish all have very pungent flavors, but having a fruity olive oil in the mix changed the complexity of the hot pot’s flavor. Instead of just being heat, there were subtle floral undertones to the dish not present in a normal hot pot and that was a very good thing.
To recreate this dish, fill a fondue pot 1/2 full of Arbequina, then add 1/2 cup of Chinese chili oil and a few dried peppers. Stir and bring to heat. Serve with raw shrimp that are put into the hot pot to cook.
Fourth Course – Lemon and Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake with Gelato and Chocolate Sauce
Yes me, the ever non-baker had to get help both from the Blood Orange Olive oil and Epicurious. I then topped with Jasper Mirabile’s caremelized guanciale gelato with a dash of chocolate sauce. It was heavenly, though.
And that’s my meal. Seriously, about $40 bucks, a little over 2 hours. One heck of a party. Give it a try, it’s the perfect dinner.