Superfood: Saffron Farro with Dried Apricots and Toasted Pine Nuts

Photo courtesy of

Farro is one of our favorite superfoods. The first time we prepared it a few years ago local groceries weren’t selling this ancient form of wheat. That’s changed, fortunately. And we’re able to prepare it more readily. As a result, one dish on our to-do list: saffron farro with dried apricots and pine nuts. (Click here to see recipe.)

“Farro is a wonderful nutty alternative to the traditional rice, and is rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber,” writes blogger Rachel Hutchings - who created this recipe. Apricots stand in for the golden raisins I usually use, giving a bit of a sour sweetness that I loved, and providing fiber, vitamin A, C and Iron.”

Rachel used our Arbosana extra virgin olive oil to prepare the dish, saying its nutty flavor paired well with the farro. A touch of saffron, meanwhile, infuses the farro with a lovely yellow color and a distinct aroma.

To make the dish, toast the pine nuts briefly in olive oil until golden brown. Remove from the saucepan. Add chopped onion until it softens and just starts to brown. Add the farro and cook a couple of minutes, stirring frequently.

Stir in the apricots, water, salt, and saffron, then turn the heat up to high, and bring it to a rolling boil. Give the farro a stir and then place the lid on the saucepan, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes. Turn the heat off and let the farro sit (covered) for 5 minutes and then gently fluff with a fork.

Drain off any excess liquid and then transfer the farro to a serving dish and sprinkle the toasted pine nuts on top and serve. (Click here to see recipe.)

Bon appétit,

Your friends at California Olive Ranch


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How We Blend Our Olive Oils To Craft Different Taste Profiles

Our master miller, Bob Singletary, has been making extra virgin olive oil for more than three decades – including a slew of oils awarded Gold and Silver medals at this year’s California Olive Oil Council annual competition. Lately, Bob has been sampling the oils made from the olives we gathered during our latest harvest. Olive Press

Like a winemaker, Bob blends these oils – Arbequina, Arbosana and Koroneiki – to create an olive oil matching our different customers’ taste preferences. We asked Bob how he goes about choosing and blending the oils to produce unique oils with certain flavor profiles.

How do you blend the different oils to achieve the desired flavor profile?

Blending totally depends on an individual customer’s preference – be it consumers, or chefs and others who special order our oil. In general, we have very intense oils, and the selection process is usually based on when the olives were harvested. The earlier the oil is made during harvest, the more intense and pungent that oil is. During the blending process we select different oils from the same olive variety to establish a more complex flavor profile. Oils made at different times of the harvest have flavors ranging from intense to mild. Artois Bottles

Each of these individual oils has its own excellent flavor characteristics, and when identified and blended together the best of all qualities come together. Not only do we do single varietal blending to obtain maximum flavors, but we also take the best of each variety – Arbequina, Arbosana and Koroneiki – and create our Miller’s Blend. This blend has all of the best flavors that each type olive variety has to offer.

What type of taste are you trying to achieve with each of the oils – Arbequina, Miller’s Blend, Everyday Fresh and Arbosana?

Each style of oil has a totally different flavor profile. The Arbequina for retail consumers has the fruity and intense flavors characteristic of olives picked early in the harvest. The Miller’s Blend combines the best early harvest oils available. The Everyday is very fruity, but the end-taste profile is mild and not so robust.

Master Miller Bob Singletary

Master Miller Bob Singletary

The Arbosana generally is made at one time and the importance of selecting the exact time is critical to having a well balanced oil. If you are too early on this, the flavors are green and harsh and take time to settle out. This selection of when to harvest the olives is important with all varieties, but especially the Arbosana and Koroneiki.

Aside from blending the oils and removing the excess solids and sediment during the racking process, what else keeps you busy when it’s not harvest time?

The racking and blending process requires close attention by all of our milling team. We select oils for all of our packaging lines. Both lines require different oils at different times.

Being a part of California Olive Ranch is exciting, because we’re growing quickly. There’s always new and innovating equipment being installed, both at the milling operation and the packaging lines. I’m  fortunate to work with a group of professional and passionate people that believe quality comes before all else. California Olive Ranch has a great team spirit, and the commitment to excellence is always there.

Bon appétit,

Your friends at California Olive Ranch

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From Vegan Chef Tal Ronnen – Grilled Artichokes & Caesar Dressing

Grilled Artichokes

Tal Ronnen is one of the most celebrated vegan chefs working today. In the spring of 2008, he became known nationwide as the chef who prepared vegan meals for Oprah Winfrey’s 21-day vegan cleanse. With the advent of spring, we’re fortunate to have a seasonal recipe of his: grilled artichokes paired with a Caesar dressing. (Click here to see the recipe.)

