This article appeared in the Jan 4th 2012 edition of the Palm Beach Post.
A passion for olive oil: Ersilia Moreno goes from accounting to expertise in ancient oils
Olive oil is like wine. Everyone’s palate is different.
Ersilia Moreno’s reinvention started with a single bottle.
It was a tiny, unassuming bottle of dark, shimmering liquid that beckoned Moreno, whispering to her promises of a world just beyond reach. Its contents, a smooth and seductive elixir, caused her to question life as she knew it.
It was 12-year aged balsamic vinegar, and it reminded her of an aged vinegar she had tasted long ago. That one bottle caused Moreno, the practical-minded owner of an accounting practice and mother of two college-age kids, to follow her heart down a new path, one that would end in travel, friendship – and olive oils from around the world.
“I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do. I was doing what I was good at and what would feed my family,” says Moreno, who spends winters in Palm Beach Gardens. “Something just clicked and it catapulted me into it.”
She tracked down the vinegar and started selling it, along with four different types of olive oil at the local farmers market in Palm Beach Gardens, just as a hobby. Then in November 2008 she went to Italy to study with an olive oil sommelier. (Yes, they exist, as well as the olive oil police).
The following spring, she went to her first olive oil trade show and the hobby turned into a profession. She began visiting olive oil producers, developing personal relationships and strictly evaluating each olive oil.
One of five daughters in an Italian-American family and a lifelong traveler, Moreno started sampling olive oil at a young age.
“I always had this thing about olive oil. Wherever I would go, I’d want to try the new olive oil,” she says. “Like wine, you have different olives, different soils, different climates.”
She carries 24 different oils, one from each olive-producing country, three from different regions in the United States and also from eight out of the 16 olive oil regions in Italy (though she plans on collecting them all).
“It’s painstaking,” she says. “I’ve been looking for an oil from Puglia for almost three years.”
She deals only with truly small producers, many whom have never had their product sold in the United States.
Moreno describes her olive oils as if describing a wine: buttery, nutty, grassy, robust, smooth, full fruit, light fruit, medium fruit. She suggests a sprinkle of a nutty olive oil over hummus, buttery olive oil with fried eggs, fruity for roasting vegetables, light if you dislike the taste but want the health benefits. Once, she had a fruity olive oil drizzled over ice cream (“It made the palate go crazy”).
“Olive oil is like wine. Everyone’s palate is different. That’s why I have very light and buttery and very strong, pungent olive oil. I have olive oil that goes the entire spectrum. And it’s fun, I get to try all of them,” she says.
She seeks the perfect combination of taste and beauty.
“It can’t just be an exceptional olive oil. It can’t just be an exceptional looking olive oil. It has to be presentable and exceptional,” she says.
As her business grows, Moreno plans to start bottling balsamic vinegar herself, and she plans to open a showroom as the Internet business grows every day.
“I love this job,” she says. “I used to make a lot more money as an accountant. But I love this job.”
OLIVE OILS OF THE WORLD
During the season, you can find Ersilia Moreno and her oils at local farmer’s markets – Saturdays at the West Palm Beach GreenMarket and Sundays at the Gardens GreenMarket in Palm Beach Gardens.
Stop by her booth and try some of her bottled goods. She also sells specialty vinegars (including that magical balsamic), Calabrian chili paste, apple-pomegranate olive oil jam and other specialty items.
And if you can’t catch her at a green market, you can always find her olive oils online: visit OliveOilOfTheWorld.com.
ERSILIA’S OLIVE OIL CAKE
Ersilia Moreno says she got the idea for this cake from the At Home with Michael Chiarello cookbook. “I played around with ingredients making about 10 different cakes and then, if I do say so myself, I finally created the best olive oil cake recipe around.”
She enjoys this cake with balsamic-marinated strawberries.
1 3/4 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup Oro Verde Lucano (light and buttery) extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups milk
Grated zest of 1 large orange and 1 lemon
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
Preheat oven to 350º.
Prepare a Bundt pan with olive oil and flour.
Beat together the eggs and brown sugar until thick and frothy. Slowly add the olive oil. Then add the orange and lemon zests and continue mixing well.
In another bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Alternating in 2 batches add ½ of the flour mixture to the egg mixture, then ½ of the milk, mixing until just blended with no lumps. Do not over mix. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
Loosen the sides with a knife and invert onto a serving plate. Dust the cake with confectioners’ sugar.
Here is the original article : http://www.pbpulse.com/dining/2012/01/04/a-passion-for-olive-oil-ersilia-moreno-left-a-successful-accounting-career-to-become-an-expert-in-a/