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Gourmet Oil and Vinegar

Gourmet Oil and Vinegar

Archive for October, 2008

Elegant Gourmet Gift Under $50

Friday, October 31st, 2008

Housewarming Gift Ideas under $50.00

Traditionally, good wishes of friendship are brought with a housewarming gift to warm the new home or residence. Traditions have somewhat changed over the years in regards to house warming presents and with what kinds of gifts are given. The typical house warming gift mainly consisted of something practical, helpful or of necessity. When thinking of a housewarming gift, which area of the house usually comes to mind? Usually it is the kitchen. Because most people enjoy good food, gourmet Oil and Vinegar condiments are welcome flavors of gourmet food for any kitchen. But where can you find a practical house warming gift selection under $50.00 that is unique and creative?

Cruets.com is the perfect place to shop for that ideal gift. There you’ll find a good selection of gourmet gifts for that special housewarming gift. These days, housewarming gifts range from a bottle of wine and cut flowers to gourmet oil and vinegar cruets and bread dipping dishes.

A housewarming gift should be unique and affordably priced. An accepted price range for a housewarming gift is usually a gift under $50. Practical and useful Gift Sets such as an Oil and Vinegar Gift Set which includes a glass within glass cruet and imported Italian Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar meet these criteria. A sensational matching set of Drizzle Cruets to hold Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar separately for the dining table; specifically designed to not drip oil or vinegar on a fine tablecloth. How about some elegantly designed Bread Dipping Dishes which can be purchased separately as a Gift Set, or as a Gift Set including Gourmet Herb Dipping Spices, or a Gift Set combining the Herb Dipping Spices and imported Italian Olive Oil? Perhaps a simple hard-to-find Glass Teapot that cannot be found anywhere in the shopping malls? We invite you to come to Cruets.com and browse through our delightful assortment of gourmet gifts. See for yourself. You’ll be amazed at the variety of gift selections there are to choose from for that perfect housewarming gift. All for under $50.00!

Gift Shopping Online rather than the Mall

Friday, October 31st, 2008

Mall not a Must If Shopping Online

Holiday shopping is approaching, that time of year we both anticipate and unfortunately sometimes dread. The anticipation we welcome and embrace as family and friends gather to celebrate and delicious food and drink are set out for us to enjoy. The foreboding feeling comes from the age-old shopping dilemma. What should you get and who should you be buying for this year? Heightening the anxiety is the looming trip to the shopping mall with its hordes of shoppers and parking problems. Fortunately, the solution to what to buy and where to buy it from is much closer than the mall: it’s at the keyboard of your computer and the online array of original gift ideas. Among these is a gift which combines an activity everyone enjoys with a sense of innovation and openness to new experiences. Most everyone loves to eat good food and it can be fun to display innovative ways of preparation and presentation. Cruets.com has the gifts you’ve been looking for.

Here are two unique gifts which can be ordered online and sent directly to deserving friends and family. By shopping early for Christmas, when inventory is high, you’ll be assured your selections will be in stock.

Gourmet Oil and Vinegar Gift Set

Every pantry should contain two treasured condiments: olive oil and vinegar. This year, give the gift of a gourmet oil and vinegar set. Fill the beautiful, hand-blown crystal cruet with Imported Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil and fine balsamic vinegar and allow the exquisite flavors to enhance salads, pastas and dishes such as bread dipping sauces.

Included in the gourmet gift set are:

Exquisite crystal European hand-blown Grape Cruet
Italian Masserrie di Sant’Eramo Virgin Olive Oil 8.5 fl. oz.
Italian Masserrie di Sant’Eramo Balsamic Vinegar 8.5 fl. oz.

Glass Grape Cluster Design Cruet

Although beautifully hand-blown and elegant in design, this glass cruet is not delicate. The grape cruet is made by European artisans of SIMAX glass, the European equivalent of PYREX glass. It is durable and practical enough to use every day for your oil and vinegar. This popular gift item is shipped double-boxed and includes corks.

Gifts of Oil and Vinegar Appreciated All Year Long

What would the holidays be without tables laden with luscious foods and sparkling condiments? The Grape Cruet oil and vinegar decanter will not be put away after the holiday get-togethers, but brought out year-round to enhance everyday dining as well. And why shouldn’t your table be graced often with this elegant decanter hand-blown by European artisans?

