Fresh-Pressed Olive Oil Club

Extra virgin olive oil curbs inflammation in nearly 100 different ways, study reports

Reprinted from the Health Sciences Institute website, August 22, 2011:

Spanish researchers believe they’ve broken the code—a genetic code, in fact.

And not only does it appear to be the secret to why olive oil is so heart-healthy, it might also be the key reason Mediterranean dieters live long, robust lives.

Twenty subjects with metabolic syndrome consumed meals that included either a high-phenol olive oil or a lowphenol olive oil.

….Phenols contain biologically active compounds that are remarkably high in antioxidants. Olive oil phenols are most highly concentrated in extra virgin olive oil, which is made from cold-pressed olives—no heat or chemicals are used in refining.

Results of the Spanish study showed that the high-phenol extra virgin olive oil repressed the inflammatory activity of nearly 100 genes that play a key role in prompting inflammation.

In the journal BMC Genomics, the authors note that their results provide a likely explanation for the reduced risk of heart disease among those who follow a Mediterranean diet.

Study cited in article: Camargo A, et al. Gene expression changes in mononuclear cells in patients with metabolic syndrome after acute intake of phenol-rich virgin olive oil. BMC Genomics. 2010;11:253.

Study shows that a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil cut the risk of heart attacks and strokes by 30 percent.

 The following article is excerpted from VPR.net (Vermont Public Radio),  Allison Aubrey; posted September 30, 2013

The Mediterranean diet is a pattern of eating that lately has become a darling of medical researchers. It includes vegetables and grains, not so much meat and, of course, generous portions of olive oil.

Mary Flynn, an associate professor of medicine at Brown University, says the evidence that olive oil is good for your heart has never been more clear. “Olive oil is a very healthy food. I consider it more medicine than food.”

She points to a big study published earlier this year in the New England Journal of Medicine where researchers in Spain had men and women in their 50s, 60s and 70s who were at risk of heart disease follow one of three diets. Some ate a low-fat diet, another group ate a Mediterranean diet with nuts. And a third group ate a Mediterranean diet that included almost four tablespoons of extravirgin olive oil per day.

“So, they could compare the three diets: Was it nuts, was it olive oil or was the low-fat diet beneficial?” says Flynn. And what researchers found was that a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil cut the risk of heart attacks and strokes by 30 percent. The nut group, which was consuming olive oil as well, did well, too.

“The fact is, there are a huge range of benefits of real extra-virgin olive oil,” notes Tom Mueller, who has spent the last six years investigating and writing about olive oil. He says olive oil is good for two reasons: It’s mostly unsaturated fat, and extra-virgin oil, which is the highestgrade and least-processed form of olive oil, contains a whole range of other beneficial plant compounds called polyphenols.

But here’s the catch: Unfortunately, it turns out that more than half of the extra-virgin olive oil imported into the U.S. has been shown to be substandard. “The fact is, it’s quite often just very low-grade oil that doesn’t give you the taste or the health benefits that extra virgin should give you,” Mueller says. In fact, a study from the University of California, Davis, found that 69 percent of imports tested failed to meet a U.S. Department of Agriculture quality standard.

And Mueller says in some cases the oil is just too old. By the time imported olive oil reaches us, it has often been shipped from place to place and sometimes not stored well. Even if it’s not noticeably rancid, many of the heart-healthy compounds have degraded and fizzled. “Extra-virgin olive oil is fresh-squeezed juice—it’s a fruit juice—therefore freshness is a critical question,” he says. Mueller says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration used to police olive oil imports to ensure producers were meeting quality and freshness standards. But those efforts have fallen off.

So, where does that leave those of us who want to get our hands on the healthy stuff? Well, for starters, Mueller says look for brands that carry a harvest date on the bottle….

Oils with the highest levels of heart-healthy compounds tend to be pungent and peppery. Mueller says if the oil stings the back of your throat a little, that tells you the beneficial polyphenols really are there. “Once you have that taste, you get used to the bitterness and pungency, you never go back,” says Mueller. “It’s a completely different experience.” And a healthy one, too.

Mediterranean Diet May Reduce Breast Cancer Risk

 The following is excerpted from an article by Sara G. Miller that appeared in LiveScience on September 14, 2015.

The Mediterranean diet may be able to add “reduces risk of breast cancer” to its long list of health benefits, according to a new study from Spain.

