Valentine’s Day is next week, which leaves us thinking about gifts that break the chocolate-and-flowers mold. We were suddenly reminded of an email we received from Virginia Del Giudice, a reader in Argentina, who used my simple Lemon Olive Oil recipe from A New Way to Cook to make Christmas presents. We thought this would be a lovely homemade Valentine’s gift as well, especially for someone who likes to cook.
Virginia went the extra mile and made beautiful labels for the bottles:
“I designed the labels with my computer and printed at home on a thin green paper I kept a long time in a drawer. It had some wrinkles but I found that nice and didn’t want to correct it! It has a feeling of old times. In small text I wrote your suggestions for usage.”
Virginia was kind enough to share her labels, which you can find here. They’re in Spanish, but you can always fill in your own English text (or keep the Spanish, which is lovely and adds some flair). I was thinking that all dressed up like this, this oil would make a lovely untraditional Valentine’s Day gift for someone who loves to cook. Chocolate is always great, but who doesn’t love something a little different.
I’ve gotta say, I’m humbled and excited that people are still discovering and enjoying A New Way to Cook. That was the book that got me into helping people improvise with food, and really was one of the first inspirations for this blog. I was honored when the Guardian named it one of the best food books of the decade, but the biggest honor is knowing people are putting it to good use. The Lemon Olive Oil recipe and story behind it is after the cut!
Recipe: Lemon Olive Oil
At olive oil making time in the Abruzzo and Molise regions of Italy, lemons are often added to the last pressing to clean and freshen the press for the next season. The resulting oil, called limonato, is an intense olive oil redolant with lemon. Since the real thing is both expensive and hard to find, I make my own version by grinding lemon peel in a mortar with gutsy olive oil. This oil marries the perfume of olive and lemons without acidity from lemon juice. It is splendid on many foods – practically anything you would dress with olive oil – especially vegetables like roasted peppers, fennel and eggplant and fresh fish. It is great for improvising quick pasta dishes – like fresh fettucine, chopped arugula, Parmesan and pepper. It makes a superb salad dressing when mixed with a dry fragrant vinegar such as Banyuls or Cava. Balsamic overly accentuates the sweetness of the lemon.
With a vegetable peeler or a citrus zester, remove the peel from 1 lemon in thin strips. (Take care to avoid the bitter white pith). In a mortar or medium stainless steel or wooden bowl, combine the lemon peel and a pinch of salt. Pound and crush the peel with a pestle for several minutes to extract the oils. Use a circular motion to crush the peel against the bottom of the bowl as you dribble in the 1/2 cup fruity extra virgin olive oil a little at a time and continue working the peel this way for about a minute. Set the oil aside to infuse at least 1 hour before serving and up to 8 hours until it is fragrant with lemon (If you let it steep too long, it will begin to taste like candy). Strain into a clean, dry jar.
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