Thursday, January 27, 2005



I had to repost this.

My friend, Schmootzie, over at New World Odor,
has a post up in which he discusses the intelligent,
hilarious and beautiful Roxanne's quandry over olive oil.
For their benefit, and for those who need a refresher read
on this very important topic I give you this information from

In my family, we are weaned, at the tender age of 12 months,
from mother's milk right to olive oil. There was never any
other type of oil allowed, except for those times when baking
called for a less fruity tasing oil for pasteries and cakes.

Nonna Rizzo used to treat us with fresh baked Italian bread
sprinkled with warm olive oil. That was our after-school snack.
And if she wanted to show us a little more love, she'd sprinkle
that with fresh oregano. O dio mio!!!!

And now for your refresher course in olive oil:
What is olive oil? Identifying the differences in grades
of olive oil and the procedures in obtaining them. So,
you are standing in the supermarket aisle eyeing the
olive oils, you see pure olive oil, extra virgin olive oil,
light olive oil, and now you are thoroughly confused.

What is what? What do these terms mean and what
differentiates the grades? First of all, let's look at the
process of extracting oil from olives. The first step is
that olives are picked, depending on the type of olive
and the time of year it is picked will have a lot to do
with how the oil tastes and how much oil will be able
to be extracted. The variety of olives, plus climate,
and process make the final oil almost as unique and
varied as fine wine. The picked olives are washed,
and then sent to a mill and either pulverized or
ground up, then the resulting mulch is sightly warmed
and mixed to tease out the oil from the meat. The mulch
is then laid out on mats that are stacked and then sent
to a hydraulic press that slowly presses this mulch over
a prescribed period of time to about 2200 lbs. per square
inch! The run off from this pressing is vegetable water
and oil. The oil is usually centrifuged or decanted from
the water and the water is used as fertilizer or discarded.

This is what is referred to as a first cold pressing and the
resulting oil, that has to contain less than a certain
percentage of free oleic acid, is termed extra virgin.
It has all the nuances and characteristics of the olive
it is taken from. It is full bodied and can be, astringent,
peppery, buttery, green, piquant. ect... This is olive oil
in its most pure and expensive form. Now the mulch
that has been pressed into a cake still has oil therein.
These cakes are sent to a refinery where heat and
chemicals extract the rest of the oil out and refine it.
Now you have a flavorless, colorless, vegetable oil that
then has a little virgin oil added to it for flavor. Now
you have pure olive oil, not a lot of flavor or body but
the product is wholesome. Light olive oil does not
contain less fat, it is just lighter in color and pretty
much neutral in flavor, it is simply a highly refined
olive oil. Another reason olive oil may be refined is that
the olives have been abused in some way, either they
waited too long to go to press and started to mold or
ferment, the mats started to mold and gave the oil a
very off flavor, or the pressed oil may have started to
go rancid. The various negative qualities that an oil
can have, that is sign of abuse of the olives and/or oil,
are fusty, musty, rancidity, burnt, muddy sediment,
and winey, plus others. In any of these cases, any
significantly perceptible qualities of this sort would make
the oil unpleasant and unacceptable and so off the oil goes
to the refinery to have all the positive and negative qualities
refined out, what's left? Flavorless, colorless, vegetable oil
that is spiked with a little virgin oil for flavor and there
again you have pure olive oil, not a whole lot of flavor but
wholesome and good for cooking. So, next time you are at
the market you won't have to stare blankly at the olive oils
and wonder what's what, you'll be able to confidently
pick the oil you want or need for whatever application you desire!



Goodness! It's about time I posted a pesto sauce recipe. From Italy's Ligurian region comes this heavenly jewel-green sauce, which can be used with any shape pasta you wish. (among my favorites: cappelini (angelhair), tortellini, and penne. But don't limit yourself to using it just on pasta. Use it as a spread for panini, those gorgeous Italian sandwiches made with crusty Tuscan bread, bufala mozzarella cheese, tomato slices, prosciutto, and a basil leaf or two. Mix it in with homemade or a good quality store-bought mayonnaise and you have a great dip for raw veggies. Put a tablespoon or more (to your taste) in your favorit soups or stews. Spread it over grilled chicken or fish. Wash your hair in it, or put some in the tub and soak in it. Use your imagination! One can never have too much pesto!

