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Sicilian Recipe of the Week: Pistacchio Cake

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Australia sets new Olive Oil Labeling Standards

At Mamamiafoods, we labels our products properly.

The standards, which came into affect last week, remove some of the confusing terms such as ‘light’ and ‘premium’, and require producers to clearly label whether their oil is fresh or refined.

President of the Australian Olive Association, Paul Miller, says the old labeling system didn’t allow consumers to easily distinguish between different grades of olive oil. ‘It’s causing confusion amongst consumers and that’s actually damaging the market,’ he said. ‘We think consumers should have the choice between extra virgin which is the premium product and then a second grade product which is still a type of olive oil but has been through a refinery and is a lower grade.’

The new standards will be voluntary, but CEO of Standards Australia Colin Blair doesn’t think this will discourage their adoption by producers. ‘With a lot of these things you get back to false and misleading claims and that’s where the ACCC would come in,’ he said. Paul Miller agrees that the standards provide clear guidelines for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to judge whether products are correctly labelled.

Audio
Listen to: Olive Oil
In this report: Paul Miller, president of the Australian Olive Association; Colin Blair, CEO of Standards Australia

Summer Salads

If you’re looking for some healthful summer salads which are easy to prepare and easy on the digestion, think seafood salads. Fish, shellfish and succulent delicacies such as squid and octopus are light and refreshing, but they are also filling enough, even in a salad, to make a satisfying main course for dinner. The bonus is that fresh seafood is a cinch to cook. In fact, the simpler the better, so the delicate flesh and flavor won’t be overwhelmed by other ingredients or fussy preparations.

Most fish pair well with every ingredient you might think to put in a salad. Halibut with cooked potatoes and green beans; tuna with golden beets and peas; shrimp with beans and corn. Use raw vegetables such as tomatoes and sliced carrots for color, avocado and jicama to provide a variety of textures, a sharp onion — scallion, red onion or chives — to add some vitality to the milder ingredients. Cooked vegetables work, too, and you can use the leftovers from last night’s dinner: kernels stripped from grilled or steamed corn on the cob, cut-up cooked broccoli or asparagus.

Think about sweeter foods too: orange segments with snapper or shrimp, dried cranberries with salmon, peaches with bluefish, for example. Or add chunks of cheese: feta, blue cheese and goat cheese would work with most fish. Deli items are suitable: tangy, imported olives and sun-dried tomatoes, for example. And to add more substance and appeal for those who may think a fish salad isn’t satisfying enough, you can include cooked pasta, whole grains and potatoes.

Salad needs dressing, of course. It’s tempting, especially in the summer when you don’t really feel like cooking, to open one of the bottled brands you bought at the supermarket. Don’t do it.

Bottled dressings are convenient, but they’re also salty and often contain unwanted additives. Homemade dressings take less than 5 minutes to mix. All you need are good olive oil and a piquant wine vinegar or citrus juice. Mix them to taste (the ratio is anywhere from 2:1 to 4:1 parts oil to acidic liquid, depending on your particular taste buds) and you’re done. Of course you can get creative by adding any fresh herb that might enhance the fish. Try these: dill, tarragon, thyme, mint, oregano or coriander. Or switch from olive oil to corn or canola, or mix in a little bit of almond or avocado oil for extra flavor. And use different vinegars for different salads; say, use rice wine vinegar on a shrimp salad, sherry vinegar with tuna. Or add a small amount of orange juice to bring out a sweeter taste. Experiment away. Make seafood salads this summer and you’ll never be bored with dinner.

Here’s a recipe for Grilled Halibut Salad with Avocado, Tomato, Olives and Egg with Herb-Garlic Toasts

Makes 4 servings
16-20 ounces halibut or other firm white fish such as cod
5 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 large hard-cooked eggs
1 large avocado
2 tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup coarsely cut imported black olives
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Heat an outdoor grill or oven broiler. Brush the fish with one tablespoon olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and grill or broil for about 4 minutes per side or until cooked through. Cut into bite-sized chunks and set aside. Cut the eggs, avocado and tomatoes into chunks and place in a bowl. Add the olives and fish and toss ingredients gently. In a small bowl mix the remaining olive oil, lemon juice, Parmesan cheese and mustard. Pour over the ingredients and toss gently. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let rest for 10-15 minutes before serving over Herb-Garlic Toasts (2 per person).

Herb and Garlic Toasts
Makes 8
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 1/2-inch slices Italian bread
1 large clove garlic, mashed
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Heat the oven to 425 degrees (or use an outdoor grill). Brush a small amount of the olive oil on one side of each slice of bread. Mix the remaining olive oil, garlic, parsley and lemon peel in a small bowl. Place the bread slices, oiled side up on a cookie sheet. Bake for 3 minutes. Turn the slices over and spread with the olive oil-parsley mixture. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese. Bake for 3-4 minutes or until crispy. Let cool.

Enjoy some delicious salads this summer and remember to use your Mamamiafoods 100% Italian Extra-Virgin Olive Oil!

