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An Olive Oil Tasting Party

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Explore a range of oils, then serve your guests a menu that features this fascinating ingredient

Our olive oil choices have never been so vast—oils imported from Italy, France, Greece, Morocco, Tunisa, and Spain, just to name a few, plus California producers who are now making oils that rival the imports. And each region makes oils with a particular character and appeal, thanks to differences in climate, soil, variety of olive and processing method. That means one oil might be best for a salad, while another is perfect for a seared sea scallop. 

The best way to get to know enough olive oils intimately to exploit these unique qualities is to host an olive oil tasting party. Just collect five to six different oils with different flavor profiles, and download our tasting sheet. Follow the judging with a buffet of dishes that showcase the characteristics of the sampled oils.

Menu Timeline

One Day In Advance

  • Make garlicky white beans.
  • Thaw puff pastry.

Two Hours Before Dinner

  • Cut up cherry tomatoes, summer squash, and mozzarella.
  • Cut corn off cob.
  • Prep leg of lamb and stud it with garlic cloves; chop herbs for the crust (but don’t rub on lamb yet).
  • Slice bread, segment oranges and peel garlic cloves.
  • Toast pine nuts.

Just before guests arrive:

  • Assemble cherry tomato salad (but don’t dress it yet).
  • Steam summer squash and keep warm.
  • Assemble nectarine tarts (but don’t bake).

As guests finish olive oil tasting:

  • Rub lamb with salt and chopped herbs and put on grill.
  • Grill bread; arrange garlic cloves, oranges and prosciutto on a platter and serve grilled-bread appetizer while lamb is cooking.
  • Reheat white beans.
  • When lamb is done, transfer to a carving board and tent with foil.
  • While lamb is resting, drizzle both the salad and the summer squash with their dressings.
  • Preheat oven for tarts.

As guests sit down to dinner:

  • Put nectarine tarts in to bake

Shopping List

Fresh Produce

  • 2 lb. small pattypan or other summer squash
  • 2 lb. ripe nectarines
  • 4 to 5 oranges
  • 8 oz. red cherry tomatoes
  • 8 oz. yellow cherry tomatoes
  • 1 ear fresh corn
  • 1 bunch fresh rosemary
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • 1 bunch fresh mint leaves
  • 3 fresh bay leaves
  • Other fresh herbs, such as marjoram or lavender buds (optional)
  • 1 lemon
  • 3 bulbs garlic

Meat, Eggs & Dairy

  • 1/2 lb. prosciutto, preferably Parma, sliced paper-thin
  • 1 boneless butterflied leg of lamb (4 to 5 lb.)
  • 3/4 lb. fresh mozzarella (either bocconcini or large balls)
  • 4 Tbs. unsalted butter

Other Groceries

  • 1 cup full-bodied/earthy extra-virgin olive oil (plus more for the tasting)
  • 1/4 cup fruity/peppery extra-virgin olive oil (plus more the for the tasting)
  • 1/2 cup fruity/spicy extra-virgin olive oil (plus more for the tasting)
  • 3 Tbs. mild-buttery extra-virgin olive oil (plus more for the tasting)
  • 1 loaf chewy country-style bread
  • 1 lb. dried white navy beans
  • 2 sheets prepared puff pastry (Pepperidge Farm works fine)
  • 3 Tbs. pine nuts

Pantry Staples

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbs. sherry vinegar
  • Kosher salt
  • Black peppercorns

Wine choices: With the salty-tart-sweet flavors of the grilled bread appetizer, a fruity rosé is hard to beat. Les Jamelles makes a lovely one from Cinsault grapes from the Pays d’Oc; Domaines Bunan offers a fine, dry Moulin des Costes Bandol rosé. Lusty red Rhône wines are great partners for the herb-and-garlic-grilled lamb; try Paul Jaboulet’s Parallèle 45. From the Minervois, try Domaine des Murettes (a blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Carignan), or Bonny Doon’s Pays d’Oc import, the wryly named Syrah Sirrah. Or check out the spicy Swanson Syrah from the Napa Valley. From Australia, try Four Sisters’ smooth Grenache-Syrah blend or the fuller Syrah-Mourvèdre-Grenache blend from Penfolds. -Rosina Tinari Wilson

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