By Greg B. Good olive oil is one of those staples in a kitchen. Sure, one can get by with el-cheapo olive oil, but truthfully, they either provide no flavor or provide off and weird flavors. Once you’ve tried good olive oil, there really isn’t any going back. That lightly sweet, fruity aroma, with a tiny sweetness to taste, followed by a rush of spicy bitterness at the back of the throat, as the flavor of a thousand olives scream in your mouth ‘Yo, pay attention to us!’. Now, I do have my specialty olive oil that I use for certain occasions (it was a gift from a friend from Portugal), but I’m frequently trying new olive oils for my general use in my kitchen. So when O&CO wrote and asked if I wanted to review their products, I of course accepted!
A general product review is nice, but after tasting this olive oil (and a balsamic vinegar… more on that later) on their own, I decided I needed to do something a little bit more during the review. But in general, here’s the shakedown. O&CO source their olive oils from various nations and places around the world, with this particular olive oil being a flavored one: Garlic flavor. The oil is a bright yellow/golden color, smells like a sweet fresh garlic clove and has this wonderful flavor of olives: the spicy and bitterness I mentioned above, but with a moderate garlic finish. If you’re making a dish and you want to add a touch of garlic without dicing up a clove yourself, this oil will be there to help you. I, however, had some other plans. The first night I tried this I drizzled some over a salad with a bit of balsamic vinegar and really jazzed up the meal! But this post isn’t about salad, my friends. It’s about pizza. (Well, and olive oil!)
- 6 Roma tomatoes, Maryland grown
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp pizza seasoning
- salt/pepper to taste
- dash of red pepper flakes
- 1/4 tsp sugar
- 2 tbsp O&CO Garlic Olive Oil
- 1/4 cup high quality H2O
Get started on the sauce first, since it’ll require the most time and attention. Rough dice the tomatoes, add the salt, pepper, bay leaf, sugar, water and olive oil, bring to a simmer, cover and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Keep it on a low simmer, you want the tomatoes to break down, but not entirely, because you’ll want some rustic chunks on your pizza. After an hour or so, check the flavor, see if it needs any additional salt. Remove the bay leaf, add the pizza seasoning, then break out the ol’ emulsion blender. The trick here is to really blend up about 75% of the tomatoes, but not all. Remember, you want some of those chunks for texture and appearance, but you also want a thicker sauce around it. Blend it up, and keep it simmering. When you get close to needing the sauce for the pizza (say, 30 min ahead of time), remove the lid to allow evaporation of water, and let the sauce thicken.
- 1 Large Red Onion,thinly sliced
- Handful of button mushrooms, washed and de-stemmed
- O&CO garlic Olive Oil, enough to cook with
- Salt/pepper to taste
- 1/2 tsp sugar
There are two separate toppings here, so I’ll describe the one that takes the longest first. The caramelized onions. Sweet baby Jesus are these tasty. But you need to take your time and do them right. The goal to a good caramelization is to start the heat low and have patience. Salt the onion slices and on low heat, begin to sweat them. In about 10-15 minutes, you should have the onions turning a bit translucent. Keep occasionally mixing and stirring. And that’s about it folks. Once the onions have lost most of their early moisture, add the sugar and just keep at it. Low heat, long time. After about 30 minutes, once they’ve lost most of their moisture, you can turn the heat up a bit. This will help with the actual caramelization of the sugars from the onions and what’s added. And against, just keep at it. It may take up to an hour, but that’s just something you’ll have to accept. The end product is worth it. Once the onions are done, you can set them aside to cool and wait until pizza preparation time. At this point, I cooked my mushrooms. I kept them whole for appearances, but I’d recommend slicing them. The increased surface area from cutting really does speed up their cooking time. The mushrooms were easy to cook, just a dash of water, salt and pepper, in a pay and low heat for 15 minutes or so to bring out that dark and earthy flavor. I love mushrooms.
The pizza itself was easy to assemble. We’ve had some frozen pizza dough for a while now, and haven’t found an occasion to use it. Once that thawed, I heated up my oven and pizza stone to 500F, sprinkled semolina flour on the stone and the counter top, rolled out the dough and began an easy assembly. Dough + Sauce + Caramelized onions + Mushrooms + light drizzle of O&CO olive oil. And into the oven it went for 20 minutes. Once done, remove, slice and serve! As you can tell from the image, I chose to enough the pizza with a beer. I even violated my own personal recommendations of which beer to drink with what type of pizza by going with Weihenstephan’s hefe weissebier. Truthfully, it wasn’t the best pairing, something hoppier or maltier would have done the trick (perhaps accomplishing both a Dogfish Head 60 min IPA?), but I was thirsty and was really craving a wheat beer.
So, the pizza was delicious, and it was greatly assisted by the tasty olive oil I was fortunate enough to sample! I recommend checking out some of the other oils by O&CO, I saw they had a Portuguese variety in their selection, as well as many French, Italian and US olive oils. But regardless, I’ll be looking forward to being able to find some Portuguese olive oils in my neighborhood!
**Necessary Disclosure** In compliance FTC Guidelines at 16 CFR Part 255, I hereby disclose that I received these olive oil and vinegar samples free of charge.