Pace da Poggio Etrusco Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Eggplant with Roasted Tomatoes, Baked Ricotta and Herbs


Eggplant-Roasted-Tomatoes-Ricotta


Man has cultivated the olive tree for thousands of years. The Roman Empire depended on olive oil for everything from perfumes and personal hygiene to cooking and lighting.


amphorae

Courtesy: Nacional Arqueològic de Tarragona (Dottsa Pilar Sada) David Williams

Rome’s oil came from the far flung parts of the Empire, and the terra cotta containers that held it, known as amphorae, were inscribed with tituli picti, markings that certified the oil’s place of origin, owner, weight and other particulars. The Romans knew where their oil came from and you should too. How can the average consumer, inexpert at discerning the quality of oil he or she is purchasing, get good oil? I have said it before. Either know your grower or know your seller. Fortunately for me, I know both. Among a box of oils I received for review from Olio2go, one of the country’s largest sellers of Italian extra virgin olive oil was a tin of liquid gold, Pace da Poggio Etrusco Extra Virgin Olive Oil made by Pamela Sheldon Johns.



Pamela is a well known food writer, cookbook author, and cooking teacher. With her husband, artist Johnny Johns she operates Poggio Etrusco bed and breakfast and working farm in Montepulciano, Tuscany. On her organic certified farm property she grows the Moraiolo, Leccino, Correggiolo, and Pendolino olives that go into the oil. In November it is time for la raccolta delle olive, the olive harvest, when Pamela, her family and crew, and even guests, pick the fruit (yes, olives are fruit) entirely by hand. The careful harvesting, free of rakes and machines, assures that the fruit reaches the frantoio, the olive pressing mill, unbruised and in good condition, resulting in a pure, fresh tasting oil. Pamela’s hands on approach to the manufacture of her oil is a mixture of science, hard work, and respect for tradition and the earth.

 

 

 

PoggioEtrusco

Courtesy: Olio2go




I first tasted Pace da Poggio Etrusco oil last fall in Pamela’s cooking class at Let’s Get Cookin’ in Westlake, California. After a discussion of her philosophy of making oil, she passed small glasses of it around for us to sample.

 

 

The remarkably clean taste, redolent of olives, and beautiful golden green color impressed the entire room. The oil is low in acid, a trait of extra virgin oil, with a very pleasant bit of pizzico, the famous peppery burn at the back of one’s throat. Pizzico is not a flaw. It is in fact a prized characteristic of Tuscan olive oil. Some makers achieve it by picking their olives when they are slightly underripe. In Pamela’s oil it comes from the perfectly ripe Corregiolo olives she uses.

 

 

 

 

PoggioEtruscoOil

 

This oil is meant to be used as a condimento, a topping or dressing, rather than to saute or roast. Swirl a bit into soup just before service or try it with Pinzimonio, the classic Tuscan raw vegetable platter for a starter or light lunch. Raw peppers, tiny asparagus and baby rainbow carrots make a beautiful presentation for the dish. Toss the oil with hot pasta and the floral notes and bay will come forward. Get into the Italian habit of drizzling oil over roasted foods, both meat and vegetables, to enhance their flavors.

One final note about olive oil is that like wine, the only way to learn about it is to consume it. I can not emphasize strongly enough that you should start with a fine oil such as Pace da Poggio Etrusco. Once you have tasted this oil, you will find it much easier to discern beastly from best.

 

Eggplant-Roasted-Tomatoes-Ricotta

Eggplant with Roasted Tomatoes, Baked Ricotta and Herbs

 

serves about 8, 1 round per person

Grilled eggplant topped with warm baked ricotta and sweet as candy roasted tomatoes is a beautiful summertime antipasto. Use your favorite oil to prepare the eggplant and tomatoes, and use Pace da Poggio Etrusco Extra Virgin Olive Oil to finish this dish, drizzling it over the tomato topped eggplant rounds. Complete the dish with chopped herbs.

1 eggplant
24-30 multicolored teardrop or cherry tomatoes
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese, drained
1 large egg
2 tablespoons grated Pecorino Toscano
1 teaspoon each, finely chopped parsley, rosemary, thyme and nepitella*
olive oil
kosher salt and pepper
Pace da Poggio Etrusco Extra Virgin Olive Oil to finish

For the eggplant
Slice the eggplant into ½ inch rounds and place on a sheet pan. Sprinkle both sides with kosher salt. Set aside for 25-30 minutes, or until you see the moisture beading on the surface. Blot the eggplant with a clean lint free towel. Oil and preheat a grill pan. Grill the eggplant over medium heat, 10 to 12 minutes per side.

