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Cooking lesson in Tuscany Italy 2013 with Bob and Lenore

Dear Friends: Below please find the links to the two tours we have planned for Italy 2015. They are  PDF documents that can be printed. Note that pricing is based on per person, and airfare is not included. 

Please contact us with any questions using our email: info@evoo.biz or call 503-436-8555 or 503-440-2793. To sign up follow instructions on the PDF sheet under “next steps.” 


Thanks! Lets go to Italy together! Bob & Lenore


Lenore & Bob in Italy 2013


Our trip to Sicily is planned for the week of October 10-16, 2015. For details, please click here:  SICILY OCTOBER 2015


Our trip to Umbria is planned for the week of October 17-23, 2015. For details, please click here: UMBRIA OCTOBER 2015




Toward the end of summer we had a private class with  group called the Fish Camp Company. Seems they all love to fish and had many varieties for us to cook; they came here looking for new recipes and ideas. Having been fishing in the past with folks who seemed to use “fishing” more for the excuse to drink beer, and because of past experiences when we were gifted slightly under par specimens, we were fighting our skepticism.

So imagine our delight that the seafood the Fish Camp Company brought in to us was the best we could hope for.  Why? Because their seafood was perfect examples of themselves, we learned, because they had been properly handled and cared for from catch to arrival at in our kitchen. We enjoy meeting folks that honor the circle of life that they become part of when they embark on a fishing trip, or clam dig, or go crabbing, and even the smoking of their catch.

So to close the circle on this, we asked John if he might write up his rules for fishing to ensure good results! He did and we have nothing more to add–great job, John! And thank you for sharing this information!!

This is John and his story.

35-pound King Salmon caught off the Washington Coast southwest of Cape Flattery.

Just about everyone savors a freshly caught fish from the ocean.  But, too often, the fisher diminishes or destroys the superb quality of a fresh fish by failing to take proper care of it from the time it is caught until it is placed on the grill, the frying pan or in the oven.

Here is the process I follow from the moment the fish is harvested in salt water until it is consumed:

  1.  Take along a generous supply of ice.
  2. As soon as the fish is netted, stun it and bleed it.  Bleeding the fish enhances the flavor and prolongs its ability to be frozen for many months.
  3. Immediately put the stunned and bled fish on ice in a cooler or the boat’s fish box.
  4. Before returning to port or a boat launch, fill a five gallon bucket or two with fresh, clean salt water.
  5. Clean or filet the catch and rinse it immediately in the clean salt water, not fresh water.
  6. Place the cleaned or filleted fish in a waterproof food grade plastic bag.
  7. Immediately cover the fish in ice.  Do not allow water from melted ice to touch the fish flesh.
  8. Keep the fish iced or refrigerated as close to freezing as possible until consumed (if it is to be consumed within a few days of harvest).
  9. If the fish is to be frozen, cut into desired portions and wrap in several layers of food grade plastic wrap.  Then, wrap the fish again.  Essentially, double the wrapping process.  This method is much less expensive than vacuum packing and it does not fail to hold a seal like some vacuum bags.
  10. Place the wrapped fish portions on a large cookie sheet and put in the coldest part of your freezer so that each portion freezes individually as quickly as possible.
  11. Once frozen, keep frozen at -10F if possible.  (Keep a thermometer in your freezer to keep track.)
  12. When it is time to thaw and consume a meal of fish, take the frozen portion out of the freezer a day before it is to be used and let it thaw slowly in the coldest part of your refrigerator.  It will thaw sufficiently in about 24-30 hours.
  13. When ready to cook, remove the fish from its wrapper.  Cook your favorite way and enjoy.  It will be as good as it can be.

It might seem like the process outlined above is excessive, but it is not.  A freshly caught fish is a treasure in today’s world.  Special care is essential if you want to enjoy the best that fish can be.  The extra effort is rewarded.   Fish that has been cared for properly and iced from the moment of capture is unbeatable when eaten fresh.  And, if wrapped and frozen properly, and then thawed slowly under refrigeration, the thawed fish will also reward you with the exceptional taste and nutrition of one of nature’s finest meals.

John D. Hough

Bainbridge Island, Washington


WE’RE CELEBRATING 10 YEARS! Read about our top ten lessons, tips, strategies and food-mantras gleaned over a decade in the EVOO kitchen!

With our ten year anniversary rapidly approaching in August, we set down our whisks and Bob’s coriander mill and reflected on our top ten lessons learned. Our takeaways might surprise you, hopefully they’ll inspire you, and more than likely they’ll validate what you’ve also discovered if you’ve attended one of our dinner shows, and if you haven’t, well, there’s never been a better time to join us at the Oregon coast!.

THE 80/20 RULE – In the beginning we thought we could be totally sustainable, and soon realized 100% sustainable is perhaps an elusive pursuit for most if not all. Now we strive to be sustainable and local about 80% of the time. We subscribe to globally inspired menus that are locally acquired, and throw in some imported ingredients that we cannot live without, i.e. EVOO!