Consider a fine oil and vinegar cruet for a wedding or anniversary gift, or as a gourmet surprise for a special birthday. This year, our customers have already begun raving about our exquisite new selections. In addition to an expanded selection of balsamic vinegars direct from Italy, we also offer our new matched drizzle cruet design and a handsome, custom-designed bread dipping dish gift set. A unique culinary experience for many, bread-dipping is both healthy and uniquely delicious. If you blend your own flavored oils, you may create a new favorite for the table.

Imagine the appealing presentation of a bread dipping dish designed to highlight the different hues of color in the oil. This stylish dish enhances your appetizer and draws all in with its promise of a new experience. A table set with crystal cruets and attractive dipping dishes provides an artistic focal point for the dining table. Any cook would be pleased to have such accoutrements available in their kitchen.

gifts online, gourmet gifts, online holiday shopping, online gift shopping, oil and vinegar gifts

 

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Olive Oil selection process

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

Selecting the Best Olive Oil

The process of olive oil production, from the tree to the bottle, is probably one of the most breathtaking things to see in your life.

In Canneto, Italy stands the oldest living olive tree –  the oldest in all of Europe. This tree, certified and protected by the European Union, dates back to more than 2,000 years.

Olives, when they start growing, begin with a yellowish green color and, as they reach their fully-grown size, turns in a darker, greener color. Once they are fully ripe, they are already black or purple-black in color, although some turn into a slightly copper-brown shade while others remain green.

Olives are harvested at different stages. Table olives are usually harvested by hand; workers use a fork-like tool to gently remove the olive from the trees. In Sicily, where olives are abundant, there are many family owned orchards in the countryside. Family members all participate during the harvest, with members actually leaving their jobs to help gather the olives during this time. During harvest season, which provides only a very small opportunity or gathering every single olive in the countryside, orchards and hillsides are covered with harvesters gathering the olives from the trees. Huge nets are spread below in order to be able to catch every single piece.

Amazingly, even the elderly participate in the gathering of olives. Most of the olives that are gathered during the harvest are used to make olive oil. Upon harvesting, they are packed and are immediately taken to the olifecio or olive processor.

The processing of olive oil in Sicily makes use of an antique method of using a giant millstone grind, which grinds the seeds and the olive together in order to create a paste. The resulting paste will then be sandwiched in straw mats, and these will be piled one on top of the other. Sometimes, this pile of mates reaches up to more than twenty feet in the air. Next, these mats are pressed together and the liquid that comes through is called the first press olive oil. This is done without ay use of heat. The smell of this first press is exciting – rich, fruity, and even peppery.

This process is completely natural and uses no heat in order to extract the first press of oil from the olives. This first press produces an oil that is foggy in consistency and has a grayish sediment a good grade oil will proudly say that it is “first cold pressed”. Aside from this, there are basically 5 other classifications of olive oil that play important roles in the kitchen.

Extra virgin olive oil, which is very fragrant and flavorful. It has an acidity level of less than one percent. It is great for drizzling over meats, fish, vegetables, and pasta. Virgin olive oil is a less fruity and lighter version of extra-virgin, though with a higher acidity. Refined olive oil, on the other hand, is made from lower quality virgin oils. It is chemically treated in order to remove the flaws in its flavor and aroma and is usually used for frying, cooking, and dressings. Pure olive oil is a low-cost blend of refined and virgin live oil. It has a mild flavor and is used as the al purpose cooking oil in salads and dressings. The fifth grade is pomace, which is made from the olive oil residue of the previous pressings and is treated with solvents to extract any residual oil. It carries a bland flavor and is mostly used for frying.

One tip in storing you olive oil is to keep it in a cool dry place away from the sun. Glass and ceramic containers must also be used to prevent it from turning sour or rancid. Store the oil in glass or ceramic containers as well – the prescribed storage – to prevent it from losing its flavor and aroma. Avoid placing your oil in the refrigerator, as it will result in a cloudy mix; always make sure your olive oil should never be exposed to light, heat, or air. Finally, be sure to use all your olive oil within 2 years to enjoy its maximum flavor and freshness.

choosing an olive oil, olive oil selection, olive oil quality

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Artichokes drizzled with Olive Oil

