SOMERS, N.Y. – Athanosios Bouras, on hand weekly selling Greek olive oil at the Muscoot Farmers Market, says, “I like markets where people appreciate the good stuff.”
Bouras, who came to the U.S. from Kalamata, Greece, in 1969 explains, “All our products are made from Kalamata olives. Kalamata has good weather – 320 days of sunshine and the temperature never goes below 40. Other areas are better for tomatoes or wine, but Kalamata has the best soil for olive trees.”
Bouras’s wife, Demetra, is heir to the Kontoulis family olive grove, comprising roughly 400 trees that were planted by her grandfather shortly after World War II ended. The crop is gathered yearly and brought directly to the local village olive mill to be processed immediately.
It is cold pressed and unfiltered, with no additives whatsoever. This is considered to be the most effective method of retaining the full nutritional value of the fruit and the purest flavor. The area’s oil is prized also for its low acidity.
Some of the resulting oil is kept for the family and the rest is sold at the farmers market. “Olive oil keeps well up to 16 months or two years,” says Bouras. “You have to keep it in a dark place, away from light, where it’s not too hot. Room temperature is okay.
“In my house, we use it for everything except deep frying. It’s different from Italian olive oil. They beat us in wine, but we beat them in oil.”
In addition to the fresh oil, Bouras sells olive puree, olive soap, whole olives, and Greek oregano. “The oregano comes from the mountains, 1,500 or 2,000 meters high.” The word oregano is a compound of the Greek word, oros (mountain) and ganos (joy), meaning joy of the mountain.
By popular demand, Bouras has had to start selling vinegar to go with the olive oil. “We get it from Italy,” he admitted.
Kontoulis Family Recipe for “Briam” (Baked Vegetables)
1 cup olive oil
1 lb. zucchini or yellow squash
1 lb. potatoes
1 lb. eggplant
2 onions, halved lengthwise, then thinly sliced
3 peppers - one green, red, and yellow
3 ripe tomatoes, grated or cut into small cubes
1 small bunch chopped parsley
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
2-3 pinches dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
Wash vegetables and cut into slices. Put all ingredients into large baking pan, stir to coat everything evenly. Bake at 400 degrees for 1-1½ hours. Turn oven up to 450 degrees for the last 15 minutes to brown top of mixture.
Serve with feta cheese.