The Mediterranean Diet Made Easy

The Happy Olive

For years, as the principal of Fairhope K-1 Center, Vickie Bailey devoted her time and energy to improving the young minds of her community; now she is aspiring to improve locals’ overall health as well. Vickie says the prime reason she and her husband, Richard, opened The Happy Olive is their desire to introduce people to the benefits and pleasures of different olive oils. “We want to educate our clientele on healthy eating habits, such as using olive oils instead of butter, balsamic vinegars and mustards instead of sugars and mayonnaise, ” Vickie says.

The couple developed their passion for olive oil after experiencing the harvest first hand. (Their son-in-law’s family owns olive groves in Italy.) After their olive oil epiphany, they wanted to ensure high quality oil was available in our area as well. Their emporium made its debut in Downtown Fairhope this past October. Vickie emphasizes the importance of choosing first-rate olive oils that are high in rich antioxidants, called polyphenols, and have been newly-harvested or fresh-pressed. Customers are encouraged to sample from the sizable selection of oils available on tap. Flavors run the gamut from blood orange to black truffle. In addition to nearly 20 assorted oils, The Happy Olive offers almost as many balsamic vinegars (both dark and white) and other assorted items, including olives, tapenades and olive-based beauty products, along with mustards, honeys and more.

Pomegranate Pear Walnut Salad 

This gorgeous, glorious salad is bursting with tastes and textures.

9 ounces mixed greens
1 pear, sliced
1/2 cup pitted sliced Medjool dates
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1/2 cup dried cranberries
3 ounces goat cheese
pomegranate balsamic vinegar
walnut oil

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1. Combine the first seven ingredients. Drizzle with pomegranate balsamic vinegar and walnut olive oil to taste. Toss and serve. Serves 6.

Blackberry Ginger Balsamic Vinegar Marinated Flank Steak 

The marinade makes this lean cut of meat more tender and flavorful. Finish it off with a sumptuous drizzle of black truffle olive oil for added elegance.

1/4 cup blackberry ginger balsamic vinegar (or other balsamic vinegar)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoon dark brown sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
1 pound flank steak
salt and pepper
black truffle olive oil

1. Combine balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire, brown sugar and garlic in a large Ziploc bag. Add steak, seal and turn to coat.
2. Marinate for 30 minutes at room temperature.
3. Grill until desired doneness.
4. Let stand covered in foil for 10 minutes. Slice into strips against the grain.
5. Drizzle with black truffle olive oil prior to serving. Serves 2 – 4.

Kale Garlic Mashed Potatoes

The healthy addition of kale kicks the nutrition and color up a notch.

3 pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
sea salt
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch kale, large stems stripped and discarded, leaves chopped
1/2 cup warm milk or cream (may add more to achieve desired texture)
freshly ground black pepper
5 green onions, white and green parts, chopped
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish (optional)

1. Put the potatoes in a large pot and cover with water. Add a pinch of sea salt.
2. Boil for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are just tender.
3. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic, kale, a big pinch of sea salt and sauté until tender, about a minute. Set aside.
4. Mash potatoes with a masher or fork.
5. Slowly stir in the milk a few splashes at a time. (Continue adding milk until texture is thick and creamy.)
6. Season with sea salt and pepper.
7. Add kale on top of the mashed potatoes and stir to combine.
8. Transfer to a serving bowl, make a well in the center of the potatoes and pour the additional olive oil.
9. Sprinkle with green onions and Parmesan cheese if desired. Serves 6.

For dessert, The Happy Olive suggests vanilla ice cream drizzled with Sicilian lemon white balsamic vinegar for a sweet, creamy, tart treat.

The Happy Olive • 314 De la Mare Ave., Suite B. Fairhope. 929-0711.


Olivella is an innovative enterprise with an intriguing, inventive name. The thriving local business, owned by Amber and Barkley Gannon, pictured above, has introduced many Mobilians to ultra-premium olive oils and vinegars in an astonishing array of flavors. “I was doing research on different olive groves in Italy and Spain and came across a Spanish village called Olivella. It sounded romantic, and it incorporated the word ‘olive’ in it, so we decided to go with it, ” Amber says. The shop opened in autumn 2011 in Spring Hill but in February made the move to bustling Airport Boulevard across from Providence Hospital.

“We decided to bring high quality extra virgin olive oils and also delicious aged balsamic to this area because of the lack of quality choices here, ” Amber says. “The majority of the products available from grocery stores is low quality, and a lot of the time it isn’t even real olive oil. It is common for manufacturers to mix olive oil with low-grade seed oils, and even tint them with green food coloring to make them appear fresher.” Their shop sells nearly two dozen superior olive oils, all available on tap for tasting, and an equally impressive number of balsamic vinegars. Amber says such an assortment of options means cooking, especially salads, never need be boring. The shop has added a number of organic and free-trade items to their inventory too, including teas, spices and rubs, along with kitchen gifts such as aprons and napkins sewn in Africa.

Chipotle Hummus

A splendidly spiced spread for serving with warm pita wedges or a variety of fresh vegetables.

3 (15.5-ounce) cans garbanzo beans, drained
1/3 cup chipotle extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup toasted sesame seed oil
2 large cloves garlic
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1. Put all of the ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until smooth. Serves 8 – 10.

Cranberry Blood Orange Dijon Salmon

Simple, yet sensational, salmon makes a stunning summer supper.

1 tablespoon cranberry-pear white balsamic vinegar
(may substitute whole cranberry sauce)
1 tablespoon blood orange olive oil
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
1 1/2 pounds salmon, cut into 4 fillets

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Mix first 4 ingredients in a bowl.
3. Place salmon on a foil or parchment-lined baking pan.
4. Spread 2 teaspoons of cranberry-mustard mixture onto each fillet.
5. Bake for 8 – 10 minutes, or until desired doneness. Serves 4.

Affogato Float

Coffee-flavored balsamic vinegar makes this dessert deliciously different.

1 scoop vanilla ice cream or gelato
2 – 3 tablespoons espresso
balsamic vinegar

1. Scoop ice cream into dessert glass and set in freezer.
2. In a small saucepan, heat espresso balsamic vinegar to desired temperature, but not to boiling. Let cool slightly.
3. Remove cold ice cream from freezer, pour warm espresso vinegar on top and serve. Serves 1.

Olivella • 6808 Airport Blvd., Suite G. 725-6810.

Don’t Forget the Nuts and Dark Chocolate

A landmark study reported in February’s New England Journal of Medicine concludes that switching to a diet rich in olive oil, nuts, beans, fish and fruit greatly reduces the risk of heart attack, stroke and death from heart disease. Participants in the study were asked to consume at least 4 tablespoons of olive oil a day or an ounce of mixed nuts.  Also on the diet: at least two servings of fresh vegetables a day and three servings of fruits; legumes, such as garbanzo beans and lentils, at least three times a week; seafood three times a week, including at least one meal of a fatty fish like salmon, tuna, or sardines; a tomato, garlic, and onion sauce in olive oil at least twice a week, on top of pasta, rice or vegetables.

Other reasons to go Mediterranean:
Those who drink may have at least seven glasses a week with meals. Chocoholics can appease their cravings as long as the chocolate is at least 50 percent cocoa.

Text by Sallye Irvine

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