In the study, researchers found that women who were asked to follow a Mediterranean diet that was high in extra-virgin olive oil were 68 percent less likely to develop breast cancer than those who were advised only to reduce the amount of fat in their diets.

In the study, 4,152 post-menopausal women who had never had breast cancer were asked to follow one of three diets: One was a Mediterranean diet rich in extra-virgin olive oil (extra-virgin olive oil accounted for 15 percent of their daily calories), the second was a Mediterranean diet rich in nuts, and the third was a control diet, in which the women were advised to reduce the amount of fat they ate.

After about five years, 35 women in the study had developed breast cancer. Women in the extra-virgin olive oil group were the least likely to develop breast cancer. The researchers also observed a slight decrease in risk for the women in the nut group, but this was not statistically significant (meaning it could have been due to chance), according to the study published today (Sept. 14) in JAMA Internal Medicine.

The Mediterranean diet contains many components that have been suggested to have antitumor effects, Dr. Miguel Martinez-Gonzalez, a professor of preventive medicine at the University of Navarra in Spain and coauthor of the study, told Live Science in an email.

Extra-virgin olive oil in particular is rich in compounds called polyphenols, which have been shown in lab studies to have anti-cancer effects, he said. Indeed, the study found that the greater the percentage of calories that came from extra-virgin olive oil in the women’s diets, the lower their risk of developing breast cancer, Martinez- Gonzalez told Live Science. “For every additional 5 percent of calories from extra-virgin olive oil, the risk was reduced [by] 28 percent,” he said.

However, the researchers do not know if the lower risk may have been lowered due to the extra-virgin olive oil on its own, or if it was the effect of oil working in combination with the rest of the diet, he said.

….Previous studies have also shown a reduced risk of breast cancer in women who eat a Mediterranean diet, Martinez-Gonzalez said.

A strength of the new study is that unlike those previous studies, in which women were asked to report what foods they ate, women in the new study were randomized to a specific diet, which eliminates certain factors that can influence the results, Dr. Mitchell Katz, a deputy editor of JAMA and the author of an editorial about the study, told Live Science.

The study did have limitations, including the small number of cases of breast cancer, and that all of the participants were white, post-menopausal women who were at risk of heart disease, Katz wrote in his editorial.

….Still, he encouraged women to try out the diet: “Although no diet is perfect, a Mediterranean diet [rich in] olive oil is likely good for your health,” Katz said.

Martinez-Gonzalez agreed. Women should be encouraged to eat more extra-virgin olive oil, salads with fresh vegetables and have fruit for dessert, he said.

Grilled Fish With Artichoke Caponata

Many years ago, an olive oil producer’s elderly mother made lunch for us. I will never forget her caponata, which was similar to this one.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for rubbing
  • 4 tender celery ribs, diced (1 cup)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced 1/2 cup prepared tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 pound marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 1/2 cup pitted green olives, chopped 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 2 tablespoons small brined capers, drained Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons shredded fresh basil
  • Six 7-ounce skinless mahi-mahi fillets

Directions

Step 1

In a large, deep skillet, heat the 1/4 cup of olive oil until shimmering. Add the celery, onion, and garlic and cook over moderate heat until just softened, 4 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, wine, vinegar, artichokes, olives, pine nuts, sugar, and capers and season with salt and pepper. Simmer until the vegetables are tender and the liquid is reduced, 8 minutes. Stir in the basil and let the caponata cool.

Step 2

Light a grill or preheat a grill pan. Rub the fish with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill over moderately high heat, turning once, until cooked through, about 9 minutes. Transfer the fish to plates, top with the caponata, and serve.

Serves 6Recipe adapted from Food and Wine, July 2010

Cranberry And Pistachio Biscotti

Wrap these cookies in cellophane for an attractive hostess gift.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 1/2 cups pistachio nuts

Directions

Step 1

Preheat the oven to 300°F.

Step 2

In a large bowl, mix together the oil and sugar until well blended. Mix in the vanilla and almond extracts, then beat in the eggs. Combine the flour, salt, and baking powder; gradually stir into the egg mixture. Mix in the cranberries and nuts by hand.

Step 3

Divide the dough in half. Form two logs (each 12 x 2 inches) on a cookie sheet that has been lined with parchment paper. The dough may be sticky; wet your hands with cool water to handle the dough more easily.

