The Scoop: On Olive Oil Gelato, And Why It Works

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[Photograph: Caroline Russock]

Olive oil gelato didn't make sense to me at first. Olive oil, love. Gelato, ditto. But together? Would it taste oily? Too heavy? Refreshing? Do I want this?

Turns out, yes. Very much yes. The subtle nuances of the fruitiness, the grassiness, the spiciness of the olive oil are magnified in gelato form. And instead of rainbow sprinkles or a cherry on top, sea salt. Salt! Salt fiends: does it get any better? You are also encouraged to drizzle some more olive oil on top.

Oil on oil! Yet, that's just the thing. It doesn't taste grossly decadent. Sure, it's rich, but somehow still refreshing. The key is to use a very good-quality, full-bodied olive oil so it doesn't actually taste oily, but instead full of the oil's natural character. You want those haunting notes of fruit and pepper and that tongue-coatingly creamy texture. It's one of the best ways to fully appreciate an interesting olive oil (right up there with dragging fresh bread through a bowl of it).

My first olive oil gelato experience was at Otto where pastry chef Meredith Kurtzman keeps the flavor on the menu, always, even while others come and go. It was the first scoop to disappear in our medley of scoops. You just want to spoon up more and more; each lick slightly different from the last. It's the dessert you didn't think you wanted or needed, but then it's everything you didn't know you wanted. Or, you always wanted it, and knew it, and then it's better than you remember.

Here's the Otto recipe from the Molto Gusto cookbook by Mario Batali if you're going to attempt it at home. David Lebovitz also has one in his book The Perfect Scoop, which he accents with lemon zest.

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