“Make a lot – everyone will devour them,” Ronnen says of this dish, which appears in his book The Conscious Cook. No doubt, you don’t need to be a vegan to enjoy these.

To begin, the artichokes are steamed, halved, and grilled.

The Caesar dressing, meanwhile, brings together vegan mayonnaise, garlic, capers, miso paste, nutritional yeast flakes (available in health food stores), agave nectar, lemon juice, and a little water. They’re pulsed in a food processor until combined.

With the motor running, extra virgin olive oil is added in a thin stream until the ingredients are blended, about one minute. Make the dressing with our complex Arbosana to add yet another layer of flavor on this potpourri of ingredients. (Click here to see the recipe.)

Bon appétit,

Your Friends at California Olive Ranch


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An Asparagus Pesto That Offers Countless “Delicious Possibilities”

Photo courtesy of Viviane Bauquet Farre

Asparagus is one of our favorite things about spring. We’ve been buying loads of the stuff. We steam the spears in our special asparagus steamer, roast them in the oven or on top of the stove, and grill them. The most intriguing dish we’ve had so far is the asparagus pesto featured here. (Click here to see asparagus pesto recipe.)

We tossed it with rotini pasta. All ages – 13 on up – declared the dish delectable. In addition to the asparagus, the pesto combines basil, extra virgin olive oil, Parmesan, and a dash of lemon juice – providing “an exquisitely creamy and savory pesto that tastes like spring!”  Viviane Bauquet Farre of food & style, who created the recipe, says.

We used our Everyday Fresh oil to prepare the pesto. Our medium-robust Arbosana would be a good choice, too, providing a touch of almond flavor. In fact, any of our oils would be good!

The pesto has many uses, in addition to pasta. Viviane recommends you stir it into a risotto; spoon it on top of a pizza; spread it in a sandwich; drizzle it on top of grilled vegetables, chicken or fish; or use it as a dip.

“The delicious possibilities are endless,” Viviane notes. We couldn’t agree more.

You’ll find other recipes that capitalize on spring vegetables in our April eNewsletter. (Click here to see April eNews.)

Bon appétit,

Your Friends at California Olive Ranch


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An Asian-Themed Dish: Soba Noodle Salad With Snow Peas

Soba Noodle Salad with Snow Peas

Now that spring is here, we’re turning our attention to lighter dishes that showcase fresh vegetables arriving at local groceries and farmers’ markets. You can pick and choose which veggies to include in this soba noodle salad from our friend Marie Simmons, the award-winning cookbook author. (Click here to see the recipe.)

Soba – the Japanese buckwheat noodles – are paired with snow peas, carrots, cucumber, and scallions in this Asian-themed salad.

Marie says “feel free to put in slivered radishes for more color, or to substitute slivered green beans for the snow peas.” Other options - particularly given all the fresh asparagus available at this time of year – is to substitute diagonally sliced asparagus, one-inch lengths of green beans, or whole sugar snap peas for the snow peas. You’ll want to cook these until crisp-tender, using the same blanching technique  the recipe uses for the snow peas.

The recipe, by the way, appears in Marie’s book Fresh & Fast Vegetarian.

Use our Everyday Fresh to make the dressing. (The recipe calls for a “mild-tasting” extra virgin olive oil.) The dressing also combines Japanese rice vinegar, tamari or soy sauce, fresh ginger, and garlic.

To begin, blanch the snow peas briefly in boiling water until crisp-tender. Remove them and add the noodles and cook until tender, about three to four minutes. Toss the noodles with some sesame oil.

To assemble the salad, combine the noodles with the snow peas as well as scallions, carrots, cucumber and sesame seeds. (You can substitute peanuts or almonds for the sesame seeds.) Add the dressing and top with additional sesame seeds. Serve the salad cold. (Click here to see the recipe.)

You’ll find other recipes that capitalize on spring vegetables in our April eNewsletter. (Click here to see April eNews.)

Bon appétit,

Your Friends at California Olive Ranch



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How To Taste Extra Virgin Olive Oil Like A Pro

A few years ago our friend Nancy Ash told us people gave her a “funny look” when she told them how she made a living. Basically, Nancy spends a lot of time slurping olive oil and biting into slices of tart green apple. We asked her recently if people still give her the occasional odd glance? “I still do get funny looks when I tell people that I’m a professional olive oil taster!” Nancy concedes.

Photo Courtesy of California Olive Oil Commission

Photo Courtesy of California Olive Oil Commission

As a trained taster and president of the consulting firm Strictly Olive Oil, Nancy teaches chefs, culinary pros – and anybody else who wants to learn – about the ins and outs of tasting extra virgin olive oil.

