Author Archives: ann

Spring 2017

 

It is finally Spring! Happy Spring!

Spring is for seeds, chickens, eggs, plants, gardens, blossoms, and fun.

Seeds are in the ground, seeds and plants are in the greenhouse, and baby chickens huddle under a warm light in the coop. They look as if they are under a grow light; each day they grow bigger and eat more.

The new baby girls are a Barnvelder, a Barred Rock, an Egyptian Fayoumi, a couple of Golden Hens, a white Delaware and a couple of Bantams with feathered feet. They are sooo little and look like they are walking on fuzz and shavings. Keeping them hydrated and fed is a three times a day job. The little girls need so much food at this time of their little life.

The new yellow portable chicken coop is almost built and now the older girls can go out into the grove to bug and scratch. It has a sign that says “Last One in is a Rotten Egg”! They have warm nest boxes and a lot of room to scratch in the grass. It will be a fun addition to the Farm. You will be able to meet them when you book a Farm Tour!

The older girls give us white, brown, and blue eggs. These are well used by our Sous Chef Darren in Kitchen in the Grove. The frittatas are marvelous, let alone the French omelets and pickled eggs.

Executive Chef Gloria will teach a Spring Brunch class on April 9 and use eggs in almost every dish; Hollandaise, Sabayon, egg white frittata. I will provide a “surprise egg” for the class that everyone will enjoy. It will be an egg-cellent day!

We have two organic gardens at our Farm. The herb garden is located in the back of the Visitors Center, while the main garden is located near the mill and groves.

The herb garden is used for edible flowers and herbs for the Kitchen in the Grove. Yesterday I planted Johnny jump ups, marigolds, parsley, and thyme. Seeds for bush beans and wax beans went in just before the rain.  Nasturtiums in many colors will pop up very soon and will be delicious on our tasting plates. The delightful color and taste of edible flowers make everything in life better. The oregano, upright pine rosemary, borage and lemon grass have overwintered very well and love their spots. Basil, sorrel, chives, and chervil will be going in very soon.  The mint surprisingly needs replanting, but this is after 5 years. The mint at our other farm grew right through the asphalt driveway! Hint: always plant mint by itself in its very own box to prevent it from growing over the house!

Many of our plants come from Morningsun Herb Farm in Vacaville. It is a great resource for really healthy and diverse herbs and plants. We will partner with them in June for the Vacaville Lavender Days. Save the Date for June 3. Il Fiorello will host an all Lavender Dinner in the Pavilion, presented by our Executive Chef, Culinary Curator, Gloria Ciccarone-Nehls.

We planted Fava Beans in December; they are now 4 feet tall and full of blossoms. We will be serving different Fava dishes until next year! Fava puree, Fava beans with oil, Parmesan cheese & salt, Fava bean with fresh pasta, Favas with oil and crostini… the list goes on!

(Read further for one of our favorite Fava Recipes)

Aphids love the fava beans, so we have little red lady bugs doing their job to combat the problem. Tiny red finches are also having a great time cleaning the beans.

Down in the main organic garden, the artichoke plants are HUGE. Our friend Denis from Italy said this would not be an Italian garden without artichokes, so now we are “official’. We also have red and yellow onions, garlic, and leeks. The potatoes are loving the rain- we will have great yellow, red and blue ones! Two very small but healthy caper bushes are growing slowly, and hopefully will reward us with capers to pickle for charcuterie plates. Zucchini is in abundance, especially the delicious ones with yellow stripes. Pumpkins and melons will come later this summer, but watch out- we have 10 varieties of each!

Nick has gone wild in the greenhouse with melons, squash, cucumbers, beans, and lots more. We even have a Desi and Delicata squash popping up. We started small, white, flavorful French beans called Tarbias for next winter’s French cassoulet. At 5 days the beans are sprouting and healthy. I am looking forward to that spectacular presentation. The scarlet runner beans and borlotti beans are growing well. They have been a consistent winner on our tasting plates. We even have Chinese long beans this year! Our beans come from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Look in their Whole Seed catalog for many great varieties.

