Once someone tries a real extra virgin—an adult or a child, anybody with taste buds—they'll never go back to the fake kind. It's distinctive, complex, the freshest thing you've ever eaten… But there has to be a first time. Somehow, we have to get those first drops of real extra virgin oil into their mouths…
―Tom Mueller, author of Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil
Like salt and pepper, I consider premium extra virgin olive oil a “desert island” ingredient, one I’d hate to live without. Taste it, and you’ll never look back.
If I grilled for you at my house, I’d reach for it often. On the menu might be flatbread baked in the embers, the tops pooled with olive oil and served with Catalan roasted vegetables (see photo above); line-caught swordfish finished with olive oil and a squeeze of lemon; a green salad with homemade vinaigrette; and maybe a slice of pound cake sautéed in a fruity olive oil with mixed fresh berries. (By the way, the bread and vegetables will be featured in the next season of Project Fire, which will begin airing July 4.) Yes, I’m a profligate user. I love the flavors fresh olive oil imparts to grilled foods.
If you’ve watched my TV shows, you’ve surely noticed I always emphasize that the quality of your food is at least as important as how you cook it. We procure the best meat. The best produce. The best seafood. The freshest spices.
But until a few years ago, I was leading an uncertain and impoverished olive oil life.
It was either hit or miss at the supermarket or gourmet shop. Mostly miss, truth be told. Price, I discovered, was not an indicator of quality. Neither was fancy packaging. Some labels gave no clue to the oils’ age, which is very important, as olive oil is never better or more healthful than the day it’s pressed. I was especially frustrated during the summer months, knowing my beautiful farmers’ market finds deserved the vibrancy of fresh, just-pressed olive oils. And the offerings on store shelves were months—or even years—old.
Then my longtime assistant, Nancy Loseke (an established olive oil expert before we met), introduced me to the Fresh-Pressed Olive Oil Club. It was a game-changer. Today, you’ll only find premium extra virgins in my kitchen, personally selected by the “Olive Oil Hunter,” TJ Robinson. TJ travels the world, working with top award-winning producers in both hemispheres in search of the freshest and most extraordinary olive oils. He rushes them to the U.S. by jet (like wine, olive oils are prematurely aged when transported in tanker ships) and delivers them right to Club members’ doors—three unique bottles each quarter. I have belonged to the Fresh-Pressed Olive Oil Club for many years, and have never been disappointed by one of TJ’s selections. Finally, I can splash fresh olive oil on summer’s dishes—vine-ripened tomatoes, local seafood, grilled meats, just-picked lettuces, asparagus, eggplant, etc.
Now, TJ has generously offered to give subscribers of Up in Smoke the opportunity to taste one of these incredible oils—the same oils that are on my table—for only $1. You’ll receive a bottle of one of his “finds,” and in the process, will discover a universe of olive oil you never knew existed. But act quickly. This offer will expire on Saturday, May 25, 2019.