An extra virgin olive oil tasting – like a wine tasting – lets you experience an olive oil’s aroma, flavor and peppery quality, or pungency. You can also figure out what might be wrong with the oil. Mustiness or rancidity are “defects” found in lesser quality oils. To be certified as  true “extra virgin,” an olive oil must pass a barrage of tests – some conducted by lab technicians, and others done by a panel of olive oil tasters, like Nancy.

It’s the taster’s job to analyze the aroma, taste, and pungency of the oil to see if it passes muster.

Here’s how to conduct a tasting – something you could do with friends and family.

Nancy explains “the best way to discover an oil’s flavor” is to sip it on its own, without bread or other food. “This will allow you to savor the oil’s flavor without distraction,” she says.

First, pour about a tablespoon of oil into a wine glass, or similarly tapered glass. (Expert olive oil tasters sip from a tapered blue olive oil tasting glass, like the one pictured above; the shape of the glass concentrates the oil’s aromas.) Cover the glass with one hand while you hold the bowl of the glass in the other hand. Professional tasters warm the oil to 82 degrees Fahrenheit – but you don’t have to be so exact. About 70 degrees Fahrenheit should be fine.

Next come the “Four S’s,” as Nancy describes them:

  1. SWIRL – While you cover the top of the glass with one hand, swirl the oil to release its aroma molecules.
  2. SNIFF – Uncover the glass and hold the top up to your nose and quickly inhale the aroma. The scent is key to the oil’s fruitiness. “Take note of the intensity and the description of the aroma, “Nancy says.
  3. SLURP – Take a sip of the oil while also “sipping” a bit of air. The slurping action combines the oil with the air and spreads it throughout your mouth. Notice the oil’s “smell” in your mouth – the retro-nasal aromas – as well as the different sensations throughout your mouth.
  4. SWALLOW – Don’t worry. It’s just a small amount of oil! Notice if there is a peppery or stinging sensation in your throat, and how long the sensation lingers.

While tasting the oil, keep in mind the three positive attributes of true extra virgin olive oil:

  • Fruitiness, which you can sense from smelling the oil.
  • Bittery, reflected in a pleasantly bitter taste. “It’s a natural expression of the olive,” Nancy explains.
  • Pungency, the peppery or scratchy sensation in your throat when you swallow the oil. “Sometimes oils are referred to as one or two ‘coughers’ as this is a common response to pungency,” Nancy notes.

If you plan to sample another oil, take a bite from a tart green apple, followed by a swig of water. That will cleanse your palate.

That’s it. So go ahead and slurp away!

Bon appétit,

Your Friends at California Olive Ranch


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Arugula and Endive Salad with Shrimp and Meyer Lemon Dressing

Count avocados among our favorite superfoods. Here they’re paired in a salad with shrimp, arugula, and endive. (Click here to see recipe.)

Widely acclaimed food blogger Amy Sherman - who created this dish – tops the salad with a bright lemon vinaigrette using Meyer lemon juice. Make it with our fruity Arbequina.

Meyer lemons, by the way, are sweeter and less acidic than ordinary lemons. Native to China, they’re believed to be a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange. If you don’t have access to Meyer lemons, you could substitute ordinary lemons. Just realize regular lemons are more tart … and less sweet.

In addition to the extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice, the vinaigrette combines garlic, lemon zest, and honey.

The shrimp, meanwhile, are roasted in the oven for a few minutes until pink and cooked through.

To make the salad, toss the greens with the vinaigrette and then divide them among four plates. Lastly, scoop out bits of avocado using a teaspoon and place with the shrimp atop the salad. We recommend California-grown avocados. (Click here to see recipe.)

Bon appétit,

Your friends at California Olive Ranch


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A Dish We’ll Make Again: Blood Orange Cardamom Olive Oil Cake

Blood Orange Cardamom Olive Oil Cake

The other day we procured blood oranges at our local grocery. Our plan: make a blood orange cardamom olive oil cake. We’d been eyeing the recipe for some time, waiting for blood oranges to be available. So we pounced at the chance – and were thrilled with the results. (Click here to get the recipe.)

The recipe – courtesy of Food52 – produced a luscious, moist cake laced  with the wonderfully unique, sweet flavor of cardamom. The top of the cake – as you can see in the photo – was speckled reddish-orange, thanks to the blood orange juice glaze.

We used our  Arbequina to pair with the the blood oranges. It contributed a fruity flavor and produced a soft, delicate crumb.

This cake got two thumbs up from all age groups (one 13-year-old “recipe tester” came back for thirds!).

The juice from the blood oranges is used three different ways in this recipe: for the cake itself; for the syrup drizzled on the cake; and for the glaze applied to the top.