For the baked ricotta and tomatoes
Coat a 10 ounce ramekin with oil. Combine ricotta, egg, Pecorino Toscano, ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Transfer mixture to ramekin. Place the ramekin in the oven along with the tomatoes and bake until puffed, about 25 minutes.

Adjust the oven rack to the center and preheat to 400 degrees F. Place the tomatoes on a sheet pan. Toss the tomatoes with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Roast them until they are slightly softened and heated through, but still retain their shape, about 20 minutes, tossing once or twice.

To assemble
Place eggplant rounds on a platter. Distribute the baked ricotta over the eggplant. Top each round with a few tomatoes, scattering the remaining tomatoes on the platter. Drizzle with Pace da Poggio Etrusco Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and top with chopped herbs. Serve.

Food Nerd Notes:
Nepitella, a wild herb indigenous to Tuscany and Umbria, is nature’s complement to the Poggio Etrusco oil. The oregano and mint notes of the Nepitella blend beautifully with the fruit and pepper of the Poggio Etrusco oil. For more on Nepitella and sources for plants and seeds, click here.

Pace da Poggio Etrusco Extra Virgin Olive Oil is available online from Olio2go, 8400 Hilltop Road, Suite H, Fairfax, VA 22031 866-Olio2go (866-654-6246) It is supplied in 500 ml. stainless steel tins. The cost is $32.95, plus shipping.

For more information on Poggio Etrusco, click to go to the website. Visit in November and join Pamela for la raccolta. Email info@PoggioEtrusco.com

Cucina Povera, Pamela’s book of traditional Tuscan peasant cooking is also available from Olio2go. Click here to read my review.

 

Note: You can click on any picture for a slide show!

Disclosure: I received the product mentioned above for free. I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I otherwise have no affiliation with any product, manufacturer, or site mentioned in this article.

48 Comments

  1. Comment by belini:

    When I was in Calabria I was able to go to the frantoio to watch the agritourismo’s olives turned into oil. For me it was an exciting adventure. We tasted it right then and there as it came out the other side.

  2. Comment by Faye Levy:

    Looks delicious! Two questions: Do you brush the eggplant with oil before you grill it, or is the oil on the grill pan enough to prevent it becoming dry? Also, is the ricotta mixture baked at 400F? Does it come out like a baked custard?

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Faye,

      I use a heavy Staub grill pan that gets nice and hot and food does not stick to it, so the oil I put on the pan seems to be enough. Sometimes though, if the eggplant seems a bit dry at the start, I will give it a brush of oil. The ricotta puffs up, a little closer to a soufflé than a custard in consistency. Left in the oven too long, it will be dry. The last couple of times, in fact, that I have done this one, I just spread some fresh ricotta over the grilled eggplant, and I was good to go. I learned that one from Deborah Madison. I saw her book “Vegetable Literacy” months after I posted this, and she has something quite like what I have done. This one is quite flexible and truly lovely. When the tiny tomatoes are nicely cooked they take on the most vibrant and saturated colors, like little jewels.

      • Comment by Faye Levy:

        Thanks, Adri. Doing it with plain ricotta sounds easy and delicious too! The combination of eggplant, tomatoes and creamy dairy seems to be a wonderful one. At La Varenne we used to make an eggplant charlotte with layers of sauteed eggplant, fresh tomato sauce and yogurt and it was really good too.

        • Comment by Adri:

          Hi Faye,

          You are right. It is simple with the fresh ricotta. And it really is pretty. I bet that charlotte was delicious, and I also bet it was absolutely beautiful. I hope that at some point you have the opportunity to taste this olive oil. It is extraordinary.

  3. Comment by mozzarellamamma@gmail.com:

    Oh Adri, those Roasted Melanzane with Tomatoes, Ricotta and Herbs look delicious. I want one right now!! On the subject of Olive Oil, I think I suffered from a terrible childhood — I don’t think I ever even tasted a drop of olive oil until I was an adult. Now I adore it and my family uses of gallons and gallons of it every year. At Christmas in Rome, people who own olive groves often give friends bottles of Olive Oil — my husband and I are always thrilled when we are on the receiving end of those gifts. And yes, I love it when I get to taste an olive oil that is so fresh and good that it has the Pizzico. Yum. One of my favorite uses for olive oil is to make Bruschetta al pomodoro. I imagine you have already done a post at some point on bruschetta — I am going to do a quick search and see.

