Fresh-Pressed Olive Oil Club

The Olive Oil Hunter News #91

Endive with Pears and Gorgonzola Recipe, Spotlight on Endive, How to Vet Vinegar, Improving Your Emotional Outlook and Exercise and Knee Arthritis

I love creating dishes that have distinctive flavors yet are easy and quick to assemble. Pairing endive and mild Gorgonzola with pears is just that. I’m also sharing important news about exercise—often called “free medicine”—which studies show has even more wide-ranging benefits than we thought!

Endive with Pears and Gorgonzola

  • Endive with Pears and Gorgonzola Endive with Pears and Gorgonzola

    If you’ve shied away from strong blue cheeses in the past, Gorgonzola dolce, sweeter than regular Gorgonzola, is a great introduction! The walnuts and pears add to the sweetness, a great counterbalance to the endive

    Ingredients

    • 1/2 cup walnut halves
    • 2 tablespoons plus 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil 
    • 6 ripe Seckel pears or another small variety, halved through the stem ends 
    • 1/2 cup pear nectar
    • 1/4 cup pear balsamic vinegar, or more to taste
    • 2 teaspoons honey, or more to taste
    • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • 6 heads endive or radicchio di Treviso, or 3 of each
    • Six 1-ounce wedges of Gorgonzola dolce or your favorite blue cheese

    Directions

    Step 1

    Heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat, toast the walnuts until fragrant, and then transfer them to a small bowl. Add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan and heat the oil. Use a small melon baller to remove any seeds from the pears and then place them, cut sides down, in the oil and cook until lightly browned. Transfer to a plate and reserve. 

    Step 2

    To make the vinaigrette for the salad, use the same pan, increasing the heat to medium high. Add the pear nectar and vinegar and bring to a boil. Boil until the mixture is reduced by half, then whisk in the honey. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let cool slightly, then whisk in the 1/3 cup of olive oil. Taste, adding more vinegar, honey, salt, and/or pepper as needed. 

    Step 3

    Trim the endive and remove the leaves from two of the heads; arrange them on 6 salad plates. Slice the 4 remaining heads crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces and divide among the plates. On each plate, arrange 2 pear halves, a wedge of Gorgonzola, and a few of the walnuts. Lightly drizzle each dish with the vinaigrette. 

    Yields 6 servings

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight: Endive

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight

Excellent Endive

Native to Belgium and typically referred to as Belgian endive, this slightly bitter green is now cultivated in the US, notably in California. Its unique growing process makes it available almost year round. 

Endive is part of the chicory family of greens and actually starts from chicory seeds under typical field conditions. But once it grows into a plant, the leafy part is cut off and the deep roots are dug up and put in cold storage for a dormant period. Those roots then undergo forcing in a dark environment, somewhat like mushrooms, during which the oval-shaped heads with yellow-tipped leaves are formed.

Other relatives in the chicory group include red-purple radicchio, which can either be a small cabbage-shaped head or the endive-shaped radicchio di Treviso with distinctive color striations along the leaves; escarole, which has broad leaves with wavy edges; and curly endive or frisée.

When you’re selecting endive, the heads should be tight and feel heavy in your hand for their size. The leaves should be crisp and white at the base, with pale yellow edges and tips. Store them in your fridge’s crisper drawer for up to a week. 

When lightly brushed with extra virgin olive oil and grilled, whole endive make a great accompaniment to any protein. Besides using the leaves raw in salads, you can gently separate them and use them instead of chips to scoop up dips. The leaves also make a healthy alternative to crackers and bread slices when you’re making canapés—just pipe or spoon your favorite fillings down the center of each leaf. 

Tons of research has done little to settle the debate over whether it’s better to reach for full-fat, fat-free, or something in between when it comes to dairy. What we do know is that dairy has many important nutrients and that yogurt is especially good for you, thanks to its beneficial bacteria. 

Healthy Kitchen Nugget: How to Vet Vinegar

Healthy Kitchen Nugget

How to Vet Vinegar 

As with extra virgin olive oil, you have to do your due diligence before buying vinegar, especially flavored types. You want to avoid commercial brands that have been produced on a mass scale. They’re likely to be nothing more than artificially flavored distilled vinegar and contain a host of ingredients that you’d never find in finely made and often well-aged varieties. 

