Fresh-Pressed Olive Oil Club

The Olive Oil Hunter News #40

Spinach and Strawberry Salad with Bacon Recipe, Spotlight on Strawberries, How to Properly Store Berries, Eating Whole Fruits and Counting Your Steps for Your Best Health

Salads were made for hot summer days when you want to keep cooking to a minimum. And there’s no better way to enhance your favorite greens with another hallmark of the season—fresh berries. The mix of sweet and savory is a true palate pleaser and really elevates the experience.

Spinach and Strawberry Salad with Bacon

  • The Olive Oil Hunter News #40 Spinach and Strawberry Salad with Bacon

    My wife, Meghan, and I enjoyed this simple salad on the first day of our first Chilean olive oil expedition, and we recreated it as soon as we returned home. For an equally delicious variation, substitute blueberries and chopped walnuts for the strawberries and almonds.


    • 6 strips thick-cut bacon, diced
    • 10 ounces fresh spinach, sliced into thin strips
    • 1 quart ripe strawberries, hulled and sliced
    • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
    • Juice of one lemon
    • 1 teaspoon honey or more to taste
    • Coarse kosher or sea salt to taste
    • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
    • 1/4 cup sliced almonds


    Step 1

    Place the bacon in a cold skillet and bring the heat to medium. Cook the bacon until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain the bacon on paper towels and set aside. Arrange the spinach and strawberries in a large serving bowl.

    Step 2

    Make the dressing: Combine the olive oil, lemon juice, honey, and salt and pepper in a small bowl. Whisk to mix. Taste and add more honey or salt or pepper as needed. Just before serving, drizzle the dressing over the salad, tossing gently to mix. Top with the reserved bacon and the almonds.

    Yields 4 servings.

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight: Savoring Strawberries

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight

Savoring Strawberries

I’m such a big fan of berries. Not only are they delicious, but the icing on the cake is that these fruits are nutrient powerhouses. Blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries seem to get all the attention for their phytonutrients—plant-based compounds that are essential for good health. But strawberries, too, have their fair share of anthocyanins, which give all berries their vivid colors. Strawberries also have fiber and vitamin C, one of their many antioxidants—a cup of berries has more C than an orange. Antioxidants help fight cell damage throughout the body. Choose strawberries with a uniform bright red color, a good indicator of their antioxidant content.

Healthy Kitchen Tip: Smart Storing for Berries

Healthy Kitchen Nugget

Smart Storing

Whether you grow your own or get your berries at a farmer’s market, don’t wash them in advance. It’s very hard to dry them thoroughly enough to prevent excess moisture from encouraging mold or rot, even in the fridge. The University of Maine Extension suggests “dry cleaning” them by shaking, rubbing, or brushing off any garden dirt with either a clean, soft brush or a clean dry paper towel (do this while still outside if you’re harvesting your own). Discard any crushed or spoiled berries. Then place them, with their green tops still on, in a plastic bag or container to prevent contamination of other foods in the refrigerator. When you’re ready to eat, gently rinse them under cool running water.

If you have such a bounty that you want to freeze some, then do wash them carefully in cold water and pat dry as thoroughly as possible without bruising them. Hull them (a grapefruit knife makes fast work of removing the stems) and freeze on a baking sheet—this prevents them from freezing in a clump. As soon as they’re frozen, transfer to a freezer-safe container or bag.

For Your Best Health: Eating Whole Fruits for Health

For Your Best Health

Whole Fruits

Diabetes is a growing global concern, with around half a billion people affected. It happens when your pancreas, which produces insulin in response to high levels of sugar in your blood, can’t produce enough to bring those levels down. We know a healthy lifestyle helps lower diabetes risk, and that includes following a smart diet. Research published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism offers a great step to take in that direction. “We found people who consumed around two servings of fruit per day had a 36 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes over the next five years than those who consumed less than half a serving of fruit per day,” said study author Nicola Bondonno, PhD, of the Edith Cowan University Institute for Nutrition Research in Perth, Australia. “We did not see the same patterns for fruit juice.”

The researchers noted a link between eating whole fruit and markers of insulin sensitivity—study participants who ate more fruit had to produce less insulin to lower blood glucose levels. “This is important because high levels of circulating insulin can damage blood vessels and are related not only to diabetes, but also to high blood pressure, obesity, and heart disease,” explained Dr. Bondonno.

Fitness Flash: Every Step Counts

Fitness Flash

Every Step Counts

For optimum health, getting 10,000 steps a day has been the holy grail, but new research presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology, Prevention, Lifestyle & Cardiometabolic Health Conference 2021 found that taking just 4,500 daily steps may help you live longer, whether you reach that goal through a concentrated effort or from small increments throughout the day.

