food

Spring olive oil dishes

Now that the weather is improving and we can think about spending more time outdoors, it's time to pack away those winter woolies and enjoy the long overdue sunshine. One of the best parts of alfresco living and entertaining is being able to enjoy all those fresh, seasonal foods we've been longing for. Salads certainly come to mind as a Spring staple, as do lovely seasonings and dressings. We chatted to Brenda Wilkinson of Rio Largo Olive Oil about different ways to enjoy our olive oil on those balmy, Spring days. Naturally, this dressing goes beautifully when paired with a number of light, seasonal dishes... What is the best way to enjoy your olive oil during the onset of Spring? Our South African olive harvest ends in July every year. That means our fabulous fresh olive oils  are ready for use just as the weather begins to warm up! Our oil is tested at an independent laboratory in Paarl in early August which awards a sticker of compliance to all olive oils that pass the chemical and organoleptic tests, denoting an oil that is free from defects and is truly a fresh extra virgin olive oil of quality. The quality awards are handed out at the end of August and by the beginning of Spring our new harvest is ready for sale. Look for the SA Olive Association sticker of compliance as well as the SA Olive Association sticker of quality when buying your olive oil. Also, remember that the fresher the olive oil the better it will be for your health, with all the antioxidants and polyphenols you need. With fresh 2012 olive oil on your table you could:

  • Dip crisp ciabatta into your olive oil with a touch of balsamic vinegar.
  • Add a generous amount of fresh olive oil and balsamic vinegar to your green leafy salads.
  • Use this time of new growth to start a simple detox using lemon and olive oil. The lemon helps with your liver while the olive oil works on the gall bladder. Cut one lemon into pieces (seeds removed) and mix it with 375ml water together with a tablespoon of olive oil in a blender for a few minutes. Strain and drink on an empty stomach before going to bed. Start with a ¼ cup and build up to the full dosage over a week. This aids the gentle discharge of toxins from the liver as well as helping with poor sleep patterns.
What is your favourite thing about Spring? There is so much I love about Spring. The warmer weather, the longer sunshine hours, the anticipation of new life and seeing it all come alive, and best of all, the idea of long lazy lunches in the garden to look forward to once again. (The olive trees are being pruned on the estate in anticipation of the new growth so it's a busy time here.) How do you like to make the most of the sunshine? I try and stay out of the harsh midday sun as much as I can but I really enjoy a lazy afternoon lying out on the patio with a cup of herbal tea and my latest House and Leisure - dosing up on some Vitamin D! Which dishes do you associate most with Spring? Salads, salads, salads! And fabulous fresh fruit. Nothing like freshly squeezed orange juice to start your spring day. Rio Largo Olive Estate has been winning awards both locally and internationally since their first pressing in 2007, walking away with top medals for the third successive year at the recent 2012 SA Olive Awards held in Paarl. Their winning formula? Three varietals of olives grown, hand-picked, processed and blended into a delicious, fresh, health-boosting extra virgin cold extracted olive oil. The Rio Largo Olive Estate is located in the Scherpenheuwel Valley, in the Breede River Valley, Western Cape. For more information visit riolargo.co.za or phone Brenda on 082-340-6726. Salad images are courtesy of the House and Leisure Simply Salads supplement.