Monday, March 26, 2012

TEST DRIVE by Julia Aitken

I’ve long been gripped by plastic-wrap angst. Like it or not, the flimsy film does a good job of protecting food in the fridge or freezer but eco-friendly it ain’t. So, I’m thrilled with Cuisipro’s new Date Dial Sealing Lids. The reusable silicon disks come three sizes to fit bowls up to 9-1/4 inches (23.5 cm) in diameter. Lay the lid on a plastic, metal, ceramic or glass container and press down gently to create a vacuum seal. The dial in the centre can be set to record either the date you stored the food or an expiry date (handy if, like me, you occasionally find what can only be described as science experiments in the far reaches of your fridge!). ($12.99 to $19.99; visit for retailers.)


That lovable kitchen scruff, Jamie Oliver, seems to be everywhere these days and now you can even find him in your pantry. Oliver’s range of more than 30 Italian staples, including Italian-made pasta sauces and pestos, has just launched in Canada. I found his Tomato & Basil pasta sauce a little too sweet (kids would love it), preferring the Red Onion & Rosemary version. Rich and aromatic with just little kick of chili, one 350-gram jar dressed 1 lb (500 g) pasta nicely.

While the sauces were good, it’s Oliver’s range of six pestos that really knocked my socks off. I usually make my own and have yet to find a commercial brand that compares but the two I tried (Walnut & Sweet Pepper and Coriander & Cashew) were both fresh-tasting with a depth of flavour that could tempt me into pretending I’d made it myself. (Pasta sauce: $4.99/350 g, pesto: $4.90/190 g; Sobey’s Urban Fresh, Rabba, Valu-mart, T&T and other independent grocery stores.)


A while ago, on a trip to New Zealand’s North Island, I spotted a bottle of New Zealand olive oil in a store near Lake Taupo. Intrigued, I snapped it up, took it back to the house we were staying in and conducted a little tasting. I was so smitten, I bought two more bottles and a sheet of bubble wrap and managed to nurse them home to Canada. That was six years ago and now I’m relieved to find that I can buy Village Press olive oil in Canada. After all, it will save me a bundle of air fares!

The single-varietal oils are made from olives grown in the wine-producing region of Hawkes Bay on New Zealand’s east coast. Three varietals are available here, each with handy tasting notes and serving suggestions on the label. Manzanillo has fresh, herbaceous flavours that work well in vinaigrettes; Picual (good with chicken or fish or for dunking bread in) is rich and peppery; Barnea is smooth and buttery and perfect for red meat dishes and pasta. ($22/500 mL, $12/250 mL; Olive  & Olives, Leslieville Cheese Market, Organic Garage in Oakville, The Milky Whey in Stratford)

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