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The New American Olive Oil

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Written by Heather Jones   
Thursday, 21 May 2009
List of viewable recipes from "Gale Gand’s Brunch!" by Gale Gand's

Photography by Maren Caruso
Growing up I don’t recall having a single bottle of olive oil in the house, there was plenty of vegetable oil and that stuff in the blue can.  Homemade vinaigrette consisted of powdered Good Seasons mixed with white vinegar and vegetable oil.  But oh how times have changed, imported extra-virgin olive oils can be found in practically every home in America including the homes of my parents and grandparents.  Supermarket shelves are lined with olive oil from Italy, Greece, Spain, Argentina, and Chile.  We’ve grown so accustomed to enjoying these imports most wouldn’t even think about the prospect of good quality olive oil being produced right here in the good ole USA, until now.  Bestselling author, former pastry shop owner, and California Olive Oil council member Fran Gage introduces us to some of today’s best American Artisan Olive Oil producers with her latest book The New American Olive Oil.    

In the book Ms. Gage gives us an overview of how olives are made into olive oil, a brief history of American olive oil, focusing primarily on California produced oils, a review of the American and International standards for production, details on choosing which olive oil is best for your personal use, and details on how to set-up an olive oil and food pairing tasting. Along with the 75 carefully chosen recipes designed to showcase the many flavors of olive oil, she introduces us to 13 companies that have truly taken the business of making Olive Oil and turned it into an art form.

I was fortunate enough to order a bottle of extra-virgin olive oil from one of the companies listed in the book.  I have to say it was the most expensive bottle of olive oil I have ever purchased, but was well worth it and I would love to see the brand become more readily available.

When trying a few recipes from the book I paid very close attention to see if this Artisan olive oil I was using really made a difference and you know what, it did.  With everything I learned about olive oil, I will now have to be just as discerning with my olive oil purchases as I am with my wine purchases; and just like when I discovered the delightful combination of red wine and dark chocolate that took my wine appreciation to a new level.  Pan Con Chocolate (see recipe below) with its olive oil chocolate ganache and the simple, yet savory Sautéed Shrimp in a Shell based sauce (see recipe below) has done the same for my appreciation of olive oil.

Sautéed Shrimp with a Shell-Based Sauce

From The New American Olive Oil: Profiles of Artisan Producers and 75 Recipes by Fran Gage, Stewart, Tabori & Chang 2009

4 servings

  • 6 tablespoons (3 ounces) delicate extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for drizzling over the finished dish
  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined, shells reserved
  • 1 tablespoon Pernod, or another pastis
  • 2 cups (16 ounces) water fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

This easy preparation lets the sweetness of the shrimp shine. Use wild-caught shrimp in their shells from Louisiana or Florida for the best taste. The flavorful shells are the base for a simple sauce. A delicate olive oil with some buttery flavor best complements the shrimp.

Serve the cooked shrimp over a bed of steamed rice and sautéed onions and peppers.

1. Heat 3 tablespoons of the extra-virgin olive oil in a large skillet over high heat until it trembles, becomes aromatic, and a drop of water sputters when it hits the oil. Add the shrimp shells and toss them in the oil until they turn red, a few minutes. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the Pernod, ignite the alcohol by tilting the pan over a gas flame or using a match, and shake the pan until the flames die. Add the water and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat to low and cover the pan. Simmer for 15 minutes. Strain through a sieve into a bowl, pressing down on the shells. Reserve the liquid.

2. Heat 3 more tablespoons of the extra-virgin olive oil over high heat in a skillet large enough to hold the shrimp in one layer. When the oil trembles, becomes aromatic, and a drop of water sputters when it hits the oil, add the shrimp and salt them. Cook until the sides in the oil turn pink. Turn the shrimp over, add the reserved liquid, and bring to a boil. Adjust the salt. Cook until the shrimp turn red, about a minute. Don't overcook them.

3. Spoon the fish and sauce over rice and vegetables. Season with freshly ground pepper and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. Serve immediately.

Pan Con Chocolate

From The New American Olive Oil: Profiles of Artisan Producers and 75 Recipes by Fran Gage, Stewart, Tabori & Chang 2009

4 to 6 servings

  • 8 ounces 64% dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 2/3 cup (5 1/4 ounces) heavy whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup (1 ounce by weight) powdered cane sugar
  • 3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) delicate extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 pieces of crusty bread
  • 2 tablespoons orange or blood orange oil for drizzling fleur de sel

This is my version of a dessert I couldn't resist at Laiola, a Catalan-inspired restaurant in San Francisco. At the restaurant, a plate held a scoop of ganache and a slice of rustic grilled bread. A delicate California Arbequina olive oil was drizzled over all. I mounded the ganache on the bread and took bites, the olive oil dripping from my fingers. It was delicious.

The restaurant used a mix of dark and milk chocolate, but I prefer all dark chocolate (Valrhona's fruity Manjari is a good choice). I've taken the liberty of using a delicate extra virgin olive oil instead of butter to make the ganache.

An immersion blender ensures the proper emulsification of the ganache.

1. Put the chocolate in a 1-quart vessel, preferably a clear one designed for use with an immersion blender.

2. Put the cream and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking to dissolve the sugar.

3. Immediately pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Let it sit 1 minute. Blend the two together with an immersion blender using a stirring motion, going to the bottom of the vessel, until the ganache becomes less shiny and thickens to a pudding-like consistency, 1 to 2 minutes.

4. Add the olive oil in a steady stream, blending constantly. Pour the ganache into a bowl and let it cool to room temperature. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap without touching the ganache. Keep the ganache in a cool room until it sets, preferably overnight.

5. To serve, toast bread slices and put them on plates. Scoop balls of ganache and put them next to the toasts. Drizzle both the chocolate and the toast with orange olive oil and sprinkle with fleur de sel.

6. The ganache will keep in the refrigerator for at least a week. Bring it to room temperature before serving.

About The New American Olive Oil: Profiles of Artisan Producers and 75 Recipes

ImageAmerican wine and cheese? Sure. But American olive oil? Absolutely. More than a decade ago a California oil won an international competition—in Italy. And upstart American olive-oil producers—many profiled in this book—haven’t looked back, creating artisanal oils that now come in first place in tastings worldwide. For those whose knowledge of olive oil remains extra-virgin, author Fran Gage sets out all the essentials: buying and storing high-grade oils, understanding olive oil’s basic types, evaluating its health benefits, and doing your own olive oil tasting. She then uses American-produced oils in dishes ranging from rustic to sophisticated. The 75 recipes include crusty snacks (crackers, flatbreads, bruschette), savory sauces (pestos, vinaigrettes, mayonnaises), and scintillating fish, meat, and poultry main courses. For daring tastebuds, there’s a sideboard of desserts—cakes, cookies, even ice cream—that include olive oil as a main ingredient.

Available at

Disclosure: Review copies of books discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or publishers.


Last Updated ( Friday, 22 May 2009 )
recipejoe (Registered) 2009-05-23 05:29:25

I will stick to imported olive oil.
Thank you
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