I’m so excited about today’s post! Not just because I have a lovely Fennel Salad to share, loaded with roasted beets, shaved asparagus, toasted walnuts and Asiago cheese.
I adore crisp fennel salad, no matter the variety. Some pair fennel with citrus segments, others with apples and celery. However, something about the cool anise flavor of fennel against hot roasted beets makes my heart sing. Add thin slivers of raw asparagus and rich nutty Asiago and walnuts, and I am a happy, happy girl.
Yet this fennel salad recipe is not even the best part of today’s post.
I’ve discovered something special that many of you may not know about, Theros Olive Oil.
Last summer my husband and I spent a day at the Asheville Food and Wine Festival. We meandered through the aisles sipping regional wines and nibbling small plates from local chefs. Half way through the day we passed an unassuming booth offering olive oil samples. Over the years I’ve tried dozens and dozens of brands of olive oil in specialty oil shops, so uninterested, I sauntered on. Luckily, I glanced down at the table, and noticed a large dipping bowl of olive oil. I was immediately struck by the rich green color, and I do mean GREEN. Some olive oils have a tinge of green in appearance, but this oil was OLIVE GREEN.
Of course I had to stop and taste it. Immediately I was struck, again, by the intensity and freshness of the flavor. I had honestly never tasted olive oil like this.
(My photo is not quite doing the color justice, but you get the idea.)
I often share companies with products I enjoy, but I’m always careful to not use verbiage that could possibly be misconstrued, or taken as emotional. That being said, I have no hesitation in telling you that Theros Olive Oil is the best olive oil I’ve ever tasted. By far.
After speaking with Niko Theros, I understand why.
The Theros family farm is 100 acres of coastal land in Koroni, located in the southwest region of Messinia, Greece, just an hour south of the city of Kalamata. Messinia receives the highest annual rainfall in the country and is considered the best climate for growing olives. The name actually translates, “The Mother of Olive.”
Niko’s family had lived on the farm for over eight generations, yet after World War II, his grandparents moved to the United States for a fresh start. They made a historic voyage by boat, arriving at Ellis Island with their seven children. His grandparents later settled in Brevard, NC, making this region feel like home to Niko.
After finishing his degree in horticulture, Niko wanted to explore his roots and decided to move back to Greece for a couple years. His grandfather’s best friend had been keeping watch over the Theros farm for decades, and was thrilled to teach Niko the secrets of farming olives.
Theros olive oil is special for several reasons. First and foremost, the olives are hand-picked at their peak and pressed in the village within 48 hours, to obtain the highest degree of freshness. The oil is then stored in 55 gallon barrels Niko calls “time capsules” because they are specially insulated to block light, air, and temperature. The barrels are shipped to the US, then Niko only opens them as needed, bottling small amounts at a time to insure freshness.
Second, ALL Theros Olive Oil comes from the family farm. Niko explained, the reason the color and taste are so vibrant, compared to other olive oils, is that every other company he knows of, collects oil from different villages and regions, then pools them together. He also revealed that this happens throughout the whole Mediterranean region, so that some olive oils labeled “Greek” may only be 20% Greek, the rest coming from surrounding countries. This commingling process dilutes the intensity of the better oils and creates a lower quality product all together. This is the standard practice worldwide.
Niko carefully handles the olive oil process, producing pure, organic, highly extra-virgin (meaning super low acidity) olive oil, free of chemicals and additives. The difference is obvious in taste and appearance. Because of all the love put into this oil, Niko INSISTS that it should be enjoyed RAW, in its natural state. Of course you can cook with it, but doing so reduces the health benefits and extraordinary flavor.
Drizzle this amazing olive oil over a gorgeous Fennel Salad with Roasted Beets and Shaved Asparagus, and you have a thing of beauty on your hands.
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