After my recent travels to Puglia, Italy’s southernmost region, I’ve had its big, bold olive oils on my mind. The province of Bari, founded well before the 8th century BC when it was absorbed by Magna Graecia, has lived on olive oil for millennia. Today the area still makes most of Italy’s olive oils. Drive past places with names like Cassano delle Murge, Bitetto, Bitonto, Bitritto, and Binetto, and you see nothing but forests of olive trees and billows of sky, interrupted now and then by towns undisturbed by tourism. But where once, production was geared toward quantity to meet Europe’s demand for lamp oil, today these fertile flatlands, dotted with small olive farms, are producing some of Italy’s most intriguing olive oils.
One in particular that came to my attention is Crudo, meaning “raw” in Italian, an estate-bottled extra-virgin olive oil from a small producer in Bitetto, a town so rustic that a traveler cannot find one single restaurant there—or in other towns for miles around, for that matter. The oil’s fresh and potent herbaceous aromas and spiciness lifts everything from fish to red meats, especially when they are grilled, and especially when they are peppery.
With summer in full swing, I came up with this recipe for a peppery steak and potato salad layered over arugula for those evenings when nothing appeals as much as a barbecue. It’s a re-make of the old-fashioned steak au poivre, but lighter, sleeker, and healthier. The tasty flank steak is coated in smashed peppercorns, seared over hot coals, and layered over arugula with its natural bold spiciness, and boiled sweet fingerling potatoes. I couldn’t think of a better dressing than that beautiful and succulent greengold Crudo.
Continue here to my article in Zester Daily for the full story, the recipe, and sources for buying Crudo.