I mean, oh P-O-O.
It may appear that I have abandoned Project Olive Oil, the olive oil tasting and reviewing project that I so happily dreamed up and announced on Life, Love, and Food months ago. The first olive oil had been tasted and pronounced a winner, and I was ready to dive into the rest of the tasting project before telling you about it.
But then graduation happened. I really had no idea how utterly consumed I would feel by the series of tasks that graduation entailed. It was like riding a rollercoaster, except that there’s no seat belt and the bar they lower onto your lap to keep you safely inside the car feels wobbly and rusty, like the safety inspectors have deliberately ignored it for forty years. Finishing a PhD is a wonderful, landmark event in a graduate student’s life, but it leaves little time for more important things, like olive oil tastings.
I’m ready for Project Olive Oil now. Shall we begin?
Today’s extra-virgin olive oil is a keeper. I first found Lucini Premium Select Extra-Virgin Olive Oil at my Whole Foods store in Evanston, Illinois. This Italian-made olive oil is delicate, with a deliciously floral-grassy aroma that smells like a summer’s day. Its flavor is light and fresh, the perfect olive oil with which to dress your green salads. My friend Shawn Marie and I found it to be a lovely oil for an afternoon snack of fresh bread dipped in oil and vinegar. If you buy a good balsamic vinegar, this oil will make the vinegar taste even better—ingredient synergy!
I’m on the last drips from my second bottle of Lucini. I loved the first bottle so much that when I saw it on sale at Whole Foods, I bought a second bottle just in case I couldn’t find it in Texas. Lucky for me, they sell Lucini at Village Foods, which is as close as I’ve been able to get to a neighborhood Whole Foods store in College Station. (It’s really not Whole Foods, but it’ll have to do.) I put Lucini through the battery of olive oil tests that I first described in Introducing Project Olive Oil and it got an A on every test. What a show-off!
Lucini is an excellent oil for any dish in which one would like the olive oil to contribute richness and delicate flavor without overwhelming the other ingredients. It’s the sort of oil that gets you excited about eating very simply and close to the earth. Bread with oil and vinegar, fresh salads, caprese salad: Lucini loves these dishes. I also tried Lucini in a baked good, Amanda Hesser’s Peach Tart from Cooking for Mr. Latte. This recipe contains an interesting variation on pastry in which you stir together flour, salt, and sugar inside an 8 x 8 pan. In a different bowl, you beat together a generous pour of olive oil, milk, and almond extract and then add it to the flour mixture. Once the flour mixture is moistened, you press it into a crust layer inside the pan, line the crust with sliced peaches and a sugary topping, and bake. In her recipe, Amanda suggests olive oil or vegetable oil for the crust, but I’d say go for the olive oil and use Lucini! It was delicious. The crust was nutty and crumbly, a lovely textural contrast to the sweet fruity peach filling. I’d love to make the crust again, but be warned about the filling: I found it to be quite sweet, almost too sweet. However, I gave a couple of slices of peach tart to my friend Daphna, and she said it was great when eaten with fresh blueberries. Daphna loves those tiny, tart, wild blueberries.
Now I just have to make one very hard decision: is it time to move onto the next oily specimen for Project Olive Oil, or can I buy my third bottle of Lucini? This decision may keep me awake at night. Maybe I should buy both to be on the safe side!