*Pictures from the Ojai Olive Grove were taken by my sister, the photographer behind Sorella Muse Photography and I took the pasta pictures. Don’t forget about the pasta recipe at the end of this post.
I can’t recall where it came from or how it started, but recently, I have had this inexplicable
desire NEED to visit an olive grove. I had been dreaming of traveling to Italy or Spain and spending time on an olive grove to learn all about the production of olive oil, a product I can’t get enough of. Anyways, Italy and Spain are out of the question for right now as I can’t leave work and I need to save up money. But with a little research I found out I could fulfill part of this need with a local trip to Ojai, California, just a few hours from my house.
I suggested to my sister that we take a sister day trip to Ojai, she was excited and then asked what inspired the trip…. I said, “olive oil of course”….. she said with a laugh, “ohhhh, you’re a special one”. This was the joke of the trip, that I would ask her to drive a few hours to see an olive grove and taste olive oil (it makes perfect sense to me). Plus, we had a lovely day filled with hiking and eating good vegan food, which I will feature in my next post! My sister offered to take the photos of our day trip, she is a very talented photographer. Seriously, you should check out her photos here.
Back to the olive oil. We drove up to Ojai Olive Oil Company and were immediately greeted by the intense smell of the olive trees. After finding our way to the office, in the green shelter, we jumped in mid-way through the tour in the tasting room (obviously my favorite part). The tasting room had several olive oils made on site from the 9 varieties of olives they grow and really unique vinegars that they import.
With a toothpick in hand, I reached for my bread and began to taste the Tuscan, Signature, Ladera and Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oils. I fell in love with their Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Next, I went for their balsamic vinegars, trying the Cinnamon-Pear, Blackberry-Ginger, Fig, Pomegranate and Raspberry. I knew from the first taste that I had to have the Fig Balsamic.
After tasting, we got a tour of the facility and grounds. I learned many great facts about olive oil trees and production:
#1 Color of Olives: goes from green to red to blue to purple to black. Depending on the geographical location, olives are picked at different times. Ojai Olive Oil Company picks their olives when they are black.
#2 Season: olives blossom in April/May and are picked anywhere from October- early January.
#3 Waiting Time: they wait 5 years to harvest olives from a new tree.
#4 Process: Ojai Olive Oil cold-presses their olives within hours of picking.
The people at Ojai Olive Oil Company could not be nicer, I really enjoyed the tour and highly recommend a day trip out to Ojai to experience this unique insight into the production of olive oil.
Now I obviously had to give you a good recipe inspired by this amazing olive oil that I took home! I wanted to make a simple pasta dish that highlighted the great flavor of this oil and incorporated some vegetable of course. I played around with the fresh flavors of olive oil, lemon, and organic red swiss chard to make this beautiful dish.
Lemon Garlic Pasta w/ Swiss Chard: Serves 2
4 oz whole-wheat thin spaghetti
2 tbs good quality olive oil ( I used the Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
1 tsp dried oregano
zest of half a lemon (make sure you wash and dry the lemon before you zest it)
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 large garlic cloves, minced
pinch of sea salt and black pepper
3/4 cup sweet grape tomatoes, washed quartered
3 large leaves of organic red swiss chard, washed, destemmed and sliced into thin strips
1. In a medium pot, bring salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions. I like my pasta al dente, so I cooked it for about 5 minutes. Set aside.
2. Combine olive oil, oregano, lemon zest, lemon juice, minced garlic, salt and pepper in a small bowl and mix well.
3. In a medium saute pan, heat 1 spoonful of the olive mixture for 1 minute. Next add the tomatoes and let cook for about 3 minutes, until the tomatoes begin to break down. Add the remaining olive mixture and swiss chard, cook for an additional 2 minutes.
4. Add the pasta to the sauce, mix well and heat for an additional minute, then serve.