Participants involved in the nine-year study wore a step-counting device so that the researchers could compare the effects of uninterrupted bouts of steps, such as walking for 10 minutes or longer, to occasional short spurts, such as climbing stairs and general activities like housework or just walking to or from a car.

“Technological advances made in recent decades have allowed researchers to measure short spurts of activity. Whereas, in the past we were limited to only measuring activities people could recall on a questionnaire,” said lead study author Christopher C. Moore, MS, a PhD student in epidemiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “With the help of wearable devices, more research is indicating that any type of movement is better than remaining sedentary.”

Of course, the effects of movement/exercise are cumulative. It’s important to note that there are further benefits gained from getting in 2,000 steps in uninterrupted increments, including for heart health as well as for longevity.

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The Olive Oil Hunter News #28

Grilled Chicken Paillards with Olive-Orange Salsa, Spotlight on Olive Oil Varieties, The Danger of Added Sugars and Benefits of Microbreaks

This time of year, I’m in an “Iberian” frame of mind. The olive harvest has just finished in Spain and Portugal, and I love feasting on both the olives and, of course, the fresh-pressed extra virgin olive oil from these Mediterranean countries. To celebrate, this week’s recipe features many of the local flavors. Enjoy!

Grilled Chicken Paillards with Olive-Orange Salsa

  • The Olive Oil Hunter News #28 Grilled Chicken Paillards with Olive-Orange Salsa
    Two of Spain’s iconic foods—oranges and olives—mesh beautifully in this colorful pimentón-infused salsa. Wonderful with chicken, it also plays well with veal chops, pork tenderloin, shrimp, salmon, tuna, cod, and, of course, your favorite chips!


    • 1 large navel orange
    • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
    • 1/2 cup rough-chopped pimento-stuffed green olives
    • 1/3 cup diced celery hearts (the inner stalks)
    • 1/4 cup diced red onion or shallot
    • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or cilantro
    • 1/2 teaspoon pimentón dulce, sweet smoked Spanish paprika
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes, to taste (optional)
    • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for the chicken
    • 1 tablespoon dry Spanish sherry
    • Salt and freshly ground coarse black pepper to taste
    • 6 boneless skinless chicken breasts, each 6 ounces


    Step 1

    Slice off the ends of the orange and set it upright on a cutting board. Remove the peel and white pith with a sharp paring knife. Working over a bowl, release the orange segments by slicing between the membranes and then squeeze the remnants over the bowl to extract any juice. Cut each segment into 3 or 4 pieces. Add the garlic, olives, celery, onion, parsley, pimentón, cumin, optional hot red pepper flakes, the 3 tablespoons olive oil, and the sherry. Season to taste with salt (remember, the olives will be salty) and pepper. Cover and set aside.

    Step 2

    Pound the chicken breasts between two sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper until they are about 1/2 inch thick. Brush on both sides with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

    Step 3

    Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat to medium-high. (Alternatively, you can pan-fry the chicken breasts or grill them on a stovetop grill pan.) Grill for 3 to 4 minutes per side, turning once with tongs, until the chicken is cooked through. Let rest for 2 minutes. Transfer to a platter or plates and spoon the salsa over the chicken.

    Yields 6 servings.

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight: Get to Know Your Olive Oil Varieties

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight

Get to Know Your Olive Oil Varieties

As much as people universally love extra virgin olive oil, for many, their relationship with the olives themselves hasn’t yet blossomed. There’s an amazing variety to get to know. All have a buttery quality, but they range from the extremely mild and smooth to the very wrinkly and pungent. A fun way to get familiar with olives is to set up your own tasting at home with four or more choices from the olive bar at your favorite store. Here are some of the most popular ones to sample:

Castelvetrano: Named for the region in Sicily where it’s grown, this green olive is on the sweet side, perfect for the first step on an olive discovery journey.

Cerignola: Named for an area in Puglia, Italy, these large green olives are toothsome yet buttery.

Kalamata: This classic brown-purple Greek olive is bold in size and flavor, thanks to its distinctive brining in red wine vinegar.

Manzanilla: One of two varieties grown in California, this yellow-green olive of Spanish origin has a slightly smokey taste and is often sold stuffed with pimento. It’s also used to make the canned black olives most of us are familiar with.

Niçoise: This petite and zesty purplish olive, named for Nice on the French Riviera, adds tart spiciness to its namesake salad and other Mediterranean dishes.

