Ashley Tarver of Copper Pot Kitchen makes some pretty awesome olive oils. Seriously, not making it up. We used her Roasted Garlic olive oil in our mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving…amazing. If you don’t know her yet, you should check her out. Ashley has brought her worldly experience to Alabama, and the South is lucky to have her.
What country influences your cooking style the most?
I’m a cultural sponge of sorts, ha. Everywhere I travel I soak up a bit of this or a bit of that. Having spent a year in Argentina and two years in Spain, I am very drawn to rustic foods- grilled meats, fresh seafood. The cultural nuances are often found in the seasonings and preparation of those meats and seafood. That is what I try and pay attention to. I am a huge fan of the Mediterranean way of eating as well which has influenced my cooking and my products. It is all about simplicity and quality of ingredients. An excellent piece of grilled meat, a good cheese, a slice of bread, fresh vegetables and of course, a good oil is really all you need.
What is something interesting and inventive you learned traveling and cooking in the countries you visited?
I think the most interesting thing I have learned in my travels is that in a lot of places in the world food doesn’t come from the supermarket. I will never forget the meal I had on the African coastal town of Essaouira in Morocco. The local fisherman had just brought in the catch for the day. Everywhere we looked were stacks of newspapers and rusty buckets with fish guts. And the cats… there were cats everywhere greedily hoping to devour a stray fish. We wandered in and out of the maze like tables and eventually selected some sardines and another fresh fish. We took the fish wrapped in newspaper to a small open air “restaurant” where they grilled our fish in a fiery clay oven. They brought to the table fresh lemons and a mixture of onions, tomatoes and cilantro. We ate the fish with our fingers and it is one of the most memorable meals of my life. It was just so authentic.
What was your favorite recipes/combinations for explosive flavors?
It is so hard to pinpoint a favorite flavor or combination. But- if I have to choose- I will say something grilled or charred with a bright, acidic sauce. Take the above meal for example, a delicate fish with the perfect char served with a tangy onion salad with fresh lemon juice. Fresh but complex at the same time. That is a pretty perfect combination for me.
Explain the choices you made for your infusions.
I have four flavors: Lemon Rosemary, Roasted Garlic, Spicy Chile and Honey Balsamic. I chose these flavors because they are flavors I use at home all of the time. I started infusing oils in my kitchen to save myself time when I was cooking. Roasted garlic was the first infused oil I ever made. I was frequently making “pan con tomate” a Spanish favorite. Pan con tomate is baguette lightly toasted, rubbed with olive oil, a fresh garlic clove and the juice and pulp from a tomato and topped with Manchego cheese and Serrano ham. The first time I tried “pan con tomate” was for breakfast in Spain. I thought it was the most fabulous thing I’d ever eaten. I think I had about 10 that morning, ha! Anyway, I was making them for a party I was catering and I was so tired of peeling garlic and rubbing it on every toast point that I started infusing the garlic into olive oil. The rest is history…
Which oil do you recommend for someone who is just starting out with infused oils?
For someone who is just starting out with infused oils I recommend they choose an infusion that has an ingredient they love. If you love spicy… spicy chile! If you can’t get enough balsamic… then the Honey Balsamic is for you. And… if you still aren’t sure… try and pick and oil that will pair with things you eat.. For example, if you love pasta the garlic oil or spicy chile are perfect to toss with pasta and a bit of fresh parmesan!
What would you recommend for the more adventurous cook?
My challenge for the more inventive cook is to think outside the box and find new ways to use the oil. For example, I stir the spicy chile into the water for grits or couscous to add a big kick. Sometimes it is fun to just see what will happen…
Explain the difference between your olive oil and everyday ones that can be purchased at the store? (better quality/high quality control)
The difference between an infused oil and a regular olive oil is that we are flavoring the oil with the selected herbs and spices. We start with an excellent extra virgin Spanish olive oil and put the dried herbs and spices into the oil. Over time, the oil absorbs the flavor of the herbs and spices. This is an advantage when you use the oils to marinate or cook with because it quickly adds depth of flavor. It’s all about the flavor!
What makes yours special?
We think our flavor combinations and packaging make us very special. In a world of cylindrical olive oil bottles ours is square. Our bottle is different and our company is too. Our bottles make wonderful gifts and look lovely on any kitchen counter.