Fruit vinegars in particular should have as their base the actual fruit in their name, fruit that has been allowed to ferment and turn into alcohol before special bacteria are added to turn it into vinegar. Such artisanal vinegars typically cost more, but to be sure you’re getting what you’re paying for, always read the fine print to know exactly what’s in the bottle. (The first vinegar selection from the Fresh-Pressed Olive Oil Club was so well received that we’ll be announcing the second one in late summer!)

I love using vinegar to enhance a primary ingredient in a recipe, which is why I suggest pear balsamic for the endive and pear salad above. 

For Your Best Health: Improving Your Emotional Outlook

For Your Best Health

Improving Your Emotional Outlook

It’s no secret that depression rates soared during the pandemic. Among Americans adults, they tripled from 8.5 percent before the pandemic to a staggering 27.8 percent in 2020. Research done at the Boston University School of Public Health showed that this high rate not only persisted into 2021, but even worsened, climbing to 32.8 percent. The truth is that depression can affect people for any number of reasons and at any time, and it’s a challenge to treat. That’s why taking lifestyle steps that help prevent it is so important. 

Research has already shown that exercise reduces depression risk, one of the many reasons it’s called free medicine. Recently, an international team of scientists sought to identify the right dose to get the strongest protection. They reviewed 15 different studies and found that the greatest preventive effect was seen in people who get the recommended 2.5 hours of exercise every week—they lowered their depression risk by 25 percent. Their analysis, published in JAMA Psychiatry, also found thatthere are benefits even for people who exercise lessFor instance, those who got half the recommended amount of exercise had an 18 percent lower risk of depression. The researchers deemed these results as significant mental health benefits and concluded that “health practitioners should therefore encourage any increase in physical activity to improve mental health.”

Fitness Flash: Exercise and Knee Arthritis

Fitness Flash

Exercise and Knee Arthritis

Researchers in Denmark have added to what we know about the benefits of exercising to improve the symptoms of arthritis. Their study, published in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, looked at knee osteoarthritis in particular and the advantages of following an 8-week program of exercises and education. Program participants reported less pain on the Knee Injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score questionnaire compared to a group of participants who had a placebo treatment. 

According to the American College of Rheumatology, exercise is an important part of osteoarthritis treatment because it can ease joint pain and improve function. If you’re in pain and unsure how to get started, or have let an exercise program lapse, work with your doctor to get moving again.

Get More Recipes In Your Inbox!

The Olive Oil Hunter News #34

Asian Slaw Recipe, Spotlight on Cabbage and Ginger, How to Ease Symptoms of Insomnia, and Moving to Combat Arthritis

Asian Slaw

  • Asian Slaw Asian Slaw

    As we finally get the OK to get back to normal, a fun first step is a backyard get-together—great food, great friends, great fun! It’s one of the things I’ve missed the most. When I’m menu planning, I love to include one of my favorite sides, boldly flavored Asian slaw, easy to prepare but so intensely delicious. It also goes with everything, from burgers to pulled pork. And you can make it a few hours in advance—that’s enough time for the flavors to meld, while the slaw still remains crisp. Enjoy!

    Ingredients

    For the dressing:

    • 1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
    • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
    • 2 teaspoons fresh lime zest
    • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
    • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
    • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
    • 2 tablespoons peeled and finely minced fresh ginger
    • 1 large clove garlic, finely minced
    • 1/2 to 1 red jalapeño, stemmed, seeded, and finely minced

    For the slaw:

    • 1 medium head Napa or Savoy cabbage, cored and shredded
    • 2 carrots, peeled, trimmed, and cut into matchsticks
    • 3 scallions, trimmed; white and green parts thinly sliced on a sharp diagonal
    • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
    • 1/2 cup roasted peanuts, roughly chopped (optional)

    Directions

    Step 1

    For the dressing, whisk together the rice wine vinegar, lime juice and zest, brown sugar, and soy sauce in a small mixing bowl. Whisk in the olive oil and sesame oil. Stir in the ginger, garlic, and jalapeño—half of it for mild heat, all of it for more heat.