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Trisha,

      You are so fortunate to have friends who own groves and share the wealth. What a wonderful gift. I was thrilled to discover that Pamela grows her own olives and sees them from tree to table. Fresh, first quality oil is a revelation,

      I have never done a post on Bruschetta al pomodoro. I’ll have to put one up this summer!

  4. Comment by Trix:

    I am obsessed with roasting tomatoes – my husband calls it tomato candy and it totally is. Also you are so right about olive oil – it’s so fun to taste and compare different ones. Like wine as you say.

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Trix!

      You husband is right about the candy thing; a bit of dry heat really brings out the natural sugars and wakens the sleeping fruit. It is my fave way to go when the season is still a bit early. I love trying new oils. I have become a bit obsessed of late. Olive oil is a universe unto itself, and this one is stellar. I hope you try some. Once you do, you’ll never go back!

  5. Comment by speedy70:

    Un’antipasto fantastico!!!!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Grazie, Simona! Quest’antipasto e meraviglioso, unico, come l’olio Pace d Poggio Etrusco! Spero che provarli – l’olio e l’antipasto! Un bacione!

  6. Comment by domenicacooks:

    Non vedo l’ora di fare questo bell’antipasto. Gorgeous colors, Adri, and beautiful presentation. I’m always on the lookout for new appetizers for summer get-togethers in the backyard. I have some Poggio Etrusco oil in my pantry, which I also got at Olio2Go ~ I’m lucky to live not too far away from the shop! Thanks for another lovely post.

    • Comment by Adri:

      Thanks, Domenica!

      I just love the way the tomatoes look after they are roasted. The colors deepen and become more saturated, and they look like little jewels. Plus, once you drizzle the Poggio Etrusco oil over this one, it is elevated to the realm of the truly special. It is good to hear you have some of the oil in your pantry, and aren’t you lucky to live near Olio2go. I wish they had a store here in Los Angeles. Their selection of oils is nothing short of fantastic.

  7. Comment by Patty:

    CARA ADRI,
    sono sempre molto felice quando sento parlare di olio extra vergine d’oliva. Io collaboro per una rubrica che si chiama La Cucina dell’Extravergine, per l’Associazione Nazionale Città dell’Olio e spesso pubblico post sugli oli italiani. Dovrebbero essere molte di più le blogger che come te parlano di questo elemento così importante e fondamentale per la nostra salute e la nostra cultura.
    Ti mando un forte abbraccio, Pat

    • Comment by Adri:

      Ciao Patty,

      Non sapevo La Cucina dell’Extravergine. Sono interessato. Vado a dare un’occhiata. Grazie per le tue gentilissinme parole! Un bacione – alla prossima!

  8. Comment by Catherine:

    Dear Adri, A beautiful presentation and a delicious and healthy meal. Blessings, Catherine

  9. Comment by lucy:

    UN ANTIPASTO MEDITERRANEO OTTIMO CON TUTTI I SAPORI DELLA TERRA.BUONISSIMO!

  10. Comment by Karen (Back Road Journal):

    This sounds like a wonderful dish to prepare later this summer with little fresh tomatoes from my garden…delicious!

  11. Comment by mariangela:

    Complimenti Adri il tuo post è molto interessante e la ricetta è ottima! Buona domenica

  12. Comment by speedy70:

    sempre splendide preparazioni!

  13. Comment by TheKitchenLioness:

    Adri, what a delightful presentation of this wonderful appetizer – I love all the flavors, roasted eggplant, ricotta and rosted tomatoes together with a final drizzle of a high quality olive oil such as the one you used just before serving, sounds like a heaven on a plate. It is these kinds of recipes that make my heart (and stomach) sing and that make me go in the kitchen and cook some more!
    I love all the information about the olive oil as well – there is n.th. like a really good olive oil!
    Have a great Sunday! Always such a pleasure coming here!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Ciao, Andrea and thanks for the kind words I hope you give this one a try, and you are so right – there is nothing like really good olive oil

  14. Comment by Susan:

    These look wonderful! I used to dislike eggplant myself but have grown to love it.