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

Roasted Baby Artichokes With Drizzled Olive Oil

One vegetable that goes great with olive are baby artichokes. Spring and fall are the two seasons when artichokes are abundant and at their peak. The name may be deceiving, but baby artichokes are actually full grown artichokes. They are the ones that grow on the branches of the artichoke plant rather than on the main stem, which carries the typical large artichokes. The largest ones can be found growing on top of the plant. Baby artichokes are a great vegetable as they are easy to clean and do not have any of the bothersome, fuzzy fibers that can usually be found in the larger artichokes. Everything in the baby artichoke is practically edible, which is why it makes for a great dish alone, served with pasta, or in an artichoke salad. Here you will find a recipe for roasted baby artichokes, a perfect dish that everyone can try and enjoy, and you will only need 3 simple ingredients: artichokes, oil, and seasoning. They are delicious and incredibly easy to make.

For roasted baby artichokes, the ingredients you will need are:

2 pounds baby artichokes
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Prepare your artichokes by cleaning them first. Do this by trimming the stem and pulling off the outer leaves. Leave the lighter green leaves. Place the outer leaves in a cold water lemon bath, which is simply made of 1 part lemon and 3 parts water. Let them sit for a while and then take them out of the lemon bath. Next, cut the larger artichokes in half, leaving the really smaller ones whole. Place all the artichokes in a pot of water and cover. Simmer the artichokes for about seven or eight minutes until they soften and are just tender. Take them off the flame and drain them well. Once they have cooled, toss them in olive oil and arrange them in one layer in a baking dish. Bake them for about seven or eight minutes in a 450 degree oven. Once cooked, take them out and sprinkle the dish with some salt and pepper to taste. Your roasted artichokes are now ready to be served and enjoyed!

These artichokes are a great accompaniment to any meat dish or it can be tossed with pasta and a good quality Parmesan cheese for a satisfying and delicious meal. Artichokes are very healthy and tasty and can be cooked in any way you like! They are a good source of vitamin C, folate, fiber, and other minerals such as potassium, phosphorous, and magnesium.

artichokes and olive oil, roasted artichokes with olive oil

 

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Olive Oil qualities

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

The Qualities of a Fine Olive Oil

There are so many regarding olive oil: What is the difference between an extra virgin olive oil, a 100 percent pure olive oil, and a simple virgin olive oil? How should olive oil be stored? How long does it keep? What are the various uses for olive oil? There is an answer for each of these questions to quiet the minds of olive oil users everywhere.

The key traits that characterize olive oil are its smooth and fragrant bouquet to the nose and its delicate non-oily flavor on the tongue. The types of olive oil are based on which pressing they come from. The first cold press, which is the first press of the olive without the use of any heat, produces the first press of olives. The second press is where virgin olive oil comes from. The third and final press involves the use of heat or even chemicals and produces what is simply olive oil.

When it comes to talking about storage, always remember to store your olive oil in a cool dark place away from sunlight, which can turn your oil more rancid in a shorter time. Most Italian producers recommend that olive oil be used within eighteen months of bottling in order to enjoy its best flavor. Nowadays, we see bottles with a “use by” date more often, and this is being practiced by more and more producers.

So what kind of olive oil works best for what? There are several good tips that one must remember when using olive oil; for drizzling, it is best to use a good quality extra virgin olive oil – on top of vegetables, meats, and salad dressings. For sautéing, 100% olive oil works well. Most chefs prefer to use this kind of olive oil for frying since it has a higher heating point than extra virgin olive oil and is, of course, considerably cheaper.

olive oil, extra virgin olive oil, olive oil quality

 

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Oil And Balsamic Vinegar Grilled Chicken Salad With Dijon Mustard

Monday, October 27th, 2008

Off the Grill: Chicken Salad Chicken salads are great dishes, either as the start to a meal or it is the meal itself. This warm chicken salad goes great with warm and toasted garlic bread or grilled garlic crostini.

You will need:

  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 1½ tablespoons pink peppercorns, or 1½ teaspoons green peppercorns mixed with 1 tablespoon of raw honey
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • ¾ – 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, (3 breast halves, minus tenderloins)
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups pink grapefruit segments, plus juice
  • ½ teaspoon Dijon style mustard
  • 3-4 chives
  • 7-8 ounces or 1 bag of arugula leaves, washed and dried

 

In a small cup, combine the sherry vinegar and peppercorns. Leave them to soak as you prepare the chicken. In a separate, large shallow, plate, combine two tablespoons of the oil with the balsamic vinegar. Take your chicken pieces and put them in between pieces of plastic wrap and pound them to a thickness of about ¾ of an inch using a rolling pin or mallet. After pounding, dip the chicken in your oil and vinegar mixture, coating each side evenly. Season each piece lightly with salt and pepper, then cover them and let stand for about 15 minutes in order for the flavors to sink into the chicken.

