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Oct. 9

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Oct. 10-16

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Oct. 11

 Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Global Cuisine
Olive oil has a place at the world table.

Extra virgin olive oil's growing popularity now extends well beyond the Mediterranean countries of Italy, Spain and Greece. It's about flavor and health.

"Tasty and healthy, olive oil gets popular with Indians," reads a 2009 headline in The Times of India.

The International Olive Council estimates  global olive oil consumption has climbed 70% since 1990, with the sharpest gains registered outside the Mediterranean.  

Food writer Nancy Harmon Jenkins calls olive oil - in her book The Essential Mediterranean (HarperCollins Publishers, 2003) - "one of the hottest commodities to have arrived in the ever-shifting world of gourmet food preferences in the last 15 or 20 years."

North Americans, Germans, English, Japanese, and others around the globe, she adds, "can't get enough" of EVOO.

Chefs in this country are using extra virgin olive oil to make quinoa from Latin America, steamed fish from Asia, and kibbeh from the Middle East.

Neela Paniz, chef-owner of the popular Indian restaurant Neela's, in Napa, Calif., uses EVOO to prepare Jhinga Dalia salad, a composed plate of Tandoori shrimp, cracked wheat "couscous" salad, and fresh arugula with lemon vinaigrette.

Says Indian-born Suvir Saran, co-owner of an acclaimed Indian restaurant in New York, Dévi: "I like to use extra virgin olive oil whenever I want flavor without having to bring in very many aromatic and herbal ingredients. You get a lot of flavor, taste and bang for your buck."

Italians, Spaniards and Greeks have been baking cakes, sautéing vegetables, braising meats, and deep-frying foods with EVOO for generations.

Chefs and home cooks elsewhere are increasingly following their lead. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Foreign Agricultural Service notes in a recent report that a decade ago Italy, Spain and Greece accounted for 90% of global olive oil consumption.

"Today, those leading Mediterranean countries consume about 60% of total olive oil, with consumption increasing the most in the United States, Japan, South America, and Eastern Europe."

Ana Sortun, chef-owner of the Cambridge, Mass.-based restaurant Oleana, says EVOO "gives subtle fruit flavors and aroma, silky texture or 'good' fat to any preparation."

Sortun, whose popular restaurant serves Arabic influenced foods of the Mediterranean and Turkey, also likes EVOO for health reasons, citing "its high content of monounsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants.

"Good for digestion, good for skin, good for you!"

 Featured Global Cuisine Recipes
Recipes Courtesy of Our Featured Chef Suvir Saran

Goan-Style Shrimp Curry
Recipe adapted from: American Masala (Clarkson Potter, 2007), by Suvir Saran and Raquel Pelzel

Not-So-Dull Dal
Recipe adapted from: American Masala (Clarkson Potter, 2007), by Suvir Saran and Raquel Pelzel

Cardamom-Roasted Cauliflower
Recipe credit:
American Masala (Clarkson Potter, 2007), by Suvir Saran and Raquel Pelzel

Additional Recipes

Jhinga Dalia Salad
Recipe courtesy of Neela Paniz, chef-owner, Neela's, Napa, CA

Steamed Fish with Fresh Herbs
Recipe courtesy of Ida Shen

Heirloom Tomato Kibbeh with Heirloom Tomato Dolma Stuffed With Labne
Recipe courtesy of Ana Sortun, chef-owner, Oleana, Cambridge, MA

Quinoa Salad
Recipe courtesy of Maggie Pond, executive chef, César, Berkeley/Oakland, CA

Recipes Courtesy of Paula Wolfert

Moroccan Fish Tagine with Tomates, Olives and Preserved Lemons
Recipe credit: Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking (Wiley, 2009), byPaula Wolfert

Casserole of Lentils, Eggplant, and Mint
Recipe credit: Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking (Wiley, 2009), by Paula Wolfert

Zucchini Musakka with Tomatoes and Chickpeas
Recipe credit: Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking (Wiley, 2009), by Paula Wolfert

 Featured Chef
Suvir Saran
8 East 18th Street
New York, NY 10003
(212) 691-1300
Suvir Saran grew up in a home in India where the conversation was all about food. Before hitting the hay, family members discussed next morning's breakfast. The conversation resumed with the morning alarm.

"We'd talk about lunch and dinner at breakfast," recalls the New Delhi-born Saran. "We'd also talk about the next day's breakfast."

Saran brought his passion for Indian food to the United States nearly two decades ago, at age 20. The artist-turned-chef taught Indian cooking at New York University. He ran a successful catering business.

And he set new standards for Indian cuisine here by teaming with tandoor master Hemant Mathur to create the authentic flavors of Indian home cooking at New York's Dévi restaurant. It's the only Indian eatery in the United States to earn a Michelin star. Meanwhile, Saran has published two critically acclaimed cookbooks. A third is on the way.

Saran calls his approach to cuisine "global." It reflects his native India, his adopted home here in the U.S., and his travels.

"As a chef and cook, I find inspiration everywhere, from the countries I visit, the people I meet, and the food I taste along the way," says Saran, who turns 37 this month. "It's the cuisine of today. All borders have been sent to oblivion."

When he's not on the road consulting or performing lively cooking demonstrations on TV or elsewhere, Saran resides at his 68-acre farm in upstate New York. There, he and partner Charlie Burd throw multi-course meals for numerous guests.

"At my table we never cook what I want," Saran says. Instead, he prepares dishes to suit each guest's tastes - be it American, Asian, Indian, Latin American or European.

In India, Saran grew up in a privileged household with five other family members. "We had more household help than family members," he says.

Saran traces his culinary roots to the household chef in his New Delhi home, a man named Panditji. As a boy, Saran liked to experiment in the kitchen. Panditji lent a helping hand.

"He helped me make salad. He made bread with me. He chopped cucumbers for me," recalls Saran, a Hindu who calls himself "mostly" vegetarian. "I learned from Panditji to cook the vegetarian cuisine of Delhi. That cuisine is my home ground."

Saran arrived in New York in 1993 to study graphic design and visual arts at the School of Visual Arts. He also took a variety of jobs in the Big Apple: manager at the Metropolitan Museum of Art store; a buyer for the luxury department store Bergdorf Goodman; and director of retail merchandising for the home collection at Henri Bendel, the upscale woman's specialty store. A culinary career wasn't on the radar.

But that was changing. By night, Saran would cook elaborate Indian meals for a widening circle of friends. People asked him to cook for special events, like someone's 50th birthday. The problem: "I was cooking for 50 or 100 people without pay," Saran says.  Friends urged him to teach cooking and to open a catering business.

In 1997, Saran joined NYU's Food and Nutrition Department to teach a popular Indian cooking class. His catering business mushroomed. The highlight: cooking the first Indian meal served at Carnegie Hall, in 1997, for a group of international bigwigs in honor of the 50th anniversary of India's independence.

"They picked me from among all the chefs they could have invited," he says.

Saran's favorite spot is the kitchen at his upstate New York farm, cooking for friends and family. He views cooking as a way to bring diverse individuals together over a meal.

It's a learning experience, too. "Failure," he says, teaches him "not to make the same mistake again."

And cooking serves as a source of creative tension. "A kitchen without unexpected dramas," Saran says, "is a kitchen without soul."

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