Picholine: Another French olive, this one yellow-green, is deeply flavored and somewhat tart, great for your next charcuterie board and enhancing hearty recipes.

Sevillano: Originally from the area around Seville in Spain, this is the other olive grown in California, picked green and also often sold stuffed.

Healthy Kitchen Tip: Should You Rinse Raw Chicken?

Healthy Kitchen Nugget

To Rinse or Not to Rinse?

It’s an age-old kitchen question—should you rinse raw chicken before using it? A study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture revealed that washing or rinsing raw poultry actually helps spread any bacteria to surfaces in your kitchen, not to mention other foods—and recommends against the practice. If there is anything on your raw poultry that you want to remove, pat the area with a damp paper towel and immediately wash your hands, it suggests.

To prevent the spread of any bacteria, follow these safe-kitchen principles, good for all raw proteins:

Prep all foods that will be eaten raw, like salad and salsa ingredients, before you start to handle raw poultry or meat.

Afterward, thoroughly clean and sanitize all surfaces that could have been touched or contaminated by the poultry or meat or their juices. Clean sinks and countertops with hot soapy water and then apply a sanitizer. Wash hands immediately by lathering up with soap and scrubbing for 20 seconds.

To destroy any illness-causing bacteria, cook poultry until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F as measured by a food thermometer. For most red meat, that magic number is 145°F, but for any ground meat, it’s 160°F.

For Your Best Health: Olive Oil and Brain Function

For Your Best Health

Harmful Added Sugars

You often hear foods with a lot of added sugar referred to as being loaded with “empty calories” because they don’t contain any of the nutrients your body depends on. Now we’re finding out that, worse still, these sugars harm our health and, in particular, the health of the liver, your body’s clearinghouse for sugar. A study done at the University of Zurich found that consuming even moderate amounts of added fructose and sucrose—80 grams or the amount of sugar in about 27 ounces of soda—doubled the fat production in the liver. In the long term, this contributes to the development of diabetes or a fatty liver. And the chief culprit is sweetened beverages—yes, drinks like soda and sweet tea. The World Health Organization recommends limiting daily sugar consumption to between 25 and 50 grams, or 6 and 12 teaspoons.

Fitness Flash Icon

Fitness Flash

Microbreaks Around the Watercooler

Microbreaks are the new coffee break. Research done at North Carolina State University found that these short workday time-outs for activities like stretching, doing a crossword puzzle, or having a (healthy) snack can boost energy levels or help you meet work demands. “A microbreak is, by definition, short, but a five-minute break can be golden if you take it at the right time. Our study shows that it is in a company’s best interest to give employees autonomy in terms of taking microbreaks when they are needed—it helps employees effectively manage their energy and engage in their work throughout the day,” said Sophia Cho, PhD, assistant professor of psychology at NCSU. What’s more, microbreaks are particularly beneficial on days when you start out tired, Dr. Cho added.

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The Olive Oil Hunter News #21

Horiátiki Salata and Za’atar Recipes, Spotlight on Oregano (Essential, Versatile and Medicinal), Plus Affordable Home Workouts

I’m all for simplicity when it comes to cooking, and many delicious dishes call for very easy prep. But the simpler your presentation, the fresher and higher quality the ingredients need to be. Greek salad is a perfect example. All it involves is arranging a few items on a plate, but what separates a great Greek salad from one that’s ho-hum is perfect ingredients, and that includes the seasonings. A sprinkle of dried herbs can make all the other flavors in a dish really sing. This issue of The Olive Oil Hunter Newsletter takes a fresh look at oregano, a kitchen staple that you may not be using as much as you should. Here are two simple yet superb ideas…

Horiátiki Salata

  • The Olive Oil Hunter News #21 Horiátiki Salata

    The quintessential Greek salad isn’t complicated, but two important elements will make it memorable—true Greek Kalamata olives and freshly sliced slabs of feta, not those packaged crumbles. Purists say the melding of the olive oil and the juice of the tomatoes is all the dressing you need, enhanced by the best oregano. That’s why the squeeze of lemon juice is optional. Note: If you can’t find great beefsteak tomatoes, substitute two cups of hothouse cherry tomatoes, halved.


    • 1 large cucumber
    • 1/2 red onion
    • 1/2 green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and sliced into rings
    • 2 large, ripe tomatoes, quartered 
    • 10 Greek Kalamata olives
    • 2 3-ounce slices of Greek feta
    • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    • Dried oregano to taste
    • Freshly ground black pepper
    • Coarse salt, like Maldon sea salt flakes, to taste
    • 2 lemon wedges (optional)


    Divide the ingredients evenly between two dinner plates or salad bowls in this order: Arrange the cucumber slices first and then layer on the red onions and green peppers. Space the tomato quarters and olives around the outside of the dish and place a slab of feta in the center. Drizzle on the olive oil and sprinkle on oregano and black pepper. Sprinkle the tomatoes lightly with the salt. Add a squeeze of lemon juice if desired.