Step 4

Bake for 35 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the logs are lightly browned. Remove them from the oven, and set aside to cool for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven heat to 275°F.

Step 5

Cut the logs on a diagonal into 3/4-inch-thick slices. Lay the cookies on their sides on a parchment covered cookie sheet. Bake approximately 8 to 10 minutes, or until dry; cool.

Makes 36 cookiesRecipe adapted from allrecipes.com

Chocolate Budino With Olive Oil And Sea Salt

The word budino means custard or pudding in Italian. Rich and creamy, this already ethereal dessert is made even better when topped with olive oil and a flaky, crunchy sea salt such as Maldon.

Serves 8Recipe adapted from Jon & Vinny’s, Los Angeles, California

Ingredients

  • 10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (1 3/4 cups)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided use
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 4 1/2 cups milk, separated
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • Flaky sea salt, for serving

Directions

Step 1

In a large bowl, whisk the cornstarch, cocoa powder, and half of the sugar. Add the eggs and yolks, whisking thoroughly to combine. Continue whisking while drizzling in 1/2 cup of milk, then set the bowl and whisk aside.

Step 2

In a medium pot, combine the remaining 4 cups of milk, all of the salt, and the remaining half of the sugar; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, quickly whisk one-third of the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture. Then, return all of the egg mixture to the pot. Raise the heat to medium-high and cook, whisking constantly, until the budino has thickened and the whisk leaves traces along the surface, 3 to 4 minutes.

Step 3

Remove the pan from the heat; whisk in the melted chocolate mixture and the vanilla. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a large container and or transfer to a serving dish (or dishes). Cover with plastic wrap pressed directly on the surface of the budino. (This prevents it from forming a “skin.”) Refrigerate until completely chilled. Serve drizzled with olive oil and a sprinkling of flaky sea salt.

Overnight Broccoli Rabe With Anchovy And Preserved Lemon

One of my closest friends, Justin Wangler, and I first met at A. B. Tech Culinary School in my hometown of Asheville, North Carolina. Justin is currently the executive chef of Jackson Family Wines in California’s Sonoma Valley. The vineyard’s new cookbook, Season, was released in September. Below is a recipe Justin shared with me; he likes to serve it with Kendall Jackson Chardonnay.

Ingredients

  • Kosher salt
  • 2 bunches broccoli rabe
  • 6 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon best-quality extra virgin olive oil
  • Finely grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil–packed anchovy fillets, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground Aleppo pepper
  • 2 tablespoons julienned preserved lemon rind
  • 2 teaspoons sel gris

Directions

Step 1

In a large pot, combine 4 quarts of water and 1/2 cup kosher salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Fill a large bowl half full with water and ice.

Step 2

Trim off the tough ends of the broccoli rabe stems, keeping each bunch intact. Using a pair of tongs, hold a broccoli rabe bunch by its leafy tops and submerge the stems in the boiling water for 1 minute. Then submerge the entire bunch in the boiling water and cook for 90 seconds longer. Lift the bunch out of the water and plunge it into the ice bath until cold. Repeat with the second bunch. Drain the broccoli rabe well, separate the bunches, and place on paper towels to absorb excess moisture.

Step 3

In a small pot, combine the garlic and the 3/4 cup oil over low heat and heat for about 6 minutes, until the garlic is soft but not golden. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Add the lemon zest and juice and the anchovy, and stir to combine.

Step 4

In a large bowl, toss the dry broccoli rabe with the oil mixture to coat evenly. Transfer to a large, shallow airtight container and refrigerate overnight.

Step 5

Using tongs, toss the broccoli rabe in the oil mixture, then transfer the broccoli rabe and oil mixture to a serving platter. Drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, then garnish with the Aleppo pepper, preserved lemon, and sel gris.

Serves 8Recipe from Seasonby Justin Wangler and Tracey Shepos Cenami (Cameron, 2018)

Orecchiette With Broccoli Sauce

One of the most memorable dishes of my recent trip to Abruzzo was served family-style at a dinner at the Hermes farm. We liberally splashed the pasta with the exclusive olive oil blend we’d just created.

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces very small broccoli florets
  • 8 ounces orecchiette or other short pasta
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
  • Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 or 2 oil-packed anchovies, finely chopped (optional)
  • 2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 4 ounces finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Directions

Step 1

Steam the broccoli florets until they are very tender; set aside.