Argentina: Still the third world

Here in Sicily, a laborer can earn up to 50 Euros ($70+) per day picking olives from the trees for us to process. That’s not a bad wage at all for low-skilled manual labor, is it? It’s a different story in Argentina, however, where low-skilled manual laborers earn between $2.46 and $3.45 for every 44-pound bag they fill with olives according to this report: Lack of Farm Workers in Argentina Weakens Vulnerable Olive Oil Industry.

In 2011 olive cultivation in Cuyo is expected to grow an astonishing 40 percent, but nearly half of this green gold will never make it to store shelves. There are simply not enough workers to harvest the olives, which must be individually handpicked and harvested. Industry leaders say they have never seen such a scarcity of labor in both the olive and grape sectors, despite a 2010 presidential decree providing migrant workers with universal child allowance and other benefits. In general Bolivian workers, not native Argentines, are the ones who rely on these services, but rarely access them due to the enormous time and effort it takes to get on the social assistance payroll. Still many workers receive the government handouts yet don’t report to work. Bolivians are superior workers, according to Arizu, who says that a typical Bolivian can produce 14 bags of olives a day whereas the average Argentine laborer brings in just eight.

At $2.46 per sack, 14 sacks of olives amounts to about $35, or nearly half what a laborer in Sicily would earn for a day’s work. It appears that Argentina’s olive oil producers are in a bind — they don’t have enough laborers to harvest their crops, but if they increase wages to attract the laborers, they’ll be uncompetitive in the global market, where olive oil prices have sunk due to the fact that so many major producers are not meeting global standards for quality and are blending their olive oil with cheaper oils and cutting corners across the board. Such is the way of things. Mamamiafoods doesn’t cut corners and we don’t water our oils down like so many competitors do, yet we still beat them on price. We account for more than 40% of all olive oil produced in Sicily in and Southern Italy, and that’s why.

Harvesting olives pays well if you work for the industry's high quality firms.

More Bad Labeling

Well, faulty advertising on the label is not restricted to Olive Oil.

Labels for Del Monte Seafood Cocktail Sauce, Contadina Pizza Sauce, Classico Tomato & Basil Pasta Sauce, and other tomato sauces, spaghetti sauces, and purees deceptively claim they are “Made from California Vine-ripened Tomatoes,” contain “Select 100% California Tomatoes,” or use “only the finest tomatoes” when, in fact, they are reconstituted from industrial tomato concentrate. In a letter to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the National Consumers League (NCL) urged the agency to warn the food industry that claims implying that products are made from fresh ingredients when they are actually made from concentrate are deceptive under federal law. NCL also reiterated its 2009 request that FDA require that all fruit and vegetable products remanufactured from concentrate state “From Concentrate” on the fronts of food packages. “Consumers are paying premium prices for products that imply they are made from fresh ingredients, but are really remanufactured from concentrate,” said Sally Greenberg, Executive Director of NCL.

Here's a product you don't want to buy.

But wait, there’s good news: Mamamiafoods sells Tomato Sauce and it’s a 100% authentic Italian product made with fresh ingredients!

A View Inside

Here’s a special treat from Mamamiafoods: a glimpse inside one of our oleificios (what would be called “oil mills” in English). This is one of our several Sicilian mills:

Some of our tanks:

Another view of the outside:

And here you can see that Mamamiafoods still uses the same old stone pressing technique which assures you that our meticulous adherence to the ancient production methods provides the highest possible quality of olive oil. This is the absolute best method for extracting oil from the olive — far superior to centrifuge machines or chemical techniques:

Here’s a view of the factory floor where the olives are examined and sorted and sifted:

State of the art equipment for testing and packaging:

Hope you enjoyed this brief tour of one of our plants. When I tell you we’re the best at what we do, clearly I’m not joking!

Health Benefits of Olive Oil

Olive Oil is a natural juice which preserves the taste, aroma, vitamins, and properties of the olive fruit. Olive oil is the only vegetable oil which can be consumed as it is – freshly pressed from the fruit. The beneficial health effects of olive oil are due to both its high content of monounsaturated fatty acids and its high content of antioxidative substances. Studies have shown that olive oil offers protection against heart disease by controlling LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels while raising HDL (the “good” cholesterol) levels. No other naturally produced oil has as large an amount of monounsaturated as olive oil -mainly oleic acid. Olive oil is very well tolerated by the stomach. In fact, olive oil’s protective function has a beneficial effect on ulcers and gastritis. Olive oil activates the secretion of bile and pancreatic hormones much more naturally than prescribed drugs. Consequently, it lowers the incidence of gallstone formation.

1st Press 100% Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Madonia.

Studies have shown that people who consumed 25 milliliters (ml) – about 2 tablespoons – of virgin olive oil daily for 1 week showed less oxidation of LDL cholesterol and higher levels of antioxidant compounds, particularly phenols, in the blood. But while all types of olive oil are sources of monounsaturated fat, extra virgin olive oil, from the first pressing of the olives, contains higher levels of antioxidants, particularly vitamin E and phenols, because it is less processed. Olive oil is clearly one of the good oils, one of the healing fats. Most people do quite well with it since it does not upset the critical omega 6 to omega 3 ratio and most of the fatty acids in olive oil are actually an omega-9 oil which is monounsaturated. Additionally, researchers suggest that including olive oil in your diet may also offer benefits in terms of colon cancer prevention.