4 cups basil leaves, well packed
4 cloves garlic, lightly crushed and peeled
1 cup pine nuts or walnuts (or a combination of the two)
1-1/2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino cheese (or a combination of the two)
1-1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Place basil leaves and garlic in food processor or blender and process until leaves are finely chopped. Add nuts and process until nuts are finely chopped. Add cheese and process until combined. With the machine running, add olive oil in a slow, steady stream. After the oil is incorporated, turn off the machine and add salt and pepper to taste. If not using immediately, store in an air-tight container with a thin coating of olive oil on top to keep the sauce from turning dark. Pesto will keep well in the refrigerator for a week or more. This recipe yields approximately 3-1/2 to 4 cups, and can be halved.

Using Pecorino cheese and increasing the quantity of garlic will yield a more intense, sharply flavored pesto. Some people prefer to toast their pine nuts. Using walnuts yields a more woodsy flavor. The amount of olive oil can be adjusted depending on the desired final consistency (thicker or thinner).

Friday, January 14, 2005


Dr. King's Birthday

As we approach Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday, it is important to remember these "moral values" presidents:

Ronald Wilson Reagan opposed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 as “humiliating to South”

Reagan never supported the use of federal power to provide blacks with civil rights. He opposed the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965. Reagan said in 1980 that the Voting Rights Act had been “humiliating to the South.” While he made political points with white southerners on this issue, he was sensitive to any suggestion that his stands on civil rights issues were politically or racially motivated, and he typically reacted to such criticisms as attacks on his personal integrity.

Source: The Role of a Lifetime, by Lou Cannon, p. 520 Jul 2, 1991

And remember: A great, great many people in this country think of President Reagan as a saint, worthy of being carved into Mt. Rushmore.

How could someone so good and morally upright be so abysmally wrong on such an important moral, civil and political issue?

George H.W. Bush

Career: Political leader. Received the Distinguished Flying Cross for Bravery during World War II; U.S. congressman from Texas (1966-1970), ambassador to the United Nations (1971-1974); Special Envoy to China (1974-1975); Republican National Chairman (1975-1976); Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director (1976-1977); vice president of the U.S. (1981-1989); president of the U.S. (1989-1993).

In 1964, Bush campaigned against the Civil Rights Act. He lost that election but was elected to Congress in 1966 and again in 1968. He was defeated in the race for Senate by Democrat Lloyd Bentsen in 1970.


And to any trolls who will point out that southern Democrats opposed the Civil Rights Act: I know that. This isn't about US Senators or US Reps. I'm merely pointing out that these two particular men went on to become president. Did they regret their decision to not support the Civil Rights Act? I don't know. I do know that it didn't hurt them politically.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005


Isabella's Minestrone

Wow. No post since December 24? Bad, bad Isabella! Here's something to make up for my laziness, a super, delicious recipe for minestrone. This is a soup that benefits by letting it rest a day, if you can keep yourself from eating it all up when you're finished preparing it.

Isabella's Minestrone [serves 8]

(Use almost any fresh vegetables in season. Here are some of my favorites.)

3 Tablespoons fruity olive oil
1 medium carrot, diced
1 medium rib of celery with leaves, diced
1 medium onion, diced
3 large cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
1 14 1/2 oz canned cannellini, kidney or garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
4 cups good quality vegetable or chicken stock
4 medium plum tomatoes, chopped
4 oz cabbage or spinach, shredded
1 large potato, peeled and diced
1 medium zucchini, chopped
4 oz string beans, cut in pieces, or fresh green peas
1 T chopped fresh parsley
1 T fresh basil, torn (or other combinations of fresh herbs)
coarse salt to taste
Additional olive oil
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (and if you have them, Parmesan cheese rinds cut into small pieces)
freshly ground pepper to taste

Place olive oil, carrots, celery, onion and garlic in deep, heavy soup pot over medium heat. Saute until golden. Add chopped plum tomatoes and simmer for about 4-5 minutes. Add vegetable stock. Add the rest of the vegetables and simmer for 5 minutes, add drained and rinsed beans and Parmesean cheese rinds. Let simmer (DO NOT BOIL) over low heat until the vegetables are tender (about 45 mins.) Season with s&p to taste. Add grated Parmesean cheese and fresh herbs if you are serving right away, otherwise save and add to pot just before you serve the soup. Ladle into soup bowls and add a bit more olive oil onto each serving, sprinkle more grated Parmesean cheese and minced herbs. Serve with crusty bread.

You may also serve this over small soup pasta, which is cooked separately in a pasta pan and drained. Place a serving of pasta in soup bowl, ladle minestrone over pasta, sprinkle with cheese and more minced herbs.

Buon appetito!

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