We are also growing watermelon cucumbers. These tiny round cucumbers look like miniature watermelons. They are so cute and very delicious when fresh, but even better when pickled. Kuri Squash is an easy grower that produces a deep red-orange teardrop-like squash. My friend Colleen and I use this squash instead of pumpkin in a chocolate Bundt cake recipe. It produces an extra moist and deep dark delicious flavor. We make this over and over for all our guests. Colleen made this cake for dessert at Thanksgiving. A spectacular and delicious presentation!

Sunflowers are growing, preparing to grace our tables for dinners and luncheons, and also to help feed the birds. We have 7 different varieties: short, tall, yellow, red, and crimson. So beautiful!

The tomatoes will go in the ground in two weeks. We have 30 different varieties, including red current, and blue cherries for our tasting plates. We will coordinate with the Downtown Fairfield Tomato Festival with an onsite tomato demonstration and tastings. So much fun to look forward to!

Our Farm wouldn’t be complete without our olives beginning to set blossoms. It is looking like a great year so far!

Come visit and see for yourself and see how we are growing.

 


 

Recipe: Oil Drenched Fava Beans with Parmesan

Prepare Fava beans:

  1. Hull the beans from their large furry pod (the pods are good for our compost)
  2. Cook the beans in boiling water for about 5 minutes
  3. Rinse in cool water until you are able to touch them
  4. Pop out the beans from their jackets (the jackets go into compost also)
  5. Dress in a robust oil, I prefer Frantoio, add salt, pepper to taste
  6. Dress with thin shavings of Parmesan cheese

Serve with fresh bread and a glass of crisp, dry white wine. We are currently pouring a lovely 2016 Albarino from Turkovich Family Wines- come by for a taste.

 

Ciao

Ann

 

 

The Health Benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

 

Great Taste and Great for You!

Certified Extra Virgin Olive Oil, the highest quality in California, has significant health benefits.

Antioxidants, polyphenols, flavonoids all mean improved taste and health. Look for the seal of certification and the harvest and mill dates. The fresher the better. The main type of fat in vegetable oils, polyunsaturated fat, encourages oxidation. Excessive oxidation increases the risk of heart disease, cancer, and general aging.  In contrast, certified extra virgin olive oil, contains a rich amount of monounsaturated fat, preventing oxidation.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil also contains a number of phenols that act as antioxidants which will lower oxidation and therefore increases the health benefits. A study from Spain, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2013, evaluated the prevention of cardiovascular Disease with the Mediterranean Diet. The results of the study concluded that “in this primary prevention trial, it was observed that an energy-unrestricted Mediterranean diet, supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts, resulted in a substantial reduction in the risk of major cardiovascular events among high-risk person. It supports the benefits of the Mediterranean diet for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease.” The interventions were intended to improve the overall dietary pattern of the study groups.

SIMPLE:  Consider your food choices. Eat good, fresh, colorful food, with variety and balance, and use good certified olive oil. A plant based diet is best and supported in research. Avoid prepackaged foods, and “noise” from the media. There is no single magic bullet to health. But the simple action of eating good food with certified Extra Virgin Olive Oil, can make an impressive difference.

There are “foodie gurus” who are proponents of healthy nutrition. Mary Flynn, Marion Nestle, and Alice Waters.

Mary Flynn, Ph.D. from Brown University, says that Extra Virgin Olive Oil may be the one true super food. Not by itself but with a plant based or plant centered diet. The Mediterranean Diet is a subsistence diet with foods, fruits, and vegetables that you can grow in your back yard or buy at a local farmers market. Meats are usually very limited, because of the expense and availability. Flynn has taught that the cornerstone foods of the Mediterranean Diet are Extra Virgin Olive Oil, vegetables (with particular emphasis on those with deep color and those from the cruciferous family), and starches/grains, whole grains, with minimal lean animal protein.

Marion Nestle, Ph.D., M.P.H. Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University, is a professor of Sociology at NYU and a visiting professor of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell University. Her degrees include a BA (Phi Beta Kappa) a Ph.D. in molecular biology and an M.P.H. in public health nutrition, all from the University of California, Berkeley.  She is the Chair of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University, and has nutrition at the UCSF School of Medicine. She was a senior nutrition policy advisor in the Department of Health and Human Services and editor of the Surgeon General’s Report on Nutrition and Health. She is a very important supporter of healthy plates for children and adults, and an outspoken advocate of good balanced nutrition.

