Olive oil production—from high-quality, artisanal growers—is not a year-round endeavor. Between late fall and early in the new year, olive oil producers harvest their fruit. On this occasion, as the assistant wine buyer in Cambridge, I turned an oenophilic eye to the new release of Capezzana extra virgin olive oil. Just as new vintages of wine carry their own distinctive characters, new harvest olive oils are culinary treasures.
Tenuta di Capezzana
The Tenuta di Capezzana estate is home to the Bonacossi family and some of the finest olive oil in Tuscany. The Bonacossis have stewarded these groves and vineyards since the early 20th century, though the estate’s pedigree can be traced back to pre-Roman occupation. It is a beautiful place settled high in the foothills of Carmignano—amongst the sweeping scrub brush and cypress trees.
Harvesting Olives: A Delicate Process
The Bonacossis grow 4 main olive culitvars—Moraiolo, Frantoio, Pendolino, and Leccino—that make up their final blend. They pick their olives at the peak of ripeness, which is hard, laborious work. But the effort to hand-pick the fruit leads to fresher oil and avoids spoilage and bruising.
The olives are transported (typically in the early hours of the morning or late at night) to be sorted, de-stemmed, and pressed cold. Olives are similar to wine grapes in this sense; both contain complex polyphenols that are extracted through pressing, thus giving the final product flavor and texture, and both wine grapes and olives are highly perishable. This is why temperature and oxidation matter equally to the olive oil producer as they do the winemaker.
However, olive oil, unlike wine, does not ferment nor improve with age. In fact, true healthful oils go rancid over time. This is to say, olive oil is meant to be enjoyed young. This is why new release oil is cause for celebration.
The Terroir of Olive Oil
Which brings us to the shelves of Formaggio: if you haven’t explored our olive oil selection before, now is the time. There you’ll find dates printed and olive varieties fully disclosed on every label. This matters not only because of the olive oil counterfeit scam that continues to pervert US markets, but also because the expression of these oils are much like the people who make them. They mark a single time, in a single place. They are as nuanced and variable as the wines and cheeses of their regions.
Capezzana Extra Virgin Olive Oil: 2017 New Harvest
So how does the new harvest Capezzana taste? It’s a knock out: Atomic green, velvety texture, fresh cut grass, and a grizzled peppery finish. This is a perfect finishing oil for everything from breads to pasta to cheese to salads. It would fair well drizzled over slices of rare grilled beef with capers and charred cherry tomatoes, or long-stewed cannellini beans with thyme and lemon.
Recipe: Warm Tuscan Kale Salad with New Harvest Capezzana Olive Oil
This recipe uses brief heat on traditional Tuscan kale for a warm salad that still has an slight, appealing chew to the leaves. Golden pine nuts and Pecorino, rubbed with olive oil sediment, both up the nutty richness. The golden raisins provide tartness to balance the peppery finish of the Capezzana olive oil. This recipe is designed to highlight the olive oil notes, but you can add a dash of Balsamic vinegar if you’d like a more traditional salad dressing.
- 1.5 pounds Lacinato Kale, stems and ribs removed, cut into 1-inch pieces (ours comes from Tomatero Farm in Aptos, California)
- 3-4 Tbsp pine nuts
- Pinch of Aldo Armato Red Pepper Flakes
- 2 Tbsp new harvest Capezzana Olive Oil, divided
- 2 anchovies (If using Sicilian Salted Anchovies, rinse and debone before using)
- 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 yellow onion, minced
- 2-3 Tbsp golden raisins
- 1/8 cup shaved Pecorino di Pienza Morchiato (Pecorino rubbed with morchia, the olive oil deposits gathered from the bottom of traditional terra cotta pots)
In a small, dry skillet over low heat, warm pine nuts slowly. Shake skillet frequently to toss the pine nuts, promoting an even browning. Pull from heat when the pine nuts are a light brown and beginning to be fragrant–when pine nuts take on too deep a color, the carryover heat will likely burn them.
In another large skillet on medium heat, warm a scant tablespoon of olive oil. Press and stir the anchovies in, until they disintegrate. Add onion, red pepper, and salt, and stir until translucent and soft. Add garlic and cook a few minutes longer.
Increase heat to high. Add kale and fold into the onions and garlic. Cook a minute or two, folding continuously, until kale is softened and deeply green, but not completely wilted (still a touch crisp).
Put kale mixture into a serving bowl. Scatter golden raisins and pine nuts. Shave ribbons of Pecorino di Pienza Morchiato on top. Finish by drizzling with new harvest Capezzana olive oil–just enough to brighten the flavor, without over-dressing.
Adapted from Ruth Reichl’s Spicy Tuscan Kale.