WINE IS A FOOD GROUP -that is the way it was growing up in Bob’s family, where tradition dictates that we only drink wine with food at a meal, and not as a cocktail. No wonder we have embraced the philosophy and regularly amplify the flavors on the plate by choosing complementary flavors in the glass.

USING FOOD AS A  PIVOT POINT – Not surprising wine plays a role in another important lesson repeated regularly during our shows. Pivot points are added to keep our taste buds happy longer. Often our strategy includes a purposefully placed ingredient that serves to cleanse or surprise our pallets back to consciousness. A well-chosen wine often serves as a contrast in flavor, temperature, even texture to help jog our taste buds alive once again.

ALWAYS INCLUDE RAW FOOD COMPONENTS – Despite enjoying three whole menu-courses, plus dessert, often our guests tell us they are surprised they feel so satisfied after such a full meal. That is just the validation we need to continue adding raw whole foods on the plate since they help with digestion.

IF YOU DO NOT TASTE AS YOU COOK, YOU ARE NOT COOKING – This old saying from one of Bob’s culinary mentors means that to cook well, one must taste and taste and taste. Taste the raw ingredients before you start, do it again while cooking, and once more before adding seasoning. Also remember to consider the rest of your ingredients. For example, if you will be adding a little lemon juice at the end of cooking, that might be all that is needed to bring the salt to where it should be. And ingredients containing their own salt (such as parmesan cheese) should be added before you make the final application of salt.

GROWS TOGETHER, GOES TOGETHER – You say tomato, we say basil. Even for novice home cooks, compatible flavors are easy to develop when you think about what grows together. This is a favorite tip we share with guests to help them gain confidence when building menus.

WE’RE GENERALLY ANTI-CASSEROLE: Don’t get us wrong, there’s always room for amazing lasagna at the table. But a casserole often delivers only one flavor note after the first few bites – whereas a plate featuring a balance of sweet, salty, bitter, sour (or that elusive “most savory taste” umami) more deeply engages the taste buds and the brain, increasing enjoyment.

GOOD ALONE BETTER TOGETHER – Did you know that when alcohol is added to spicy flavors, the dish may become even hotter? Alcohol and acid foods like lemon and tomato can also increase the saltiness of a dish. The cause and effect of putting some flavors together is worth consideration. We strive to season dishes well by themselves, and make sure they actually only get better when put together with other foods on the plate. When flavors are combined with this in mind, they complement each other; in other words, each flavor is balanced. Take salt for example. Wait to salt until food is at the table and you’ll just taste salt. But season while you’re cooking, you’ll bring out their flavors, set colors and give balance to the whole dish.

THE 24 HOUR RISE – Even our gluten sensitive guests are able to eat Bob’s Daily Bread without any problem. Wonder why? We think it must be because we do a 24 hour rise – giving the yeast plenty of time to transform the gluten to more tolerable form. It is after all the way bread was made from the beginning centuries ago.

WE’RE ACTIVE DINERS NOT JUST FOODIES – We coined the phrase, ACTIVE DINERS, because we think it goes beyond what defines foodies. We believe when anyone cooks with whole foods and natural ingredients they are almost always happier with the results. Being active in our dining habits also means knowing where foods come from and how they are produced, raised and processed (or not processed). An active diner makes conscientious decisions about the foods they purchase. And for some it means eating from a family garden, foraging for foods in the wild, or raising some of their own livestock. And “active diners” set an example for their children and invite them into the kitchen to cook together. 


What’s in season now?

I am often reminded that anyone who was born well after WW2 may have missed out on a natural process of learning what’s in season just by eating what mom fixed from what she found in the grocery store. Today agribusiness brings us everything any time of the year. It also brings comments like “remember how tomatoes used to taste?” And “remember how kids used to get oranges in their stockings at Christmas?” Some of us we remember when foods showed in seasons. We remember foods tasted better too. So what is happening? Why are guests asking us how do I know what is in season? Perhaps the fact that they have only known one season combined with their interest in joining the eat local and therefore seasonally movement is what’s behind that question. So no wonder there are websites proliferating the internet describing what we can expect in our local markets.

It is a few days away from the start of spring here and since we are on the coast we need to be more patient than in the interior of our state. Still the new potatoes are arriving;the asparagus is tuning up and, get ready for it, the morels are here as well. This means ramps, cherry tomatoes, English peas, spring onions can not be far behind.

We are leaving winter squash, citrus season and braising greens behind. Not that we won’t see them, as we will. They will just not be local. But you say, oranges are not local at all!

Good point! Our orange season is in the winter because that is when they are at peak in California our closest access. We do eat outside our food shed, meaning what grows naturally about 100 miles from where we live. Our goal is to be local about 80% of the time. That keeps our local economy strong while being realistic at the same time.

