The character that makes me fall for food in Italy is its seasonableness.
In Spring we sow, in Summer we start to see peaches, cherries, strawberries, tomatoes in the market; then after the summer holiday back from the seaside, it is time for porcini mushrooms, figs, pumpkins, grapes, etc; close to end of the year we harvest chestnuts, olives…… The celebrations to harvests held in small villages make our food a big deal of the year, as well make us, the eaters, appreciate what we have on our table.
Last month I was lucky to visit an olive mill near by Florence, and to witness their olive oil press. It had rained the night before, so the harvested olives were wet and washed laying inside the baskets. They were such pearls from the tree!
In order to get high quality extra virgin olive oil, it requires no waiting time after the olives are picked. The good olive oil producers gives only 2 – 4 hours between the harvest and pressing. During the pressing process, experts need to take control of lots of details: air flow in the room, contact of olives with the oxygen, room temperature, etc. No higher than 27C is consider a ideal temperature to press the olive oil.
When purchasing olive oil on the market, make sure you choose one sealed in a dark colored bottle rather than transparent glass bottle. Because that’s how to keep the olive oil away from too much light exposure.
And there are thousands of ways to enjoy the olive oil: drizzle on salad, season on meat/ fish, add to pasta, even on dessert! But the easiest and authentic way is taking a slide of Tuscan break and dip it into the newly pressed extra virgin olive oil. Add some salt and pepper if you prefer, but even the simple combination of the flavor of the dough and the scent of the olive is good enough to impress you. If it happens that there is rosemary growing next to the olive tree, you may as well taste the scent of it inside the freshly press olive oil.