olive – The Olive was a native to Asia Minor and spread from Iran, Syria, and Palestine to the rest of the Mediterranean basin 5,000 years ago. It is among the oldest known cultivated trees in the world – being grown before the written language was invented. They are now grown in many parts of the world, among them the Middle East, Greece, Cyprus, Italy, the south of France, Spain, Portugal, Algeria, Morocco, and California.
History: Olives appear in one of the first cookbooks ever discovered – the 2000 year old Roman De re coquinaria in which Apicius writes of mixing roots, leaves, and salt into Spanish oil to fake the higher quality Liburnian oil from the South of Istria. Olives are considered one of our original foods dating back as least as far as 17th century B.C.
Olives formed a significant part of the way of life of the Ancient Greeks. Legend has it that Athena (the goddess of wisdom and the arts) was in competition with Poseidon (the sea god). Each was charged with presenting humankind with the most valued gift. Poseidon donated the horse. Athena caused an olive tree to grow at the gates of the Acropolis. It was Athena’s gift the people deemed most valuable. In return for her favors, Athens, the most powerful city in Greece, was named in her honor. Greek gods were also believed to be born under the branches of the olive tree. Aristotle pondered the olive tree at great length and eventually elevated its cultivation to a science. Solon enacted the first laws to protect it. Homer deemed olive oil the “liquid gold.” And Hippocrates prescribed it as the “great therapeutic.”
olive oil – The oil extracted from tree-ripened olives.
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil – Any olive oil that is less than 1% acidity and produced by the first pressing of the olive fruit through the cold pressing process. Most olive oils today are extra virgin in name only, meeting only the minimum requirement.
Virgin Olive Oil – It is made from olives that are slightly riper than those used for extra-virgin oil and is produced in exactly the same manner. This oil has a slightly higher level of acidity (1 1/2%).
Pure Olive Oil – Also called commercial grade oil. It is solvent-extracted from olive pulp, skins, and pits; then refined. It is lighter in color and blander than virgin olive oil. It is more general-purpose olive oil. Pure refers to the fact that no non-olive oils are mixed in.
History: Olive oil is one of the oldest culinary oils. In ancient Athens, the olive was a symbol of the city’s prosperity. Olive oil was used both in cooking and as fuel for oil-burning lamps. Olive oil was not only part of their daily diet, its properties were greatly revered; it was used to cure a myriad ailments, both internally and externally, religious leaders and kings were ceremonially anointed with, as Homer often referred to, “Liquid Gold.”
Olive oil has been the cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet for thousands of years. Legend has it that the first olive tree grew on Adam’s tomb. Olive trees have a life span of 300 to 400 years. Some grow to be 700 years and older. Cooking with olive oil is like cooking with wine. Never use a wine or olive oil that does not taste good to you. An inferior one will leave an aftertaste.
To learn more about Olive Oil, check out Linda Stradley’s web page on Olive Oil.
omelet or omellette (AHM-leht) – A beaten egg mixture that is cooked without stirring until set and then served folded in half. Often served with various fillings, such as cheese, onion, herbs, and meats.
History: According to legend, when Napoleon and his army were traveling through the south of France they decided to rest for the night near the town of Bessieres. Napoleon feasted on an omelet prepared by a local innkeeper that was such a culinary delight that Napoleon ordered the townspeople to gather all the eggs in the village and to prepare a huge omelet for his army the next day.
osso buco (AW-soh BOO-koh) – An Italian dish comprised of crosscut slices veal shanks braised with vegetables, aromatics, and stock. Osso Buco means literally “bone with a hole.” Milanese style is served with saffron risotto and gremolata.
ostrich (AWS-trich) – Ostrich is a red meat that has a mild, beef-like flavor. It is very low in fat and cholesterol (about the same as skinless turkey). It can be used as a steak, ground for burgers, or made into sausages. It barely shrinks while cooking.
oyster – Oysters have been cultivated for at least 2,000 years and have long been a favorite of Americans. Oysters in the shell must be alive to be good to eat. If an oyster is open, even slightly, and it doesn’t close tightly when handled, discard it. Dead oysters are unfit to eat. Always scrub oyster shells thoroughly before opening. There are four main varieties of oysters in the United States.
Eastern Oysters – Known by many local names, depending on their origin.
Olympia Oysters – Very small oysters from the Pacific coast.
Belon Oysters – European oysters now grown in North America.
Japanese Oysters – Very large oysters from the Pacific coast.
Oysters Bienville – An oyster dish consisting of baked oysters on the half shell topped with a sherry-flavored bhamel sauce mixed with sauteed chopped shrimp, shallots, and garlic.
History: The dish was named for Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, sieur de Bienville, the second colonial governor of Louisiana. It was created by a Frenchman named “Count” Arnaud Cazeneuve in the late 1930s at his restaurant called Arnaud’s Restaurant in the French Quarter of New Orleans.
Oysters Casino – A oyster dish were the oysters on the half shell are covered with a blended mixture of butter, finely chopped shallots, green peppers, and parsley plus a seasoning of salt, lemon juice, and pepper. It is then topped with strips of half-cooked bacon and broiled until the bacon turn brown and crisp.
History: The dish was originally prepared at a casino located in the Hamptons on Long Island, New York.
Oysters Rockefeller – A dish of oysters that are cooked with watercress, scallions, celery, anise, and other seasonings. It is usually served in the oyster shells.
oyster sauce – It is a Cantonese seasoning that is a staple condiment of Chinese cooking. This rich brown sauce is made with boiled oysters and seasonings (soy sauce, salt, and spices). The ingredients are cooked until thick and concentrated. A good brand is never fishy. Be aware that cheaper brands may have MSG and other additives.