Our April and May menus reflect spring season while our march is somewhat of a transition from winter to spring. Many old cookbooks show root cellared foods in spring menus along with the new garden produce. This is a throwback to the days when it became time to use up winter stores so to make room for new crops. Every Easter my mom would combine spring lamb with rutabaga, she tells me, because her mother did and so did her mother’s mother. All a natural progression, and why is lemon part of spring menus? Citrus is a fall/winter crop in California on the left coast and in Florida on the right coast. I even remember when oranges were part of our stockings at Christmas. And though they are around all year these days, they still taste better in the season. So in the old cookbooks that give seasonal menus, you will see citrus in the winter and early spring menus so its just natural that I now also think lemon is for spring menus.


A beautiful day greeted us on our last full day in Tuscany 2013. We started the day right outside our rooms at our villa, harvesting olives on the villa, both mariaolo and frantoio, two major olives of the region. We received a lesson in the viticulture of olives, and learned that the mariaolo trees do not self-pollinate. We learned that pruning practices are very specific because the weather can be harsh and sometimes blow trees up by the roots. We picked or should say combed, 30 pounds of both varieties, clearly not enough for the yield we needed, but the hired field hands had already harvested nearly 10 times that much. Obviously we need more practice.

Anyway the first step in making olive oil starts in the field. Good organic farming practices not only ensures good oil but good stewardship of this beautiful country. Next we drove the short distance to the local “frantoio,” the word commonly used for “olive mill” in Italy, this one in the little town of San Polo, about 12 km south east of Florence. Here at Prunetti Frantoio, local farms arrange for an appointment to press their olives and by scheduling these, the olives are picked same day and held only a few hours before they are weighed, washed, sorted and press into the pristine oil. In some towns, we learned, the locals are not as picky and just drop off their olives to be pressed whenever they get to it. At some of these locations, olives might sit in the large tubs out in the elements for days. Each day olives sit without pressing increases the amount of acidity in the final oil. Better oils have less acidity. The older the olive before pressing, the more acid the oil becomes.  However, lower quality oils actually have the same nutritional value, and the acidity provides a higher smoke point so a virgin, oil is a good cooking oil and not a big step down for some uses. The flavor may be a bit more mild and a little smoother and since not as expensive, people may use it more frequently.

So the facility in San Polo is the best example of an olive mill one could hope to find anywhere. They are not only dedicated to making the olive oil as good as it can possibly be, they are also good stewards of the land, recycling the olive waste by composting and enriching the land. The are also perhaps one of the most architecturally well designed and state of the art facilities we visited. Very streamlined and functional, but also perfectly designed. The two brothers who run it are well educated and have divided their duties so that each has become the most proficient at the tasks they do. One is the maestro who makes the oil. He knows just when to press, how much, as he controls the perfect temperature for extracting “cold.” The other brother is the one who has learned English well enough to be the sales side of the business. He travels and sells to Europe and America. These oils are consistently receiving the highest ratings over all other oils rated from Europe and America. Click here to see the actual process at Prunetti.

Next we watched our olives get sorted and washed. Then they were then sent through the press, followed by centrifuging. It was tasted by the maestro a few times before he called to  our hosts to bring in their fusti, a stainless steal seamless milk-can-like container for catching the oil to take home. And there it was! Running very green from the spigots into the fusti, the oil delighted our hosts. Just the sight of it seemed to make them salivate with anticipation of this special oil on our menu that night. American guests who accompany us to Italy are often unfamiliar with this new oil, or olio neovo. Unless one lived near an olive grove in CA, one most likely never heard of it. Some olive growers now bottle it for sale, with an appropriate use by date of about 3-5 months only. The big difference with the nuovo oils is that they still contain the particulates from the pressing of the whole olives. There are leaves, stems and pits. These materials eventually fall to the bottom of the holding container and the oil is pulled off the top into bottles. That oil has a shelf life of a year or two, again depending upon how it is cared for. Oil in cans and dark bottles will fare better than those in clear bottles. Storing near heat or light can decrease shelf life too. So handling once it is home is also quite important. If one uses a fusti at home to hold the oil, one must invest in a canned gas product that will replace the oxygen as the oil is used and the air space above increases, more gas is needed.  Oxygen is an enemy of oil too, just like with wine, but unlike wine, even when protected from oxygen abuse, the oil quality doesn’t get any better as time goes by. So best to plan on using it up. We are committed to using more olive oil than other oils in our food preparation, so it is easy to use a typical 25o ml bottle in a couple months. If you can, taste before buying and then only buy a small quantity until you see how quickly you consume it. Then buy the large more economical bottles. But do remember, once opened that oxygen situation happens and so best to use daily.

Why is it the best thing you can do for your health today, or so some doctors will tell us? Because it is full of antioxidants and advantages over all other oils. In fact, docs say just consuming 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil daily is going to improve your health. No need to anything else but why stop there. Continue to cook for yourself in the style we use at EVOO, i.e. whole foods, mostly plant based, and you will add even more benefits to your health. Use extra virgin oil, cold pressed and only buy from reliable sources, i.e., where they know when it was bottled and how old it is before you buy it. Because you know it will not age well in the bottle–best consumed same year it is pressed and bottled, or 1-2 years when the bottling is pristine, and no oxygenation occurs. Once purchased then use daily and protect it from light, heat and oxygen while storing.