Israeli Gold strikes oil

It is impossible to think of Israel without envisioning the olive tree and its silvery leaves shimmering in the bright Mediterranean sun. The bountiful olive orchards seem to be everywhere in the countryside, and many city dwellings will grow a few trees here and there for ornamentation.

How is it, then, when I go to my favorite gourmet shops I see oils from practically every Mediterranean country except Israel?

I am happy to report that is no longer the case.

When I stopped in Dean and Deluca, my favorite gourmet food store in New York, I saw prominently displayed among the best Italian, Spanish, French and Greek oils some gorgeous cobalt blue bottles (immediately I thought of them as the perfect hostess gift) containing not one but three different varietals of extra-virgin olive oils from Israel, labeled “Israeli Gold.” (Extra virgin olive oil comes from the first cold pressing and must have acidity of 1 percent or less.)

I contacted the importer, John McBride, president of Harrington Trace, and he gave me the lowdown on these extraordinary and award- winning certified kosher oils.

McBride hopes that through the import of more Israeli food products, he can help Israel’s economy and at the same time fill a void in the market.

After sampling the oils in Israel, he chose three varietals (each pressed from one particular kind of olive) for introduction in the United States in 2005.

“Just like fine wines, olive oils produce a distinctive taste depending on where the fruit is grown,” he said.

Consumers now will have the opportunity to taste the flavors of unblended oils, especially Barnea and Soury, which are rarely found here.

I tried all three and each won my heart in a different way.

Manzanilla (winner of the Kosherfest 2005 food show) with its fruity and subtle spiciness was great for dipping or swirled on a hearty soup.

Soury was perfect used in Middle Eastern dishes like hummus or eggplant salad.

Barnea had a surprise fiery finish, especially when used on seasonal greens and in baked sweets.

Israeli Gold Olive Oil is now available in this area at bob and bob, Palo Alto (650-329-9050).

For more information, see

John McBride’s Cod with Lemon and Tarragon | Serves 2

2 cod fillets (about 1 lb.)
2 5-inch sprigs fresh tarragon
1 lemon (cut in half)
Israeli Gold™ Manzanilla Olive Oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Rinse fish and pat dry. Tear a piece of parchment paper large enough to wrap both fillets and place in a small baking pan.
Place fillets on parchment. Squeeze about 2 tsp. of lemon juice from half of the lemon over the fish. Slice 6 very thin slices from the remaining half of the lemon. Arrange one tarragon sprig over each fillet, and then arrange 3 lemon slices over each fillet on top of the tarragon. Drizzle both fillets liberally with olive oil. Fold parchment tightly to completely enclose fish. Bake approximately 20 minutes or until done.

Watermelon and Arugula Salad | Serves 6

3 Tbs. white balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 small shallot, chopped
1/3 cup olive oil
6 cups arugula
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
1/2 cup red onion, thinly sliced
2 cups seeded and diced watermelon flesh
3 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
salt and pepper
In a small bowl whisk dressing ingredients until blended.
In a large bowl combine remaining ingredients. Toss with dressing and salt and pepper to taste.

Louise Fiszer is a Palo Alto cooking teacher, author and the co-author of “Jewish Holiday Cooking.” Her columns alternate with those of Rebecca Ets-Hokin. Questions and recipe ideas can be sent to j. or to [email protected].