Is your extra-virgin olive oil really what you think it is? According to Tom Mueller, the author of Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil, 70 per cent of the extra-virgin olive oil sold worldwide is watered down with other oils and enhancers. "Extra -virgin" is the only grade of oil that is made from the first pressing, immediately after the fruit is picked and without adding chemicals or heat. Ensure that your oil is labelled "extra virgin," since Mueller says that other categories like "pure" or "light" oil, "olive oil," and "olive pomace oil" have undergone chemical refinement which strips away olive flavours and health benefits.
How can you get a quality product that you trust? Get to know an olive oil producer, like Theo Rallis from Windsor, Ontario. Theo's extra-virgin olive oil is made by cold-pressing organic Korneiki olives that are grown on family-owned groves in a small Greek village called Soulinari, about four hours south of Athens and very close to Kalamata. The olives are picked and pressed the exact same day to help maintain the freshness of the olive, producing an incredible clean, fresh taste with a lingering peppery bite that I love.
How did your love of olive oil begin?
My love of olive oil actually began with a love for the land and the trees. I have many memories of working alongside my grandfather (and namesake) in his groves. It was important to my parents that my brother and I return to Greece often to connect with our roots. I don't think that they ever imagined where those visits would eventually take us.
Walk us through the production process for raw olive oil.
If I were to explain to my grandfather or any of his peers our process, they wouldn't be very impressed because we make olive oil the same way (for the most part) as they did and as their forefathers did. Admittedly, we are pressing a lot colder! Sadly due to consumer demand for cheap olive oil, many producers take shortcuts to satisfy the demand in the market. And what happens is that the market is flooded with olive oil that has been made in extreme heat and often cut with other oils.
What are the benefits of raw olive oil?
Many of us know that olive oil is beneficial in fighting many diseases including: heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, cancer etc. A simple Google search will be produce a list of studies and articles on the benefits of olive oil! RAW olive oil has never been heated (unlike many cold-pressed olive oils) meaning that all the healing properties of the olive are still in tact.
Do you have plans to introduce additional products?
In 2013 we plan on introducing hand-picked Kalamata olives from our farm and RAW Greek honey.
What is your proudest moment since the launch of Rallis?
I took a big risk when I walked away from my engineering career to do this. But I felt that I had to do something that had purpose and meaning. Each time I am at a market or trade show and someone tries the oil, and the light goes on and they get it -- I feel great pride! We have many customers that need our oil for health reasons. And I feel that my (and my family's) sacrifices were worth it because we have positively affected someone's life.
An interesting fact or personal memory about the business that people might not know?
The first time we ice-pressed our olives, many in the village thought that we were crazy! And actually yelled at me for trying to do such a stupid thing! No one had ever pressed at such cold temperatures. And what does a Canadian know about making olive oil?! After they tried the oil, they noticed the difference but are reluctant to admit that a Canadian can actually make olive oil.
What challenges do independent food producers face?
In Ontario, the lack of government funding and support for small producers. We have colleagues in Quebec and we are envious of the support their government gives them.
RAPID FIRE QUESTIONS:
What can always be found in your shopping basket? Fruit, love it all.
Where was the best meal of your life? My Yia Yia's boukes (Grandmother's Greek Pasta Dumplings)
Three words to describe Rallis? Integrity. Green. Tasty
Three words to describe you? Outside the box, visionary, family is always first
Favourite local foodmakers? There are so many amazing local producers; however, some of my favorites include: Caveman Crops (from Stratford, ON) -- their pickled jalepenos are outstanding; O'Shea Farms (from Granton, ON) -- we are so addicted to their Irish Pickles that we buy them by the case; and Pure Food (from Collingwood) -- it is worth a drive to Collingwood to buy a package of their RAW macaroons!
RECIPE FROM THE RALLIS FAMILY: PITA BREAD, MAPLE SYRUP & FETA CHEESE
The saltiness of the Greek Feta contrasts with the sweetness of pure Canadian Maple Syrup and the olive oil soaked pitas bring it all together in perfect harmony.
1 tablespoon dried yeast
1 tablespoon organic honey
1/2 cup warm water (plus extra water for dough)
4 1/2 cups organic white flour
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 tablespoons of Rallis RAW Icepressed Olive Oil
Combine yeast, honey and water in a bowl. Cover. Let stand in warm place until the mixture becomes frothy.
Stir flour and salt together in a separate bowl. Stir in yeast mixture and extra water. Mix to a soft dough.
Knead dough on a floured surface until smooth and elastic.
Let stand in a warm place for about one hour or the dough has doubled in size.
Divide dough into 12 pieces, roll each piece into a ball. Place balls on a floured baking sheet and let stand until they have doubled in size.
Roll each ball into a flat pita.
Brush a large, preheated frying pan with olive oil.
Place a pita in the pan. Cook on each side until the pita is a golden color.
Serve with crumbled Greek Feta and Canadian Maple Syrup and enjoy!
Soy foods are protein-rich, dairy-free ways to up your calcium intake. The average adult needs about 1,000 milligrams of this essential nutrient every day. A half-cup serving of tofu fortified with calcium (not all brands are prepared this way, CookingLight.com points out) contains about 25 percent of that. A cup of soybeans contains 261 milligrams of calcium, plus 108 milligrams of magnesium (more on that later).
Milk, cheese, yogurt and tofu won't do you much good without your daily dose of vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium. Most adults need about 600 international units (IU) of vitamin D each day, according to the National Institutes of Health. Research shows that women who get more than 500 IU a day are 40 percent less likely to fracture a hip, Women's Health reported. A three-ounce serving of sockeye salmon clocks in at nearly 450 IU, a can of sardines contains 178 IU and three ounces of canned tuna totals about 70 IU.
A number of breakfast options come fortified with a punch of vitamin D. For maximum bone benefit, look for a cereal brand with at least 10 percent of your recommended daily intake, CookingLight.com suggests. Flickr photo by S John Davey
Nuts -- like olive oil -- are rich in healthy fats and part of the typical Mediterranean diet, although the new study found a stronger relationship between healthy bones and a diet enriched with olive oil than a diet enriched with nuts. A one-ounce serving of almonds contains 80 milligrams of calcium, but it also packs nearly 80 milligrams of magnesium, another key player for strong bones. The average adult needs around 300 to 400 milligrams a day, according to the NIH.
Vitamin K "enable[s] certain bone forming proteins to do their job," Sarah Booth, Ph.D., director of the Vitamin K Laboratory at Tufts University in Boston told Women's Health. Eating more of this vitamin, found predominantly in foods like kale, spinach and Swiss chard, is linked to a lower risk of hip fracture, the magazine reported. Most adults should aim to get at least 90 to 120 micrograms a day, according to the Institute of Medicine. Just one cup of raw kale contains 547 and a cup of spinach has 145.
Some research suggests that a potassium-rich diet may counteract some of the decline in calcium absorption seen in the typical Western diet. The average adult needs about 4,700 milligrams of potassium a day. One medium sweet spud with skin has 542 milligrams and a medium white potato with the skin has 751 milligrams. Flickr photo by Vegan Feast Catering
Bananas are a well-known potassium gold mine, but don't often make lists of foods for healthy bones. However, at 422 milligrams for a medium fruit, they're not to be ignored. Flickr photo by (rinse)
Your favorite brand probably makes a variety of OJ fortified with both calcium and vitamin D, which can give your bone health a morning boost. But it may deliver even more bang for your buck: Studies have also shown that orange juice in general might help the body absorb calcium, Health.com reported. Flickr photo by ecooper99
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