Prepare the grill and put it to high heat. If using a gas grill, prepare the grill to medium heat, getting ready to fan flames if they get too out of control. Before laying your chicken down on it, lightly coat your grill rack with oil.

Prepare your grapefruit by cutting off the top and bottom of the fruit and removing the white pith from the fruit. Start the cut from above going downwards. Once you’ve peeled the fruit completely, put the meat in a fine strainer and cut between the sections of the fruit using a paring knife. Collect al the fruit and the juice in the bowl, making sure to squeeze the extra juice out of any remaining pulp.

After all that, the chicken is done marinating and is ready to be grilled. Cook each side for about four minutes until the chicken is just cooked through. Once cooked, transfer them to a chopping board and cut them into ¼ to ½ inch wide strips. Cover the pieces loosely to keep them warm. Drain the grapefruit segments and reserve the juice for later on.

While the chicken is grilling, the vinaigrette can already be prepared. Whisk together the remaining oils, 1 tablespoon reserved grapefruit juice and mustard in a large mixing bowl. Snip the chives and whisk them well into the mixture. Don’t forget to ad salt and pepper and adjust as you go along. Finally, add the arugula to finally toss and lightly coat each leaf.

Now, you can plate your salad. Arrange some of the arugula leaves on a plate, topping it with chicken slices and some of the grapefruit segments. Drizzle each plate with some vinaigrette and top it off with soaked peppercorns. Serve the salad immediately and enjoy.

Vinaigrette for salad or pasta

Sunday, October 26th, 2008

Whisked, not shaken oil and vinegar vinaigrette

If you thought that vinaigrette is exclusively a salad partner, then you are highly mistaken. As a matter of fact, vinaigrette can be used with a number of dishes, including pasta, fish, and grilled vegetables. It is a very handy thing if you know how to make vinaigrette, as this sauce is simple, very easy to make, and can come from the ingredients that you already have stored in your pantry. A homemade vinaigrette is more economical and tastes leagues better than store-bought vinaigrette.

The two basic ingredients for vinaigrette are oil and vinegar, and the ratio between the two plays a very important role. Generally, it is three parts oil to one part vinegar, but if a milder, less acidic ingredient is used instead of vinegar, the proportion of the oil lessens. As with all things cooked and prepared, the best results will come from using the best and freshest ingredients.

You will need two hands in making vinaigrette: one hand to whisk the ingredients together, while the other is used for pouring in the oil. This is why it is important that your bowl is stationary as you work. Using a rubber bottomed bowl is most helpful, but if you don’t have one, shape a round towel into ring around the bottom of the bowl to provide the needed traction.

Begin by dissolving a bit of salt in the vinegar. This is done because salt dissolves more readily when it is mixed in the vinegar directly; you can still season and adjust the taste of your dressing at the end. Next, add a small amount of Dijon mustard and whisk until all of it is combined well into the vinegar. This acts as an emulsifying agent, which binds the oil and vinegar together. Now, pour in the oil in a slow, steady stream while whisking continuously and vigorously, until everything is incorporated well and emulsified. Season to taste with salt and pepper and your vinaigrette is done and ready for the taking.

Don’t be afraid to experiment and play around with this basic recipe by using a different type of oil or vinegar, such as garlic infused olive oil or balsamic or red-wine vinegar. You can also alter and increase the flavors of your dressing by adding herbs, shallots, garlic, or even citrus zest. As a way to top off your dishes, this vinaigrette can be tossed over salad greens, drizzled over grilled fish, meat or vegetables, or mixed with pasta.

Note: Your vinaigrette dressing will be as good as the ingrediemts you use to make it. Be sure to use a quality extra virgin olive oil as well as a fine vinegar.

vinaigrette, oil and vinegar, vinaigrette dressing

 

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Basil Salad Dressing

Friday, October 24th, 2008

Blender Basil Dressing

If you’ve got a blender at home, then you should know that these things aren’t just for purees or shakes. Blenders can also help you greatly in concocting great salad dressings. Here is a recipe for a wonderful and easy-to-make basil dressing.