  15. Comment by sippitysup:

    Pizzico is a new word to me too. I learned a wine word this week too. “Petillant”. Proving you’re never to old to learn something. GREG

    • Comment by Adri:

      Most certainly, one is never too old. Thank heavens for that. Life could get terribly boring, otherwise. I think I could get into the “Culinary word o’ the week.” Perhaps we might describe ourselves as petillant – but then someone might think we were calling one another petulant…

  16. Comment by Pat@ Mille Fiori Favoriti:

    I never knew the term for the aftertaste a good olive oil leaves in the mouth was called pizzico! I learn so much from you, Adri!

    I always reserve my best olive oils to use as a condiment and this sounds like one I must try very soon.

    Your roasted eggplant/tomatoes and ricotta looks divine –perfect for a summer meal.

    I hope you are not near the terrible fires going on there in California! We had more snow yesterday, but I know this area needs all the moisture it can get as fire is also always a danger here.

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Pat,

      I am glad to be of service! Pizzico comes from the Italian pizzicare, to pinch, which pretty much describes the sensation in one’s throat, I’d say. Think of the pizzicato technique in music where string players “pinch” the strings of their instruments, producing a plucking sound. A great example is Ponchielli’s “Dance of the Hours.” There’s plenty of pizzicato there. On to fine oils, isn’t it something, the difference a top flight oil can make to a dish as it awakens the flavors? I hope you try this one.

      We are not near the fires. We can see the smoke, but we are well away and in no danger. Thanks for your concern. It is terribly dry here that I fear we will have a very long fire season. I hope you will remain safe and danger free.

  17. Comment by Anthony Fama:

    Adri these look delicious

  18. Comment by amy @ fearless homemaker:

    Gorgeous! Eggplant is one of my favorite foods but my husband (sadly!) doesn’t like it, so I rarely make it at home. Actually, do you have any recipes that you think would be a good way to reintroduce it to him? He was turned off by some less-than-great soggy eggplant parm 10 years ago + has refused to eat it since. But recently, he said he’ll try it again if I make it. =) This recipe might showcase it a bit too much for him, but I know I’d love it. And if you think of a good way I can re-introduce it to him, let me know! =)

    • Comment by Adri:

      HI Amy,

      I hear you about the eggplant thing. I used to shun it myself. For some, it is just the look of it. I say – make this for guests, and see what he does. You could make this, but omit the ricotta and substitute a slice of mozzarella. Grill the eggplant to begin, just as the recipe says. Then top the eggplant with the mozzarella slice, run it under the broiler to heat and melt the cheese, and top it with the roasted tomatoes, oil and herbs. I will continue to think about this one!

  19. Comment by Ciao Chow Linda:

    You’re so right about choosing extra virgin olive oil that has a provenance you know and trust. Too many slippery choices out there. This one sounds terrific and the recipe you’ve posted is perfect to showcase it. Love the photo of the oil in the glass container!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Ciao Linda,

      No kidding about knowing the provenance. The good news here is that from tree to table, we have this one covered! With oil, even a fine one such as this, there is the added concern of its handling once it has left the hands of the maker. Did it sit on a hot ship or languish in a steamy warehouse? The truth is that like wine, oil is a living thing, and it needs to be handled with respect. I am loving this personal journey into the world of the olastra. Call me Norma.

      I wanted my readers to get a sense of the oil’s color and richness. I think Bart succeeded by passing the light through the oil and spilling out onto the towel. I will pass your compliment on to him.

  20. Comment by Raleigh Hussung:

    Pace is a wonderful oil! And, your recipe is lovely…Yum!

  21. Comment by Chiara:

    L’olio extra vergine è uno dei cardini della cucina mediterranea,sono veramente felice di aver letto questo post Adri, è pieno di utili informazioni e la ricetta è splendida, da copiare ! Buon weekend, un abbraccio !

    • Comment by Adri:

      Grazie, Chiara

      Si, davvero uno dei cardini. Anche l’olio, in particolare l’olio extra virgine è complesso, molto complicato e interessanti, parte scienza, parte arte. Grazie per le gentilissime parole. Un bacione, amica!

  22. Comment by Paola Lovisetti Scamihorn:

    Great recipe and great post. I particulary liked the information about the olive oil. It is complete and very interesting. The recipe sounds delicious, something to try. I love roasted vegetables and ricotta. Thanks for sharing Adri.

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