`Pouring on the Olive Oil for Thanksgiving

Food & Cooking

Pouring on the Olive Oil for Thanksgiving

Oct. 26, 2015
Lori Zanteson

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Fresh, qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil is a rel­a­tively new con­cept for many of us who are just begin­ning to enjoy the bound­less options its fla­vors add to our culi­nary world. With Thanks­giv­ing on its way, the olive oil is flow­ing in the cre­ative minds and kitchens of chefs and home cooks alike. There’s no bet­ter time to get inspired by new ways to infuse a lit­tle olive oil into this year’s feast.

Tra­di­tion often reigns over the Thanks­giv­ing feast. It’s likely a few untouch­ables — those dishes that have remained unchanged for gen­er­a­tions — take prece­dence in the cen­ter of the hol­i­day spread. At the risk of upset­ting the fam­ily har­mony, it’s prob­a­bly not wise to mess with these, but cer­tainly there’s room for a sub­tle twist.

Cur­tis Cord, pub­lisher of Olive Oil Times, keeps pretty close to the play­book” when it comes to the tra­di­tional side dishes his fam­ily loves. Cord includes but­ter in his family’s favorites, but he’s found that includ­ing a few choice extra vir­gin olive oils can ele­vate the tastes from their bland but­tery base.”

That ele­va­tion of taste is one way olive oil really shines at the hol­i­day table. It takes the expected hol­i­day fare and enhances ingre­di­ents with a range of fla­vors and strengths. Where but­ter may dis­guise or dom­i­nate the nat­ural accents of ingre­di­ents, olive oil accen­tu­ates and com­ple­ments them in a way that is pleas­antly unex­pected. Mashed pota­toes are the per­fect exam­ple of a Thanks­giv­ing stan­dard that tra­di­tion­ally relies on but­ter.

Sandy Son­nen­felt of The Pasta Shop in Berke­ley, Cal­i­for­nia, sug­gests sub­sti­tut­ing olive oil for the cream and but­ter this year. She rec­om­mends a really nice but­tery olive oil, not one with a lot of green notes because you want that com­fort fla­vor.”

Spuds of the fluffy white vari­ety are not the only bene­fac­tors of a qual­ity extra vir­gin. I par­tic­u­larly like it on yams or sweet pota­toes,” Son­nen­felt says. Take them out of the oven, open the skins, driz­zle with olive oil and add spice: salt, pep­per, cin­na­mon and brown sugar.” She also likes to spice them with zaatar, a Mid­dle East­ern spice blend of thyme, sumac, and roasted sesame seeds.


Olive oil is a nat­ural when paired with sea­sonal veg­eta­bles for this hol­i­day spread. Son­nen­felt is fond of an olive oil and bal­samic vinai­grette for a Thanks­giv­ing salad, while Trader Joe’s Cook­book author, Deana Gunn likes to exper­i­ment with a vari­ety of olive oil based vinai­grettes mixed with vine­gars of sev­eral vari­eties like red wine, cham­pagne or apple cider, as well as mus­tards and herbs. When the heat is on, Gunn chooses a com­bi­na­tion of but­ter and olive oil to sauté her veg­gies. The higher smoke point of olive oil and the fla­vor of but­ter com­bined give her the best of both worlds.” She also sug­gests toss­ing roasted veg­eta­bles with olive oil, salt and pep­per for a sim­ple yet fla­vor­ful result.

Brus­sels sprouts or hari­cots verts are the greens of choice on Cord’s fam­ily table. I just boil the Brus­sels sprouts to soften them, slice them into quar­ters and sauté in a pep­pery EVOO and sprin­kle with sea salt,” explains Cord. The hari­cot vert I steam for almost no time and toss in a mild extra vir­gin like the one from Berke­ley Olive Grove I’m using now. String beans shouldn’t have a kick. They look beau­ti­ful and a nice fruity EVOO is just what they deserve.”

There’s no need to hold out for the big feast before daz­zling guests with a fusion of olive oil inspired fla­vors. When so many gath­er­ings start early on, appe­tiz­ers pro­vide the per­fect oppor­tu­nity to prime those palates while catch­ing up with friends and fam­ily.

Son­nen­felt, whose fam­ily loves to linger for hours on Thanks­giv­ing, serves veg­eta­bles to dip in olive oil mixed with the Egypt­ian spice, dukkah. She empha­sizes the ver­sa­til­ity of olive oil based dips and spreads like a lima bean scordalia. Scordalia com­bines a bean of choice, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pep­per. Son­nen­felt describes it as a sim­ple, deli­cious dish for veg­eta­bles, as a spread on cros­tini or a cracker.”

Cer­tainly the main attrac­tion deserves a brush with the oil. Rub the turkey with olive oil,” says Gunn. For extra fla­vor, com­bine the olive oil with dried herbs, salt, black pep­per, and crushed gar­lic before rub­bing on the turkey. For the herbs, use a com­bi­na­tion of dried sage and thyme or use a poul­try herb blend.”

Cord takes it to the next level by upping the pre­sen­ta­tion. What I’ve noticed can really send this fam­ily stand-by over the edge is dress­ing it at the table with a robust olive oil. I just zig-zag the fresh EVOO over the whole plate before the steam brings the sub­lime aro­mas right back to me. Count on me to do that Thurs­day. Turkey meat loves extra vir­gin olive oil.”

Dessert is not to be missed on this hol­i­day. Har­vest fla­vors of pump­kin and apple warmly spiced with cin­na­mon and cloves tempt even those with the fullest bel­lies. What bet­ter way to bake than with olive oil? Most peo­ple don’t think about using olive oil in their sweet or savory baked goods,” Gunn explains. The fla­vor of a mild or light olive oil will not be detected and the fruiti­ness of it will com­ple­ment the other fla­vors in baked sweets. When mak­ing pump­kin bread, oat­meal cook­ies, cakes, or pie crust, sub­sti­tute a mild olive oil for but­ter and use about 1/4 less than the amount of but­ter you would nor­mally use.”

Hope­fully ideas are churn­ing with ways to enhance this year’s Thanks­giv­ing feast with the pun­gent kick or the fruity fla­vors of a few favorite extra vir­gin olive oils. The pos­si­bil­i­ties are end­less any time of year but espe­cially dur­ing the hol­i­day sea­son, let the olive oil flow!

This arti­cle was orig­i­nally pub­lished Novem­ber 12, 2010.

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