Alice Waters, from Chez Pannise restaurant in Berkeley, and her involvement in the Farm to Table movement (an ancient way of eating) and Slow Food has guided people to address the importance of fresh and healthy food in their everyday diet. A vision she presents daily at her restaurant.

Healthy nutrition with great olive oil may be one of the best recommendations from these gurus. But here are reasons to be wary when you are purchasing olive oil.  Olive oil is one of the most adulterated foods bought here in the United States. These, mainly imported oils, are refined and adulterated with vegetable oil. The vegetable oil is refined with high heat and chemicals and then added to lower quality olive oil. Most of the oils sold in the US in supermarket shelves is fraudulent oil and is rancid. My staff and I taste tested some of the “supermarket oils” and were not surprised by the rancidity of nearly all.  Follow the numbers, it costs less because of the adulteration. Usually these oils are owned by huge multinational conglomerates.

Fraudulent olive oil is a great problem in the United States. Oil that is labeled as extra virgin oil, without certification, with unknown herbs and vinegar in the same bottle is illegal and is an inferior quality oil.  Adulterated oil is bad for you as a consumer, bad for your health, and bad for your pocketbook.

Today, I tasted an oil that espoused the health benefits of olive oil but was not certified, was not olive oil and was beyond rancid. There were no harvest and mill dates, and was bottled in a clear bottle. The taste and the aroma was horrible.

Certification is an important documentation on each bottle, harvest mill date tells you when the oil is made. At IL Fiorello, we have chosen not to use “Best by” dates as each oil is different. Again fresh is best.

In summary use Extra Virgin Olive Oil for improved taste profiles, learn varietal differences, and enjoy the health benefits of certified oil.

Choose healthy foods with great taste that will result in a better you.

We challenge you to explore different food choices and Extra Virgin Olive Oil parings to expand your palate.

Ciao to good health

 

Ann

 

 

Citrus at IL Fiorello

 

The gift of sun. The citrus at IL Fiorello are wonderful. They seem to love the sun at the farm and give us fabulous fruit. We use all of our fruit in our Kitchen in the Grove for our dinners, tasting menus, and cooking classes.

 

We have many varieties here on our farm. Eureka lemons, Meyer lemons, Variegated pink lemons, Genoa and Femminello Santa Teresa lemons, Buddha’s Hand, French Bouquet de Fleur, Seville Sour orange, Valencia orange, Kefir limes and sweet kumquats. Pomelos that grow as huge as softballs. Moro and Sanguinella Blood oranges. The unusual and beautiful Australian Fingerling limes, and we hope to have Calamansi to plant this coming year.

So what do you do with all those lemons, oranges and limes? Eat the oranges, make orange marmalade, and use the limes in your favorite drinks. We squeeze blood oranges making deep red juice and mix it with sparkling wine on New Year’s Day or even tonight or Sunday brunch.

Our Sous Chef Darren has been making candied lemon and orange peels. We also have been drying the citrus in our dehydrator and grinding it for citrus powder. It is just great on popcorn paired with our olive oils.

The process of candying the citrus is pure kitchen chemistry and gives a fabulous result.  It is not for the faint of heart dealing with sugar and water and the resulting very hot caramel. Dissolve one cup sugar and one cup water and heat until dissolved. Continue heating the mixture until the sugar and water is fully combined and starting to look slightly golden.  Carefully add the slices of oranges or lemons and then continue cooking over medium heat until the citrus is cooked through and translucent. When the caramel it is just turning from light brown to dark brown remove from the heat. Be careful as the caramel is very hot and sticky. With a fork, gently remove the slices and place on a drying tray. Leave until thoroughly dry and fully cool. Make a mixture of melted dark chocolate and your favorite olive oil and dip the cooled citrus to make a delicious dessert. Enjoy.

Another hint from the kitchen, we love affogato, espresso poured over vanilla gelato, topped with whipped cream and garnished with bits of candied orange peel.

 

And best of all, make Limoncello

 

This quintessential Italian drink is made with the greatest care and tradition with beautiful sun ripened lemons.

