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It's Olive Season

Olive me…. Why not take olive me… that’s the refrain heard throughout Sonoma County each winter, as we herald the official olive season. In fact, in January and February, Sonoma Valley celebrates the annual Olive Festival, with weeks of olive curing workshops, cooking demonstrations, a Blessing of the Olives ceremony at the historic San Francisco Solano de Sonoma Mission, gala dinners, and olive-related activities like soothing olive oil massages at top spas.

Thanks to our Mediterranean climate, we’re a prime growing area for the delicious briny fruit, and you’ll often see the stately trees growing next to vineyards. With olive ripening coming after the ripening of the grapes, harvesting the fruit keeps workers busy during what might otherwise be a slow season. We even press olive oil right here in Sonoma County – at McEvoy Ranch in Petaluma, DaVero Farms & Winery in Healdsburg, Terra Bella Vista Olive Oil Co. in Santa Rosa, BR Cohn in Glen Ellen, Dry Creek Olive Company in Healdsburg, to name a few of the top producers.

Much like wine, olive oil tastes of its terroir, and the fruit at its heart. Too often, the stuff sold in grocery stores can be bland, flavorless and cheap, so it’s very much worth it to spend more to get the good stuff showcasing depth, flavor and character. Profiles can range broadly, from green and grassy or buttery yellow, with vibrant spice or mild notes, hints of deep black pepper or a smooth punctuation, and bitter or silky aftertaste. What’s best depends simply on what tastes you prefer, and what recipe you’re using the oil for.

If you’re lucky enough to have your own olive trees, you can glean your own oil, too. The Olive Press on Hwy. 121/Arnold Drive is just what it sounds like: the very first olive mill in Sonoma.

Today, it produces award winning house made olive oil, crushes olives for local wineries and estates, and also crushes olives from small, home growers.

Once you’ve got your oil, treat it right. Premium oil shouldn’t be wasted in a sauté pan, but highlighted in dips, light dressings, and finishing drizzles for meats, poultry and fish.

This allows the flavors to shine, in delicate suggestions of green apple, green beans, grass, hay, butter, nettles, green banana or green tea.

Some oils boast extra flavors, too, infused with natural fruits, vegetables and spice. The Olive Press makes oils spiked with Pumpkin Spice, Hot Chile, Ginger Lime, White Truffle, Basil Parmesan, Roasted Garlic and Rosemary, Italian Herb, Blood Orange, Jalapeno, and Limonato. Try these bold flavors in your next recipe for an extra bit of zing.

Maple Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Courtesy of the Olive Press, Sonoma

Ingredients:

Cupcakes

  • 1/4 cup Olive Press Pumpkin Spice Oil
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ginger and nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp all purpose flour, sifted

 

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 4 ounces unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

Cupcakes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl mix together all the wet ingredients. In another bowl mix together the flour and spices. Add the flour mix to the wet ingredients and be careful to not over mix. Using an ice cream scoop (large or small) scoop the batter into muffin cups so they are 2/3 full. Bake 15-18 minutes until set. Let cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

In a large bowl, beat together the butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer. With the mixer on low speed, add the powdered sugar a cup at a time until smooth and creamy. Beat in the vanilla extract.

Notes: makes 24 large cupcakes or 48 mini-cakes

Suggested pairing: Jacuzzi's Pina Asolo Prosecco

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