We are so incredibly excited to introduce Ben Annotti, CEO and Founder of Pantry Provisions as our very first guest blogger! Ben will be sharing the ins and outs of Extra Virgin Olive Oils as well as an amazingly delicious Chicken Recipe that makes it easy to “Chef it Up” and will have you “Cooking In” rather than “Eating Out.” Know where to put your dollar when purchasing quality olive oils by following Ben’s 3 simple steps. Whole Foodies receive 15% off from Pantry Provisions Online Marketplace when you enter the promo code WHOLEFOOD15.
Live your WHOLE life,
Shannon + Meg
First things first, I want to thank Shannon and Meg for inviting me to be a part of this blog. There is nothing more enjoyable then spreading some knowledge, experience and information about my culinary passions. My name is Ben Annotti and I am the Founder and CEO of Pantry Provisions, an online marketplace that features an Artisanal, Innovative and Essential collection of culinary products. Prior to founding Pantry Provisions, I worked as a Chef in restaurants across the country ranging from modern Asian in Chicago to a traditional steakhouse in the Hill Country of Texas. Each restaurant and location provided a new experience and education that I have brought with me to Pantry Provisions.
Among our collection at Pantry Provisions are a select amount of American Extra Virgin Olive Oil producers. While many oils found in traditional grocery stores are from the olive-rich countries of Spain and Italy, we have chosen to highlight a small amount of American small-batch producers whose passion is unparalleled. American Olive Oil production is currently experiencing the same rise in quality and popularity as the wines of the Napa Valley in the 1970s. Often looked down upon by the traditional European powers, American oils have increased their visibility by taking home many “Best In Class” awards at Olive Oil competitions across the world. In addition to supporting these small producers, we chose American Olive Oils based off their authenticity and our relationships with the team behind them. While many European oils are authentic and high-quality oils, there is a growing amount of fraudulent olive oils in the market. A study from the University of California at Davis placed 69% of imported olive oil samples labeled “Extra Virgin” as substandard. This means the oils were either doctored with lower level oils or mislabeled for marketing needs.
So, how do you shop for olive oil the right way? The most important step is finding a trusted retailer. That could be a local market in your hometown or an online marketplace like Pantry Provisions. It may also surprise you to find a local olive oil producer by you (we have oils from California, Oregon, Texas and Georgia). If you need help selecting a favorite producer, there are a number of Olive Oil certification groups out there; most notable among them is the California Olive Oil Council. They go at length to promote high-quality producers in California and list them on their website (http://www.cooc.com/seal-certified-oils/). Once you have found your retailer, here are three tips for selecting the right Extra Virgin Olive Oil:
- Varietal – Like wine, olive oils are made from a variety of olives that each has unique flavors and intensities. Generally categorized by intensity (mild, medium or robust) selecting the right oil can be solved by what your intended use is. Mild is ideal for dipping bread or accenting a fresh salad. Medium intensity oils are best suited for finishing pastas or soups. The big, robust oils lend themselves to cooking lamb, grilling fish and vegetables and pairing with balsamic vinegar.
- Shelf Life – Buying high quality olive oil is no different then many other perishable groceries; mind the shelf life! We take great care at Pantry Provisions to buy our oils directly from the producer in small quantities. This allows us to keep a hands-on approach to controlling our inventory and selling the best oils at the best time. At home, you can control your oil quality by buying from a trusted retailer or producer and purchasing oil in small quantities. Be sure to store your sealed bottle of olive oil properly, in a dark place where it will retain its flavor. It’s also important to note that clear bottles with a pour spout tend to let in a lot of sunlight and oxygen which can be harmful to the oil. I treat it like red wine, once I open the bottle the clock begins to tick and I generally like to use a bottle within 2 months.
- Price – True Extra Virgin Olive Oils are an expensive endeavor and the sticker shock can often drive many people away. Most quality oils fall in the range of $22-30 for a 375 ml bottle. That being said, think how much impact one bottle of oil can have. High quality oil had a home on just about every dish that came out of my kitchens. Finishing poached Halibut, highlighting a Bibb Lettuce Salad and even topping house-made ice creams, Olive Oil can do it all. With the tremendous health benefits in mind, you can surely find a million uses daily to feature your favorite oil. Yes, the price can be high, but it’s worth its weight in gold.
Once you have brought your oil home, its time to cook with it. One of my staples in my professional kitchens was a traditional Italian Salsa Verde. This herbaceous condiment is the perfect vehicle for a high-quality extra virgin olive oil. In the recipe below, we have paired it with a Roasted Spatchcock Chicken rubbed with one of our new Small Batch Spice Blends. Be sure to visit Pantry Provisions and use promo code WHOLEFOOD15 to receive 15% your purchase! Hope you enjoy!
Roasted Spatchcock Chicken with Salsa Verde
Whole Chicken 3-4lb.
Barouni Extra Virgin Olive Oil 1 Cup
White Balsamic Vinegar ¼ Cup
Sugar ¼ teaspoon
Red Chili Flake ¼ teaspoon
Garlic(Minced) 1 large clove
Mint(Chopped) ¼ Cup
Basil(Chopped) ¼ Cup
Chives(Chopped) ¼ Cup
Jalapeno(Seeded and Minced) 1 small Jalapeno
Edo Spice Blend 2 teaspoons
Salt 2 teaspoons
Peppercorns ¼ teaspoon
To Spatchcock a Chicken:
- Dry chicken well and place on poultry-safe cutting board.
- Using poultry shears (aka scissors you can put in the dishwasher) and cut down either side of the backbone to remove completely.
- With the skin-side facing upwards, push down between the two breasts to flatten the chicken to promote even cooking.
- Finely mince 1 large clove of garlic, 1 seeded Jalapeno and ¼ cup of each of the following herbs: Mint, Basil and Chives.
- In a mixing bowl or mason jar add the herbs, garlic, jalapeno, white balsamic vinegar, red chili flakes, sugar and the remaining olive oil(3/4 cup or so) and mix well. Add sea salt to taste. I love doing this in a mason jar. It allows me to use what I need and then easily store the rest in the fridge for up to a week.
Cooking and Plating:
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees and set up the rack in the middle level of the oven.
- On a sheet pan with a wire-rack, place the spatchcocked chicken skin side up and rub liberally with salt and pepper or one of your favorite spice rubs (we used our recent release, Edo, from our small batch series).
- Cook until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees and the juices run clear (about 35-45 minutes).
- Allow the chicken to rest for 15 minutes and then break down into 8 pieces allowing your guests to pick their favorite light or dark meat.
- Serve on a large plate with a liberal coating of the Salsa Verde to finish.