Mark and I have been making Limoncello for 30 years. It is such a treat to live in California and have an abundance of lemons. Choose your most favorite lemon and enjoy making your own Limoncello.

 

 

Making Limoncello

This is what you will need:

The peels of 6 or 7 large organic lemons (no pith)

1 quart of pure grain alcohol (Everclear will do just fine)

4 cups water

3 cups sugar or more sugar if you like a sweeter Limoncello.

 

Make:

Soak the lemon peels (no white pith) in the pure grain alcohol.

Yes the very potent stuff. DON’T use vodka. The vodka imparts an off taste. Use only the pure stuff.

This must sit for at least 6-8 weeks. Longer is no problem if you forget it in the back of the pantry.

Combine the sugar and water until it is completely dissolved

Drain the infused alcohol into a lovely bottle

Discard the lemon peel (or it save for roasting inside a chicken)

Combine the alcohol with simple syrup the usual proportion is half and half

Adjust to your taste

Chill and enjoy.

 

The proportions are up to you, sweeter, more simple syrup or a more concentrated simple syrup; tangier let the lemon peel soak for a little longer. Keep in a cool dark place until the perfect moment to enjoy a glass.

Serve ice cold in beautiful tasting glasses at the end of a perfect meal.

Serve with a little sparkling wine mixed half and half for a very refreshing aperitif

Sunshine in a glass.

 

 

 

Ciao

Ann

 

 

Competition Oil

 

 

At IL Fiorello we consider olive oil competitions very important for one major reason, to make sure our oils are as good as, or better than, the rest of the oils in the world.

Just last year we won 24 individual awards. It is so important to benchmark our oils with others.

Medals are wonderful to display, but the quality of the oils speak for themselves. The real question is how to make a decision about what oils go to what competitions.

 

 

How do we decide what oils and what competitions to enter?  We have 19 oils for presentation this year. Most companies make 2 or 3 oils. That is what makes us very unique in this business, a large number of single varietal oils for presentation. We are considering entering 7 competitions this year, including the New York International Olive Oil Competition, the Los Angeles International Competition, the Yolo County Fair (the oldest competition in California), Napa, and a few other selected events.

 

So how do we begin this process?

To start we have all our oils certified extra virgin. We submit the oils to a required chemistry test that certifies the quality of the oils. This chemistry panel also accompanies the oils to each competition for verification of extra virgin status.

Next we have all the oils taste tested by a professional panel of certified tasters from the Applied Sensory Panel, led by Sue Langstaff. Ms. Langstaff is the Panel leader and editor of the internationally known book, Olive Oil Sensory Science.

Next, with our staff we convene a review meeting to assess the results of the mandated certification process.

The next step is to make a grid of all the competitions, the judges, and our past awards.

 

Our staff then re-tastes the oils that won from last year and then re- taste the oils we made this year, one more time. Senior staff then analyze the responses. We compare all the results and make decisions about each oil and each competition.

Another significant factor is to assess the budget for competition entries. Each competition requires at least 2 bottles of oil and entry fees ranging between $80 and $300 per sample. Add the shipping fees and you have a considerable expense.

Then you wait to hear the results. It is a roll of the dice.

So far, we have been very successful in competitions. This year is another year and time will tell.

So enjoy the oil, use it well and often in good health.

 

 

Ciao

Ann

 

 

January at the Farm

 

What do we do in January at an Olive Farm and Mill?

 

olives-in-mist-9

 

Celebrate the New Year and say thank you to all our guests, growers, and staff!

The biggest job of all!  Clean the mill

Certify all our oils as Extra Virgin, done and completed – all pass with flying colors!

Make decisions about competitions, what oils to what competitions and why

Make Limoncello from our wonderful citrus trees

Make homemade barrel aged manhattans – a treat in a few months

Put away (sadly) all the Christmas decorations as we loved our Ginger Bread House

Get ready for Super Bowl Sunday treats here at The Farm

Order seeds for the garden

Order trees and replant

Plant early seeds in the greenhouse

Build retaining walls

Plant new lavender in the new planting areas

Finish pruning and weeding around all the trees

Turn the compost

Clean the owl boxes

Watch the hawk cruse the canal for errant rodents (and hope it succeeds)

Apply compost to all the trees

Apply olive pits around the small trees

Take care of our chickens, a fun daily task

Clean the refrigerators and freezers Ugh!