The ingredients for this recipe are as follows:

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
4 to 5 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 cloves garlic, chopped
¼ cup canola oil
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Add the vinegars, basil, sugar, garlic, oils, salt, and pepper in a blender. Pulse the mixture, or mix it in short bursts so that the ingredients combine thoroughly and the basil do not get chopped too fine. A combination of butter lettuce, freshly shredded Parmesan cheese, marinated mushrooms, juicy red ripe tomatoes, and even some ripe wedges of Haas avocado make for a delightfully superb salad. This recipe yields about a cup dressing.

 basil salad dressing, basil salad dressing recipe

 

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Vinaigrette basic

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

Basic Vinaigrette Recipe

One of the great things about vinaigrette is that it is so versatile and flexible. All you need is a reliable basic vinaigrette recipe and all it’s other variations stem from just this. Below is a basic recipe for vinaigrette, which you can adjust and alter to create several variations.

You will need:
4 to 6 cloves garlic, peeled
About 1 teaspoon salt
About 2 cups red or white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
About ½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
About 2 cups extra virgin olive oil (or 1 cup olive oil and 1 cup canola oil)
Method:

On a chopping board, finely mince and smash your garlic cloves. Before doing anything, though, sprinkle the garlic cloves with salt to prevent the pieces from sticking to your knife as you mince. This also comes in very handy, as you will be adding salt to your vinaigrette later on, anyway.

Transfer the garlic to a small or medium sized bowl. Add in your vinegar, sugar, and black pepper and whisk it together. Adjust the taste as you go along. Whisk in your oil and adjust the seasoning again as you see fit, adding more salt and pepper if needed. A vinaigrette can have several variations. For a different approach to your dressing, you can try whisking in some shredded Parmesan cheese to add salt and flavor. Adding sun-dried tomatoes is also a good idea, or even some minced herbs. Make your dressing even more unique by adding ingredients that bring surprising flavors, such as cumin, fresh ginger, a squeeze of fresh lime juice, and even soy sauce for that Asian zing.

Another vinaigrette prep tip: you can easily create a base for your vinaigrette and you don’t have to worry about it being thick because it won’t have any oil yet. Do this by combining all your ingredients except the oil and refrigerate until you are ready to use it. Whisk together the right amount of vinaigrette base and room temperature olive oil. Toss it with your salad and enjoy!

basic vinaigrette, oil and vinegar, vinaigrette dressing

 

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Vinaigrette To Shake Or Whisk

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

Vinaigrette And Simple Whisking

While shaking your vinaigrette mixture in a jar isn’t necessarily wrong to do (many folks use this method), whisking your vinaigrette is a much better option. When whisking, make sure you’re using a good wire whisk and a bowl or container that is wide enough to accommodate all the whisking action that will be happening, and deep enough to keep the vinaigrette inside as you whirl it around. It’s also recommended that you use a clear bowl, so as to have a better visual of the proportions you’ve put into your mixture. This way, it will be easy for you to adjust and eyeball the situation better.

Preparing your vinaigrette this way is very simple. The first step will be to whisk your vinegar and all the seasonings you’ve decided to use in the bowl. The flavors of the seasonings will develop as you whisk along, so don’t forget to taste your mixture every so often. If you feel like your dressing is a lacking salt, then by all means add. If it’s turned out to be too salty, then add a little vinegar to balance things off. When you’re finally satisfied with the way your initial mixture tastes, whisk in some oil by drizzling it slowly into your bowl. Keep in mind, though, that the olive oil tames some of the flavors so just adjust depending on your taste.

The key to this procedure? Taste as you go along. If you’re tasting, you’re adjusting and you’ll be able to achieve the flavor that you want. Once you’ve reached your desired flavor, it’s never a bad idea to take a leaf of lettuce and sample your dressing. Dip the leaf in the dressing to see how it is going to taste with the salad itself.

After all that, you’re finally ready to toss up your salad. Always remember to toss it just before serving. Whisk through your vinaigrette one last time, and then drizzle some dressing over your salad. Toss to coat each leaf thoroughly, but do this gently as you don’t want to bruise the leaves. Remember, the quality of the ingredients, specifically the olive oil and the vinegar will translate directly to how good your vinaigrette turns out.

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