The cardamom, meanwhile, is used in the cake and the glaze. Other ingredients in the cake include Greek yogurt, flour, blood orange zest, sugar, and eggs. (Click here to get the recipe.)

Our advice: Grab some blood oranges and a bottle of fruity olive oil – and get baking! We sure plan to do so … again.

Bon appétit,

Your friends at California Olive Ranch

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Nutritionist Ed Blonz On Healthy Eating, Olive Oil, Pantry Essentials

Ed Blonz is a busy guy: He’s a nutritionist, a consultant, an award-winning writer, and a professor. His syndicated column, “On Nutrition,” runs weekly in newspapers nationally  and internationally. He’s won the James Beard Foundation Award for his writing. And he’s an assistant clinical professor at the University of California, San Francisco. We asked him about healthy eating (slow down and savor your food), extra virgin olive oil (it’s “the way to go”), and key items to have in your pantry.

What’s your advice for people who want to prepare and enjoy healthier meals?

When it comes to mealtime, I encourage all to slow down and savor your foods, especially people who are battling a weight problem.  Our body doesn’t provide instant feedback about when it has had enough food.  Pace your meals to a minimum of 20 to 30 minutes in length, keeping in mind that if you routinely eat rapidly until you’re stuffed it means you’ve had too much.

Consider also shifting the salad to the end of the meal. I love the flavor of fresh greens and salads. In the dinner meal I have a portion of the main course and any side dishes, and then I “fill up” on the salad as my final course. Moving salads to the end of the meal, similar to what is done in Europe, has served me well over the years.

You’ve said extra virgin olive oil – versus other oils like corn oil – is “the way to go.” Why so? extra virgin olive oil being poured onto a spoon

I put extra virgin olive oil in a special class.  Consider that corn oil and other refined oils tend to be solvent extracted; this means a food-source mash gets mixed with a solvent that separates the oil from the rest of the material.  The solvent is then removed and you’re left with a pure oil, free of unwanted components or of flavors that can affect performance.  Refined oils include typical “vegetable oils,” such as soy, corn, canola, and safflower.

By contrast, we can think of extra virgin olive oil as fruit juice, the olive being the fruit of the olive tree.  I consider it the “way to go” because rather than being the result of solvent extraction, extra virgin olive oil is pressed out of the olive and it contains the full complement of the olive’s naturally occurring flavors and colors, together with its nutrients and phytochemical protectants.  Other oil seeds and sources do not lend themselves to this approach.  From a health and culinary standpoint there is nothing like extra virgin olive oil.

What other healthy pantry items you consider essential?

In no particular order (and certainly not a complete list): onions, garlic, garbanzo beans, black beans, canned tomatoes, whole grain cereals, nuts and seeds, nut butters, Better than Bouillon, fresh spices and seasonings, including peppercorn for fresh-ground pepper.

Can you suggest a simple, healthy dish using extra virgin olive oil? Vegetables USDA Cropped

Here is an excellent side dish made from butternut squash: Peel a large butternut squash, cut in half and scrape out all the seeds, then cut in to 1-½-inch cubes and put into a roasting pan large enough to hold the squash on a single layer.  Drizzle on extra virgin olive oil and toss, so that there is a light coat on all the squash.  Season with salt, fresh-ground pepper, and 2 tablespoons of fresh thyme that’s been chopped finely.  Put in a 425 F. degree oven and roast, stirring or shaking every 10 to 15 minutes. Depending on the size of the squash cubes, it should take 45 to 50 minutes to cook.

Bon appétit,

Your friends at California Olive Ranch

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Quick & Easy Veggie Recipe: African Squash & Chickpea Stew

We’ve been sticking with our New Year’s resolution of putting one or more vegetarian meals on the dinner table every week. That’s because of the research showing the benefits of a plant-based diet. This spicey vegetarian stew meshes squarely with our regimen. (Click hear to see featured recipe.)

It’s an African-themed stew loaded with healthy ingredients: chickpeas, butternut squash, tomatoes, okra, pumpkin seeds, and spices like turmeric. The recipe comes courtesy of Muir Glen Organic. And you can have it on the table in 30 minutes.

Sauté onions in extra virgin olive oil – use our Everyday Fresh – until golden brown. Add the spices – coriander, cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, cayenne pepper and salt – followed by cubed butternut squash, vegetable broth and tomatoes. Simmer the stew until the squash is tender, about 15 minutes.

In a separate pan, sauté the okra in more olive oil until tender and the edges are golden brown, three to five minutes. Add it to the stew.

The only remaining step is divvying up the individual servings and topping each bowl with chopped cilantro and toasted pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas.

Bon appétit,

Your friends at California Olive Ranch

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