Give tours to everyone who is on vacation and wonders what we do here in January

Get organized for 2017 by planning all of next year’s events, cooking classes, and activities

Watch our web site for all our 2017 classes and events

 

Are we done yet??? Anyone want to help?

 

Ciao,

Ann

 

 

Lemon, Lime, Mandarin, Jalapeno – Co-Milled Oils

 

 

A hallmark time at IL Fiorello is when all the extra virgin olive oil is finished and “put to bed” so to speak, and we can have fun making our co-milled oils.

Our promise to you is that we will never make infused oils, only co-milled.  Co-milling is when we run beautiful olives and luscious citrus fruit and jalapenos through the entire milling process.

10,000 lbs. of olives and lots of eureka lemons, tangelos, Bearss limes, and finally 800 lbs. of jalapenos arrive at the mill at the same time. SO much fruit to cut and prepare and enjoy. The best is having a small fire and roasting jalapenos for our lunch. I put one on my hamburger, delicious.

 

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The interesting part of making co-milled oils is to find all the perfect fruit and then match the fruit with the best olives. The proportion will change each year depending on the flavor of the fruit and the flavor of the olives. There is no magic proportion. We run the mill slowly and carefully to extract as much fruit flavor as possible.

The aroma is fantastic. The opportunities for pairing with food is unlimited.

We celebrate at the completion of the milling as this long milling season has come to an end. Thank you to our growers. Congratulations all around. Beautiful oil. Great flavor of co-milled oils.

Great friendships and an incredible work ethic from our staff.

Thanks to all. Happy Holidays

 

Here are some ideas for using our co-milled oils:

Lemon co-milled oil over our olive oil Gelato, add salt and this is perfect taste treat.
Just ask any of our staff or guests!

Lemon co-milled oil on roast chicken to brighten the flavor. I use lemon oil in baking for
cakes and our traditional pizzelles.

Jalapeno-Lime co-milled oil over scrambled eggs, tacos, and huevos rancheros.
Or simply just drizzle on a half of an avocado with a little salt. Perfect.

Mandarin co-milled oil mixed with our honey, then warmed, serve over French toast
or English muffins

Mandarin co-milled oil to finish a Butternut squash soup or on baked pumpkin, squash
or sweet potatoes

Lime co-milled oil on sushi, or fish tacos, or grilled halibut. Our Lime brightens and
adds flavor to roast chicken and any vegetable dish.

 

Ciao

Ann

 

 

 

Pétillant-Naturel (Pet-Nat)

 

IL Fiorello presents a Pet-Nat made from grapes grown in the Suisun Valley, Malvasia Bianca.

Crafted into beautiful effervescent wine by local winemaker, Faith Armstrong-Foster.

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Faith says, “This Suisun Valley Pét-Nat is floral and fruity, but refreshingly bone-dry. The opening aromatics are like sticking your nose in a fermentation vat, with yeasty brioche notes and lively youthful freshness. To follow are notes of night blooming jasmine, citrus blossom, melon rind, warm Kaffir lime scones with preserved lemon…and a refreshing hint of sea air….and did I mention soft tiny delicate bubbles!”

This wine stays true to the nature of an authentic Pétillant Naturel style wine: I encouraged native yeast fermentation, which finished in the bottle, with no sugar or other juice added. This is a pure expression of sparkling wine and she my friends, is a spirited lady! 
The Pétillant Naturel is Onward’s sparkling expression of Malvasia Bianca from Capp Inn Ranch.

The wine was moved from tank to bottle by gravity. Everything to do with bottling lady Pét-Nat has to be done by hand because she is still fermenting (meaning full of CO2 gas) and needs to be handled with care. I bottled the wine with a small amount of lees, allowing the fermentation to complete in bottle and left the wine un-disgorged (with sediment) in bottle. I feel this adds purity and complexity that would be lost if removed. The bottles were aged while the fermentation finished, then labeled and left finished with a crown cap.