    Step 2

    To assemble the slaw, toss the cabbage, carrots, and scallions in a large bowl. Add the dressing, and toss to lightly coat. Top with the cilantro leaves and peanuts if you’re using them.

    Yields 4 to 6 servings.

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight: Cabbage

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight

Cabbage

I love the light crunch of Napa, or Chinese, cabbage. Oblong rather than round like traditional green and red cabbage, it’s so easy to shred by making half-inch crossways slices as though you were slicing a loaf of bread. It seems to turn into ribbons for slaw just like that, but you can also cut each tranche into smaller sections for a finer slaw. Napa cabbage is also ideal for a stir-fry because it cooks quickly. And it’s the main ingredient in kimchi, the fermented condiment that, like kefir and kombucha, can boost gut health.

Savoy cabbage looks like a frilly and deeper-green version of traditional cabbage, but like Napa cabbage, it has a lighter taste. If you’ve never had it before, Asian slaw is a great way to try it. Both these cabbage varieties are good sources of vitamins A and C plus fiber.

Healthy Kitchen Tip: Ginger

Healthy Kitchen Nugget

Ginger

Ginger is an essential in many Asian cuisines. Its knobby appearance can leave you wondering how to choose a good piece and then how to cut into it! Fortunately, the answers to both dilemmas are surprisingly simple. Overall, the peel should be smooth, not wrinkled, and there shouldn’t be any mold growth—two signs that it’s past its prime. Ginger will keep in the fridge, wrapped in a paper towel and placed in an open plastic bag, for a few weeks, so don’t worry about hunting through a ginger display for a small piece. If a knob does develop mold or becomes shriveled, just cut off and discard that part.

Chances are you’ll need a two-inch knob for most recipes. Use the edge of a spoon to shave the peel from the section you want to use. Mincing ginger by hand can be slow going, so I prefer to run the exposed knob of ginger over a microplane grater. Do the grating over a bowl to catch the ginger “juice” as well as the flesh. The microplane also does a great job of separating out the unwanted fibrous threads. Best of all, this method helps you distribute ginger flavor throughout a dish rather than in bits and pieces that can taste overly pungent if you bite into one.

For Your Best Health: How to Ease Symptoms of Insomnia

For Your Best Health

How to Ease Symptoms of Insomnia

We all know how important fruits and vegetables are for health, thanks to their plant-based phytonutrients. Now a team from the University of Michigan School of Public Health has found that fruits and vegetables can help ease symptoms of insomnia. Their study involved adults between the ages of 21 and 30 who reported eating fewer than five servings of fruits and vegetables per day—over a third also said they had trouble falling or staying sleep at least three times a week for three months or more. The study found that participants who increased daily fruit and vegetable intake by at least three servings over a three-month period had some improvements in the time it took to fall asleep and in insomnia symptoms, with women getting the most benefits. “What is unique about our study is that we were able to see that as fruit and vegetable intake changed, insomnia-related sleep characteristics also changed,” said lead author Erica Jansen, research assistant professor of nutritional sciences. The researchers hope the findings will become part of other sleep hygiene principles, like maintaining a consistent bedtime and wake time; turning off screens an hour or more before going to sleep; sleeping in a dark, cool environment; and not drinking alcohol or ingesting caffeine before bed.

Fitness Flash: Moving to Combat Arthritis

Fitness Flash

Moving to Combat Arthritis

It sounds counterintuitive, but the way to combat the pain and stiffness of arthritis is to move. According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), skipping physical activity will make you weaker and stiffer and make joint pain worse. But how should you get started when moving is the last thing your joints say they want? You don’t have to run a marathon—just focus on sitting less and moving more, even if it’s standing up once an hour and walking to another room and back. Then build from there.

A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that people with knee osteoarthritis responded well to a web-based exercise program, and many health organizations have videos of exercises online you can follow. But it makes sense to talk to your doctor about the best exercises for you and possibly about setting up a program with a physical therapist. A PT can also show you how to move in ways that won’t cause pain. It also helps to engage in activities that you really like so that they won’t feel like work and to partner with an exercise buddy—you’ll keep each other on track. Get more ideas from ACSM here.

Get More Recipes In Your Inbox!