    Yields 2 servings.


  • Za’atar Za’atar

    This Middle Eastern spice blend is as ubiquitous in that part of the world as our salt shaker is here, but far healthier. Every country in the Middle East, and even region within each country, has its own proportions of the ingredients. My twist is using black lime in place of the traditional sumac, which isn’t—yet—in everyone’s pantry. (You can leave out the salt if you need to for health reasons.) Za’atar is amazing when sprinkled over olive oil on focaccia or flat bread before baking…or when reheating bread from your favorite bakery. ​


    • 1 tablespoon white sesame seeds 
    • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
    • 1 tablespoon sumac or black lime
    • 2 tablespoons dried thyme
    • 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt


    Toast the sesame seeds in a small pan over medium heat for about 3 minutes, watching closely so that they don’t burn. Turn off the heat and let them cool. Using a small food processor or a coffee bean grinder (you may need to work in batches), pulse the sesame seeds along with the other spices until they’re mixed, but stop well before they turn into a powder—there should be some texture to the blend. You can also do this by hand with a mortar and pestle.

    Yields about 1/2 cup.

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight: Essential Oregano

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight

Essential Oregano

Oregano (Origanum vulgare) was first cultivated in Greece and, though closely associated with classic dishes of southern Italy, is an essential in cuisines throughout the Mediterranean region. Oregano’s popularity among American cooks is relatively recent. Legend has it that GIs returning from WWII brought back their new love of pizza, liberally sprinkled with the herb, and its use here exploded. Oregano is popular in Latin America as well as Mexico and is the perfect herb for chili-based dishes. But know that what’s labeled “Mexican oregano” is actually a member of the Verbenaceae family and not a true oregano (it’s also much sharper).

Oregano’s intensity depends a lot on the climate and soil it was grown in. I love Turkish oregano because of its sweet, floral, and hoppy notes. But that’s not to say it’s meek. Far from it. There are hints of fennel and wild mint that give way to a spiciness that reminds me of Sichuan peppercorns.

Healthy Kitchen Tip: Versatile Oregano

Healthy Kitchen Nugget

Versatile Oregano

Oregano adds wonderful flavor to grilled fish, roasted chicken, and all kinds of meat, especially lamb (kebabs and patties in particular). Beyond pasta and pizza, sprinkle it on salads, omelets, frittatas, roasted potatoes, and even fries. Perfect in tomato- and meat-based sauces and bold pasta dishes, oregano can be paired with garlic—for the best garlic bread, brush slices with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with oregano before they go into the oven. If you’re really adventurous, use a dusting of za’atar.

For Your Best Health: Medicinal Oregano

For Your Best Health

Medicinal Oregano

Oregano is one of the most widely used botanicals in herbal medicine, thanks to its high concentration of plant nutrients. Phytochemical compounds such as flavonoids and phenolic acids give it the triumvirate of health benefits: antibacterial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties. Sipping a tea made from steeping dried oregano, for instance, can calm an upset stomach or a cough. It’s also being looked at to help stave off diabetes—researchers at the University of Illinois found that it disrupts a diabetes-related enzyme and merits serious investigation. It may also boost liver health.

Fitness Flash: Affordable Home Workouts

Fitness Flash

Affordable Home Workouts

Peloton and The Mirror are all the rage, but you don’t have to drop thousands of dollars to get an effective home workout. The New York Times just listed seven essentials, most of which cost less than a week’s worth of lattes. For strength training, resistance bands are a must and take up virtually no space; a set runs about $20. A fitness tracker shows you tangible proof of your efforts to increase steps—if you have an Apple watch, it’s already embedded in the Health app (you’ll find your heart rate, too, and can monitor your sleep as well as count everything from steps to calories). A dense foam roller, starting at $25, is a great tool to massage out kinks. A yoga mat, which costs $20 or more, cushions you when you’re doing any type of floor work. What might seem like a slight indulgence, headphones actually help you zero in on your workout while delivering music to motivate you. A stationary bike and a treadmill are #6 and #7 on the list. Both are pricey, but if you’ll use them for more than a clothes rack, you can see a return on your investment in a few months—and feeling fit is priceless. Check out the Times article for its specific product recommendations.

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