This is a little splash of Italian olive oil sitting in a saucer. No, I mean it’s actually Italian oil. It comes from a property in Tuscany (not far from Florence) with 3,000 olive trees where a couple – Janet Shapiro and Stefano Magazzini – began pressing their own oil more than 30 years ago. They continue to do so today – under the label name Sagittario – with the help of their daughters, as well as many friends who gather at their farm from far and wide every year to help with the November harvest. For more details on Sagittario oil, their blog is here and Facebook page here. Tuscan oil is known for its fruity quality and its pepperiness (which mellows with time). As with any food, its freshness makes for an astonishing discovery. As I’ve discovered with other seemingly ordinary food stuffs that I’ve eaten shortly after they’ve been harvested – say, dried beans that are grown in upstate NY, potatoes grown in Long Island, oranges shipped immediately off the tree from Florida – stuff tastes better when it is fresh. Seriously better. The mundane transforms to sublime. To taste a fresh, olivey, assertive oil that’s been pressed within weeks is eye-opening.
This oil is made by friends of a friend and I ordered some earlier in the Fall that arrived in a shipment from Italy in mid-December. Today Janet was in town visiting and had a get together in NYC, along with one of their daughters, Tina. There was a slide show/talk showing photos of the olive trees and explaining the process of harvesting and milling the olives. There was also a tasting – oil on little slices of bread, in a tuscan white bean puree, and the most exciting discovery of all, in an orange-olive oil salad. Thinly sliced navel oranges, sprinkled with salt + pepper, sitting on a (turquoise coloured, but perhaps this part is optional) plate in a pool of olive oil. An incredible combination. Amazing. And even more amazing is that I have a refrigerator drawer full of fresh Florida oranges AND a full tin of this incredible oil. Bring on the snow, I’ll be eating oil slicked orange salad tomorrow!!
* I grabbed a random issue of the New Yorker that was laying about to set my saucer on. It turned out to be the “Journeys” issue from April 18, 2011 and to have a very Mediterranean-looking scene on the cover. Drawing by Jacques de Loustal.