"Olive Oil from Tree to Table," Peggy Knickerbocker

Pros: Fascinating guide; wonderful recipes; gorgeous photos
Cons: None
Rating: 5 out of 5

Review book courtesy of Chronicle Books.


Olive oil has become well-known as one of the ‘good’ fats. It’s a staple of the Mediterranean diet, and many studies have shown that the Mediterranean diet is a great model for a healthy diet. In Peggy Knickerbocker’s Olive Oil from Tree to Table, she promises to teach us about this wonderful food and how it’s best used.

This is an absolutely beautiful cookbook, with a clean, graceful layout and gorgeous photographs by Laurie Smith. Whether you want to see what many of the recipes look like or take a glimpse at the olive harvest in Chianti, you’ll adore the full-color photos. This would make a wonderful gift book for your favorite cook.

The stories of olive oil harvest and production are fascinating, made all the more interesting and personal with details of particular trips the author has taken and the people she met along the way. You’ll also learn what the various grades of olive oil mean (for instance, don’t for a minute be fooled into thinking that ‘lite’ olive oil has anything to do with calories or fat—it’s all about flavor), the range of tastes you can expect, how to hold your own olive oil tasting, and how to find, choose, store, and cook with the best oils.

The recipes are reminiscent of Mediterranean cooking: simple dishes of fresh ingredients meant to showcase their delightful flavors, and the author makes suggestions for which olive oils might go best with each. Starters and Soups includes Eggplant Tonnato, Artichokes Angelo, Kalamata Olives with Orange Rind, and simple Toasts with Olive Oil (among many other delicious recipes). Many of the recipes come with delectable photos and notes on their origins or the author’s experience with them. The layout is clean, clear, and easy to make sense of.

A chapter of Pasta, Risotto, & Polenta includes such dishes as Basil Pesto, Linguine with Gorgonzola Sauce, and Risotto with Prosciutto and Fresh Peas, while the Fish chapter offers up Red Snapper in Tomato Broth with Potatoes and Herbs; California Crab Cakes on a Bed of Citrus; and Grilled Halibut with Chunky Fennel Vinaigrette. Further chapters include meats, salads, vegetables, sauces, and breads & sweets.

Every recipe we tried from this book did an amazing job showcasing the flavors of its fresh ingredients—this is the kind of cookbook that encourages you to splurge on the best cheeses and spices because it really will make a difference in the final product. My favorite recipe from here so far was a beet salad that included spinach, a balsamic vinegar dressing, and blue cheese. A roasted asparagus recipe with Parmesan was delightful, as was a long-roasted tomato recipe.

If you love fresh produce and olive oil, I highly recommend this cookbook. It’s a gift-quality volume you’ll want to flip through and use over and over.

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  1. […] First, before I forget, today’s review is of Peggy Knickerbocker’s delightful Olive Oil from Tree to Table. […]

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