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Tunisian Extra Virgin Olive Oil Plants a Flag in the United States. Yum.
Tunisia is a country on the move. In the cities I visited this month, Tunis, Sfax, as well as the island of Djerba, the most prominent bird seemed to be the crane, the construction crane that is.
Their economy seems to be in an upward swing, and nowhere is that more evident than in their olive oil sector. Olive oil represents 10% of their GNP and as fast as they are planting new olive “forests” (as they call them), they will soon dominate the world in the production of this valuable commodity. (More about this later).
Tunisia is the second largest producer of olive oil in the world – and moving towards being number one. And one of the significant features of Tunisian olive oil is that it is always organic, always produced and packaged without the use of any chemicals, no solvents of any kind used in the production. It could be said that Tunisian extra virgin olive oil is pure gold.
Tunisian olive oil is well represented in American markets. Besides being marketing in dark glass bottles and opaque cans with the yellow gold label and the traditional horse, it is also private labelled to such American retailers including Trader Joe’s, Aldi, Costco, and others.
Up until recently, Tunisian olive oil was mainly shipped to European countries in bulk, including Italy, Greece, and Spain where it was mixed with their falling product stores called evoo and sold by that country of origin. Why? The Tunisian extra virgin olive oil is sweet and mild in flavor, with a favorable price point so it was used to pump up the falling production numbers in many European markets.
But that is changing. Tunisia understands that to make the most money, they need to bottle and sell their product directly to American (and other) foreign markets. Their goal (and mine) is to get American consumers to ask for Tunisian olive oil by name. It is sweet, always FRESHER to market than most European brands which often sit in barrels for more than a year before being bottled and shipped. Plus it is almost always the cheapest brand on the shelf.
In days to come, I’m going to tell you why you can use their product for everything form frying, to baking, as well as a finish oil and a flavor-packed ingredient in many food stuffs.
Tunisia has been producing olive trees and oil for 3000 years, since before the time of the Romans. As we like to say in this country, they know a thing or two about olive oil.
And we the consumers, are the ultimate beneficiary. When I was first invited to visit Tunisia this summer, to attend the 20th year celebration for the Cho Group, an international extra virgin olive oil company, I just happened to have a bottle of their oil with the bright yellow label in my pantry.
Why had I bought it? Always looking to try something new, I had just bought it out of curiosity from my local supermarket. And knew immediately that it would quickly become a favorite with me.
I have visited olive oil production facilities in Italy – where my hand’s down favorite comes from Villa Stabbia, a boutique farm that produces olive oil the old fashioned way and is owned and operated by my friends, Tine and Mario Bertolozzi.
I have been a loyal and dedicated friend to Mario and Tine for years and will always adore their products. http://www.villastabbia.it/. Mario and Tine began my education about extra virgin olive oil.
I have also visited the famous California olive oil facility, http://shop.californiaoliveranch.com which put the US on the map for producing great quality evoo. I would point out that this oil retails for around $20. A pop whereas the equally pure and lovely yellow gold Tunisian olive oil goes for under $10.
You do the math.
I’m going to tell you a whole lot more about Tunisian olive oil in the coming period, but for now, I want to give you one of my favorite olive oil cake recipes, from a book I wrote about 10 years ago, Cakes from Scratch in Half the Time. I toured the country making this cake. It was always a hit.
I adore making this cake with Tunisian extra virgin olive oil. Yummy.
Look for more more information and instruction about how to find and how to use Tunisian extra virgin olive oil in the weeks to come.
Tunisian Olive Oil Lemon Pound Cake
Makes one loaf cake to serve 8 to 12 people
¾ cup Tunisian extra virgin olive oil + more for greasing the pan
1 large lemon, grated zest and juice
1 cup cake flour
5 large eggs, room temperature and separated
¾ cup granulated sugar + more for dusting the top of the cake
Heat oven to 350° F. Grease all sides of a loaf pan with oil then dust with sugar. Place rack in the middle of the oven.
Grate zest to yield 2 teaspoons and whisk with the flour.
Halve the lemon and squeeze to yield 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice.
Beat egg yolks with ½ cup sugar in a large bowl with electric mixer set on HIGH, until pale and thick, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium, and drizzle in ¾ cup olive oil, then reserved lemon juice, beating just until combined.
Use a wooden spoon to fold in the flour mixture, just until combined.
Beat egg whites with ½ teaspoon kosher salt in another large bowl with cleaned beaters at medium-high speed until foamy, then add ¼ cup sugar, a bit at a time, beating, and continue until egg whites hold soft peaks, about 3 minutes.
Gently fold one third of the whites into the yolk mixture, then gently fold in remaining whites until just barely mixed.
Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bang the pan against the counter to release any air bubbles. Sprinkle the top with remaining sugar. Bake until puffed and golden, and check with a wooden pick until it comes out clean, about 45 minutes.
Cool the cake in the pan on a rack 10 minutes, then run a thin bladed knife around the edges, and turn out onto the rack to cool thoroughly. About 1 hour.
Transfer cake to a footed server and serve along with whipped cream touched with more lemon zest and a bit of sugar. Yum.
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