16.9 ounces - California
Walnut oil is a tender product, extremely sensitive to heat, light and age.
It was traditionally made in small batches, more of a perishable ingredient than a shelf-stable condiment. With mechanized processing, its longevity has been improved, but poorly made brands are still legion. When they are good, they are very very good,
and when they're bad, they're terrible.
Supermarket-quality oils often
smell and taste oily when opened, which points out a sad fact about the poseurs in the grocery aisle: that stuff is nothing but walnut-flavored oil. Or worse,
that's been tortured out of the walnut with heat and chemicals.
A bad walnut oil is the ruin of an otherwise great dish. The mark of an excellent nut oil
is deceptively simple. It should taste like rich, warm, toasted nuts.
It should make your eyes roll to the back of your head at least a bit. It should transport you, for a moment, to some place that tastes of sunlight and loving labor. Welcome to your newest culinary destination: La Nogalera Walnut oil.
Like the pinot noir grapes that thrive nearby, La Nogalera's walnuts benefit from a terroir of fertile and well-drained soil.
They are washed by cool, coastal air and soaked by sun. Also like wine grapes, the methods with which they are cared for bear the marks of European culinary wisdom.
La Nogalera harvests their nuts from trees first planted here by Spaniards and then uses a traditional French technique
of drying and toasting the nuts before pressing. The strict standards to which these crops are held might rival those held for the Italian's very codified DOC labeling system.
But it is only in the United States, on the coast of California in Santa Barbara county, where these carefully-cultivated skills come to beautiful fruition.
Three local ranches contribute their walnut varieties to the blend.
The resulting oil is luxurious and positively mouthwatering.
After your first few sips, the oil will coax you towards inspiration.
Any dish or recipe that calls for a drizzle of olive oil, can take walnut oil instead -- if you want that added touch of toasted walnut flavor.
For me, the oil brought back memories of other favorite nut-inspired dishes.
I've always been a sucker for a good plate of fresh, warm green beans
with some toasted nuts and a bit of chopped shallot. The dish sings
with a drizzle of walnut oil, the heat from the beans turning up the walnut aroma and flavor.
My favorite cold pasta salad
(made with Israeli couscous, orange segments, chives, walnuts and ripe tomatoes) was a natural with it as well.
A Waldorf-esque salad
of sliced apples, fennel, spring onion and honeyed yogurt played nicely with a touch of La Nogalera Walnut Oil,
too. When my husband tasted the oil for the first time he literally stepped back, and then exclaimed:
""Oooh, that would be good on a soup!""
""Hot or cold?"" I asked.
""Um-humm!"" was his best answer. I have to agree. Cold cherry, warm butternut squash or brothy onion soup all come to mind, as does a thick winter potage of beans, greens and meat.
Its just coming into summer here in the northwest, and the charcoal grill has been duly scraped, treated and readied for its yearly duty. For my next experiment, I hit the grill with some sirloin steaks.
Though it seems like an odd pairing, the unctuousness of nuts beautifully compliments the natural umami found in fish and red meat.
After cooking the lightly seasoned steaks, I drizzled it over the meat and let it sink in. The results were profound; it was as if the meat got meatier. How does that happen?
Next, slices of good artisan bread went on the grill. I brushed the oil over the bread after taking it off the heat, and topped the bread with some plain farmer's cheese and some apricot preserves. Despite getting very full on steak, I couldn't help but cheerfully gobble up both my and my husband's portion, and greedily make a second batch.
Who knows what other recipes will take on new life with the addition of La Nogarela Walnut Oil. The next adventure will be White Pepper and Walnut Oil Ice Cream-stay tuned for delicious results.
See the recipes on the right column ….
Store in refrigerator, warm before using to aquire full, complete taste.