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The Costco Report

Author: | posted 11/10/10 | Print This Post Print This Post |
Love Soup with Chive Oil

My daughter's Love Soup with Chive Oil

The Costco Report: A recurring, if episodic, column devoted to ferreting out the more promising offerings, as well as to warding off the worst of the hazards.

This Week’s Pick: Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil (about $21 for two 2-liter bottles)

Alas, our fair county’s Autumn weather – more than a few scattered showers and increasingly chilly evenings – hasn’t been conducive to margaritas, so I’m still sitting on a healthy stockpile of the agave nectar I secured during my previous tactical assault on the Big C. On the other hand, as despondent as I may be over the faltering flow of tequila into my limeade, I do love the change of seasons and the cooking that comes with it, so that’s what I tried to keep in mind as I struggled to maneuver my Titanic shopping cart across an arctic sea of dubious pre-fab meals and food-sample ice floes. Autumn cooking, at least in my kitchen, means several things – lots of slow braises, smoke detector-hot pizza stones, and richly sauced pastas – but above all it means soups. And soups, at least in my kitchen, always get a garnish.

Tomato salad, tomato vinaigrette, chili and basil oils

Tomato salad with chili and basil oils

One of the very easiest ways to add a splash of color and spice to everything from salad to soup is with a flavored oil. Flavored oils – typically a handful of something colorful and tasty and a pinch of salt, blended with oil and then strained – are trivially easy to make, store well, and make your plates look cool. Granted, you run some risk that either Bobby Flay cites you for copyright infringement or the 80s ask for their plates back, but as a rule, flavored oils are a pretty good crutch for the home cook. And they’re almost impossible to screw up.

Flavored Oil

The possibilities really are limitless, but I generally try to use flavors that go with a wide variety of dishes, that have good color, and that I’ve already got to hand, including staple herbs, such as parsley, basil, and chives, and almost any brightly colored and sharply flavored chili peppers. Simply start with a quarter cup or so of good quality olive oil; add a handful of whichever flavoring ingredient you’re keen on; and blend or run through a food processor until smooth. I will usually, but by no means always, pass the oil through a fine-mesh strainer in order to remove the big particulates.

Oils flavored with chili, basil, and tomato

Oils flavored with chilis, basil, and tomato

In terms of the base oil itself, and the subject of this Report, the olive oil in question – labeled “Organic Extra Virgin” under the “Kirkland Signature” house brand – is seriously good stuff. It’s not just cheaper (by a wide margin) than the similar product at Safeway, TJ’s, or – heaven forbid – Whole Paycheck, it’s considerably better: Bright, grassy, slightly peppery, with a nice, round mouth feel, pretty much everything you’d want in an every-day olive oil. If you really want to think about the oil you buy, check out the good review here, as well as the UC Davis study, in which the vast majority of imported olive oils fail to pass accepted quality standards (oils produced in California fared considerably better – chalk one more up for local food sourcing).

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2 Responses

  1. Proximal.Kitchen November 10, 2010 at 4:25 pm #

    Hey Crissi – just so’s you know, ALL cooks love love love it when the guests do the dishes after ;) As to TJ’s olive oil, it was our house brand prior to trying the Kirkland, and I had no complaints – however, I do think the Kirkland is probably better, and the price differential for the Organic version is really substantial (like maybe 50%? can’t remember the TJ’s price, but I want to say about $14/liter). As to the samples… we’re hooked too, but be careful of that for which you wish, I tried some mushy pasta w/ a horrible, bitter red sauce the other day and very nearly spat it on the floor!

  2. Crissi November 10, 2010 at 4:03 pm #

    I’ve been buying the TJs brand for awhile now, and it’s pretty good. But that’s good news about the Kirkland brand. My mom always gets that one, and I have to admit that I do love it – especially in the massive sized bottle it comes in (we Italians love our olive oil). However, lacking a Costco card, I just use it when utilizing my mom’s kitchen (i.e. kicking back and enjoying some good old fashioned home cooking from my mommy, save for the occasional obligatory stir of whatever’s cooking. Oh, and tip for anyone using mom for some homecooking? Always do her dishes afterwards. It ensures you’ll be invited back for another yummy meal).

    BTW, Costco is the best place to go when you’re hungry on a Saturday afternoon. Can we say cheap date with the fam? Who needs to go out for lunch when it’s so conveniently handed to you in bite size samples at the end of every aisle?

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