Step 2

Cook the pasta according to the package directions; drain, but save a cup of the hot pasta water.

Step 3

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, sauté the garlic and hot red pepper flakes over medium heat until fragrant and golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the steamed broccoli, anchovy, if using, and the salt, pepper, broth, and lemon zest. Bring to a gentle simmer. Start breaking down the broccoli with metal spoon or spatula into tiny pieces. (You basically want the broccoli to “melt.”) Continue to simmer over low heat until the liquid is reduced by half and the mixture has the consistency of a thick sauce, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the cheese until melted. Add the pasta and toss well. Add a spoonful or two of the reserved pasta water if the sauce is too thick. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt, pepper, or red pepper flakes, if desired. Serve in warmed shallow bowls with additional olive oil for drizzling.

Serves 4Recipe adapted from feastingathome.com

Tuscan-Style Veal Chops

Extra virgin olive oil becomes the base for a savory “board sauce” when mixed with fresh herbs and the natural juices of the meat. Substitute bone-in beef rib eyes or tomahawk steaks if veal is unavailable.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh sage leaves
  • Four 12-ounce veal rib chops, cut 1 inch thick
  • Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Step 1

Light a charcoal grill. On a platter, mix the 2 tablespoons of olive oil with the garlic, rosemary and sage. Season the veal chops with salt and black pepper and drizzle generously with olive oil.

Step 2

Grill the chops over moderately high heat, turning once, about 6 minutes per side for medium. Transfer the chops to the platter and turn to coat with the olive oil and herbs. Generously drizzle the veal with olive oil and let stand for 3 minutes, turning the chops a few times. Spoon the juices and oil over the chops and serve.

Serves 4Recipe from Food and Wine, June 2007

Spatchcocked Grilled Chicken With Sicilian Salsa

Spatchcocking is a great technique to use when you’re short on time; it can be used on chickens, turkeys, game hens, etc. If grilling isn’t an option, place a cooling rack in a rimmed sheet pan, put the bird on the rack, and roast in the oven. This recipe comes from master griller Steven Raichlen, a longtime member of the Club, whose TV show “Project Fire” airs on American Public Television.

  • 1 roasting chicken, about 4 pounds 
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt (kosher or sea)
  • 1 teaspoon cracked or coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary or tarragon
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • Juice and finely grated zest of one lemon
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus additional oil for serving
  • 1 bunch fresh arugula, washed and dried, for serving
  • Sicilian Salsa, for serving (recipe follows)
  1. Spatchcock the chicken by removing the backbone with a sharp knife or kitchen shears. Turn the chicken over (breast side up) and gently flatten it with the palms of your hands. (Remove the cartilaginous breast bone, if you’d like, by running a sharp knife down both sides and popping it out.) Arrange the chicken in a large nonreactive baking dish.
  2. Combine the salt, pepper, hot red pepper flakes, rosemary, garlic, and lemon zest in a small bowl and mix with your fingers. Sprinkle this mixture over the chicken on all sides, rubbing it into the meat.
  3. Squeeze the lemon juice over the chicken, followed by the 1/4 cup of olive oil. Turn the chicken a couple times to coat it well. Refrigerate the chicken for at least 30 minutes (or even overnight).
  4. Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat to medium. In the best of all worlds, you’d build your fire with oak chunks. Alternatively, you can toss some wood chips or chunks on the coals.
  5. Brush and oil the grill grate. Arrange the chicken on the grate, skin side down. Grill for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the skin’s nicely browned. Carefully turn the chicken. Grill 15 to 20 minutes more, or until done. The internal temperature in the thickest part of the thigh should be 165°F. Arrange on a bed of arugula that’s been tossed with a tablespoon of olive oil. Serve with the salsa.
Sicilian Salsa
  • 2 large ripe red tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and finely diced
  • 1 small white onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup finely diced hothouse cucumber
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and finely minced
  • 16 kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons small brined capers, drained
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon or basil
  • 1/4 cup best quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (or more to taste)
  • Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper
  1. In a small mixing bowl, gently mix—a rubber spatula works well for this—the tomato, onion, cucumber, garlic, olives, and capers. Stir in the tarragon, olive oil, and lemon juice. Add salt (remember, the capers and olives are salty) and pepper to taste.

Serves 2 to 3Recipe courtesy of Steven Raichlen