Oh, Olive Oil

When it comes to different preparations and ethnicities of food, olive oil is a basic kitchen necessity — whether that kitchen be old, modern, Italian or traditional American. As olive oil’s popularity grows in kitchens around the country, grocers attempt to maintain exclusivity and an aura of quality with high prices. Buying a bottle of extra virgin olive oil shipped from overseas and grown on a specialty farm with limited supply can cost in excess of $40 per liter.

Mamma Maria, of Boston, serves Buffalo Mozzarella, a sampler of creamy, imported, fresh buffalo milk cheeses, mozzarella and ricotta drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and cracked black pepper. The rich and creamy texture of these cheeses is highlighted on the plate by the fruity flavor and mild texture of the olive oil. 

Norman’s Miami of Orlando, Fla., serves Dos Dulces — orange-scented crème catalana with chocolate mousse, a crunchy tostada and Portuguese olive oil. This dish not only incorporates enough sweetness to serve as a dessert, but it also exploits the possibility of using olive oil in desserts.

Getting Crabby

When it comes to seafood dishes, crab plays a versatile role and can accommodate many different flavors, due to its mild, succulent and buttery taste. Most people are familiar with crab dip from holiday celebrations or Superbowl parties. When crab is paired with cream cheese or sour cream, it serves as an accessible host to a variety of “dippers,” such as sliced bread, chips and vegetables.

The smooth and delicate flavors of crabmeat have made it a popular accompaniment for other seafood and fish. Salmon, which boasts accessible flavors for many diners, can be successfully paired with crab. Whether topped with crab or even stuffed with it, the two fishes blend together well, due to their mild flavors. According to Mintel Menu Insights, McCormick and Schmick’s of Portland, Ore., serves Stuffed Salmon, Bay of Fundy Maine — a dish of salmon stuffed with blue crab, Oregon bay shrimp and brie cheese. As McCormick and Schmick’s realizes, the blendable qualities of these two ingredients are enhanced by dairy products.

Go Ahead, Have a Cow!

Soft cheeses have long had wide acceptance in American dining. Not only are there many soft cheeses with mild and easy-on-the-palate flavors, but these cheeses also can be used in a range of dishes with a multitude of preparations. Many cheeses ideally can be used in their original state and prepared with salads, sandwiches and pastas, while others may be melted for warm dishes or even used in desserts. 

Mozzarella cheese has become as American as anything else on the menu. While culturally Italian, mozzarella cheese is mild, soft and appeals to many diners. It can be eaten in salads, for a snack, melted on pizzas, in calzones and even in dips. Mozzarella di Bufala Campana — or more commonly, buffalo mozzarella — originating near Naples, Italy, has the flavor and consistency of regular mozzarella, but it has a slightly higher fat content, giving it a more buttery taste. Romano’s Macaroni Grill (Dallas) serves Chicken Sorrentino — a grilled chicken breast with balsamic honey glaze, roasted tomatoes, arugula and imported buffalo mozzarella on capellini pasta.

Elizabeth on 37th (Savannah, Ga.) serves a Cream Cheese Tart made with cream cheese and goat cheese in a sugar cookie crust with citrus sauce and fresh fruit. This dessert explores the sweeter nuances of a cheese that is traditionally (and more commonly) reserved for savory dishes on the menu.