by Jay Kitterman, consultant, LLCC Culinary Institute
One of the reasons I enjoy writing this monthly article is that I continue to learn from researching and talking with foodies in our community. Recently, I sat down with Brian Aiello and Andrea McLaughlin (formerly Andrea Robert) at Robert’s Seafood Market. Brian is the general manager and Andrea, an owner, is the fourth generation of the Robert family.
I asked why, when they remodeled four years ago, they brought in over 40 oils and vinegars. They had a quick response. They saw it as a normal extension of all the healthy and fresh seafood that the store has always been noted for. The health benefits of their oils tie in with the same qualities of the seafood they sell.
My next question was the difference between extra virgin oil and virgin oil. They explained that olive oil is all about the process. Olive oil is simply oil derived from the fruit of olive trees. The difference is based on the process to extract the oils and well as the additives. Extra virgin olive oil is an unrefined oil and the highest quality olive oil you can buy.
There are very specific standards oils have to meet to receive the label extra virgin. Because of the way extra virgin olive oil is made, it retains more true olive taste and contains more of the natural flavors and minerals found in olives. Andrea pointed out that the extra virgin oils they sell are high quality and great for everyday cooking. Extra virgin olive oil is considered an unrefined oil since it’s not treated with chemicals or altered by temperature. Typically it has a golden-green color, with a distinct flavor and a light peppery finish.
Virgin olive oil is made using a similar process as extra virgin olive oil and is also an unrefined oil. Chemicals or heat are not used to extract oil from the fruit. Virgin olive oil also maintains the purity and taste of the olive, though production standards are not as rigid. In contrast to unrefined extra virgin olive oil, refined oils lack the important antioxidants and anti-inflammatories that make extra virgin oil so special. Pure olive oil is a lower-quality oil than extra-virgin or virgin olive oil, with a lighter color and more neutral flavor. Pure olive oil is more of an all-purpose cooking oil.
Another descriptor I see for olive oil is “light.” In this case it does not refer to oil being lower in calories. Rather, it is a marketing term used to describe the oil’s lighter flavor. Light olive oil is a refined oil that has a neutral taste and a higher smoke point. It can be used for baking, sautéing, grilling and frying. Another classification is mild, medium and robust oils. The more robust tend to have a more peppery finish, and Andrea said they sell more of the medium and robust.
Brian and Andrea explained the difference between “fused” and “infused” oils. They carry a wide selection of both. Fused oils have the fresh herbs (fruits or peppers) added in with the crushed olives at the same time during production. For infused oils, the flavors are added in after the extra virgin oil is produced.
Another term that Brian and Andrea used was polyphenols. They are one type of numerous health protective antioxidants that are found in extra virgin oil. Most heath experts agree that polyphenols help fight against aging related diseases like heart disease, high blood pressure and cholesterol.
Why buy your oils from Robert’s? Besides the wide selection you will not find anywhere else, “freshness” is a key concern in choosing olive oils. At peak freshness, olive oil is loaded with antioxidants and polyphenols. The oils at the grocery store often travel to numerous distribution and warehouse sites before making to the shelves at your local store. Robert’s cuts out the middle men, and they purchase direct from the importer. Robert’s bottles all the oils and vinegars fresh in the store every day. You can even receive a recycling credit when you bring the bottles back (Brian asks that they be clean and dry) to refill or try another variety.
Andrea loves when people come in for a taste. She says, “Just taste it and you will be sold.” She even challenges people to bring in their store-bought olive oil for a taste comparison.
Besides an extensive assortment of oils, vinegars and of course seafood, Robert’s has everything else you need for dinner. Vegetables, breads, sauces, local produce, fine wines, craft beers and soups. Plus they now offer fresh aged steaks. If you have experienced the famous shrimp cocktail at St. Elmo’s in Indianapolis, you can purchase all the ingredients including the St. Elmo’s spicy sauce to make your own for much less than the $15.95 they charge. I enjoy just browsing (Carol does the purchasing) the unique items they carry that you will not find elsewhere in Springfield. They pride themselves on being local and sustainable. Their goal to have “happy, healthy customers.” Check out their website robertsseafoodmarket.com which comes in handy for the weekly soup schedule. They are located at 1615 W. Jefferson.
My thanks to Andrea and Brian for meeting with me and their support of the Lincoln Land Community College culinary programs. Special acknowledgment to Robbie Robert for his family’s continuing investment and “keeping it fresh and local” in Springfield.
Recipe by Andrea McLaughlin (Robert)
¾ lb. Raw Jumbo Shrimp (21-25 ct.-shell on)
2 Andouille Sausages, Sliced
4 Cups Low-Sodium Chicken Broth
2 Cups Arborio Rice
1 Medium Red Onion, Chopped
1 Red Bell Pepper, Chopped
¾ Cup Dry White Wine
2 Bay Leaves
1 ½ tsp Smoked Paprika
1 tsp Kosher Salt
½ tsp Crushed Red Pepper
¼ tsp Saffron Thread
1 Tbs Garlic, Minced
1 Cup Frozen Baby Peas
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1. Peel and devein shrimp, reserving shells to make the broth. Toss the shrimp with oil and refrigerate until ready to cook.
2. In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring the shrimp shells, chicken broth, white wine, bay leaves, paprika, salt, red pepper, and saffron to a simmer. Strain and discard the shells and bay leaves.
3. Sautee the shrimp on medium high heat until cooked halfway about 2 minutes. Remove and set aside.
4. Using a large skillet or cast iron, heat oil on medium high heat. Add Andouille Sausage and cook for 4 minutes.
5. Add onion, bell pepper, and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes.
6. Stir in rice and cook until is well coated with the pan juices for about 2 minutes.
7. Stir in shrimp broth and frozen peas. Turn down to medium low heat, cover and let simmer for 15 minutes.
8. Check each mussel and discard any that are broken or any that don’t close up when you lightly tap their shells. Rinse mussel under cold water.
9. Nestle Shrimp into rice.
10. Add mussels hinge side down. Cover and let cook until mussels open up about 8-10 minutes.
11. Serve immediately.