 

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Pétillant-Naturel (sparkling natural) is a term for sparkling wine made in the méthode ancestrale, the ancient method or traditional method. This means a wine is bottled before the primary fermentation is completed; and is without the addition of secondary yeasts or sugars. Champagne, from France, is made in the traditional méthode champenoise. This method is when a finished wine undergoes a secondary fermentation in the bottle with the addition of yeasts and sugars.

The ancient method of Petillant-Naturel, produces a simpler, more rustic sparkler than Champagne, one that is traditionally cloudy, unfiltered, and often bottled with a crown cap (like a beer) rather than a cork. The end product is also unpredictable; opening each bottle is a surprise, evocative of the time and place where it was bottled.

 

IL Fiorello Holiday Suggestions

This delicate sparkling wine is just delicious with savory foods, or on popcorn dressed with our Extra Virgin oils, and by itself on the back deck to celebrate fabulous wine and the holidays

Store cold and serve cold

Happy Holidays to all from Olive us at IL Fiorello!

 

 

Ciao

Ann

 

 

Pizzelles – A Christmas Tradition

 

When the final co-milled oil is done, the mill is clean, and the weather turns cold; I know that it is time to bring out the pizzelle maker.

Pizzelle are delicious, tiny, very beautiful cookies. Named because they are flat and sweet. Like little lady sweet pizzas.

I have been making pizzelles since 1975, yes a long time. My first pizzelle iron was given to me as a wedding present.pizzelle-iron

We make pizzelle at IL Fiorello all December for taste treats for our guests. The sweet cookies pair very well with our presentation of Italian Moscato wine. A little glass, a sweet pizzelle and life is good in the afternoon.

batter

The basic recipe starts out with a dozen eggs, 4 cups of flour and anisette. I think my family just drank the anisette in the afternoon. I personally like the flavor of lemon zest and Limoncello in the pizzelles.

You may use any flavoring you want. Orange zest, chocolate, lemon, anisette, walnut, chestnut, use your imagination.

A particular favorite of mine is to make lots of flat pizzelles, and make a “sandwich” with the filling of dulce de leche. Place the cookies over a mug of warm coffee and allow the dulce de leche to melt just a little. This is the way to begin the morning.

If you are in Italy, you may want to make a little “café correcto” by adding a little grappa in your cup to ward off the winter chills, before going into the grove to prune your olive trees.

Enjoy the recipes and if you have any questions about how to make these beautiful cookies just come on over. You will find us making them early in the morning for our staff and all afternoon for guests.

pizzelle-for-web

 

 

Ciao

Ann

 

 

MILLING OLIVES

 

There are always so many questions about milling olives, and making extra virgin olive oil.

Here is the simplified synopsis:  good fruit, meaning good olives, makes good oil!

 

The process

  1. Olives are delivered to the mill the same day they are harvested

step1

 

2. Olives are inspected and photographed and the temperature is documented

step-2

 

3. Olives are weighed (olives minus bin = weight of fruit)

 

4. Olives are washed, very lightly

step-4

 

5. Olives (including pit, skin and tissue) are crushed in the hammer mill crusher

step-5

 

6. Olives are malaxed (mixing and warming)

step-6

 

7. Centrifuge Number 1, the Decanter, separates material (pit, skin and tissue) from the oil

step-7

 

8. Centrifuge Number 2, the Valente, clarifying the oil

step-8

 

9. Storage 62° F, cold, dark and under an inert gas

 

10. Decanting is important and should happen in 6-10 weeks after milling

 

You can make good oil with good olives and good machinery. We learn new techniques every year and experience is valuable. With climate change, and general warming, we at IL Fiorello, have made significant changes to our methods and internal temperatures during milling.

 

The result is great oil.

 

Ciao,

Ann

 

 

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Custom Milling

Bring us your olives to be crushed in our state of the art Italian mill.

read more...

Tastings

Taste extra virgin and co-milled flavored olive oils.

read more...

Il Fiorello Blog

Keeping you up to date on all things olive and olive oil.

read more...

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Custom Milling

Bring us your olives to be crushed in our state of the art Italian mill.

read more...

Tastings

Taste extra virgin and co-milled flavored olive oils.

read more...

Il Fiorello Blog

Keeping you up to date on all things olive and olive oil.

read more...