Oh I am very proud, PROUD to introduce this amazing Greek olive oil company to you. You may have seen Kouzini on Kouzounas Kitchen in a previous recipe post. I was lucky enough to try out their products in my kitchen. You can see the chicken marsala recipe here. >> Chicken Marsala Recipe
There are many reasons as to why I am excited to have Kouzini Olive Oil on the blog today. I am fascinated with extra virgin olive oil, especially oil that comes from Greece. But Kouzini comes from a special area in Greece, which is close to where my family is from. The beautiful Lakonia region, of southern Greece. Lakonia is surrounded by amazing olive trees, and the Aegean sea. Plus, home to the strong willed Spartans! 🙂
Antonios the name behind Kouzini, is a very passionate Greek American who grew up with amazing Greek olive oil, and fresh herbs & spices. Kouzini takes pride in their work, and this is the purest Greek olive oil coming from Lakonia region of Southern Greece. For generations Antonios family has produced the finest quality of extra virgin olive oil. Enjoy this wonderful interview with Antonios Kassandrinos owner of Kouzini olive oil.
1. Antonios I would love to start the interview off with this. What did you cook today with Kouzini olive oil?
Today I cooked Penne pasta with chicken, cherry tomatoes, and pesto made with my olive oil. The recipe will be on my blog on my website!
That sounds delicious, especially since it is dinner time now here in California. 🙂
2. Can you please explain to my audience how did Kouzini come about?
– Kouzini which comes from the Greek word “small Kitchen” Kouzinaki came about in 2000. My father started importing our olive oil from our town Niata in Lakonia Greece. At first we brought it over for ourselves, but then little by little as more friends and family started asking us for more and more, we decided to make it our business.
Bravo, I can tell you guys are doing an excellent job with your products. When I tried out your olive oil for the first time, I dipped my bread into the “Premium Kouzini” olive oil, and it was fantastic. I went through the entire bottle in less than two weeks.
3. What chef do you look up to in the Greek cuisine?
– One of my favorite chefs is Akis Petrezikis. His talent is beyond his young years. Not only are his dishes flavorful, but presentation is a big part of his talent which I also share. Presentation and plating attracts the eye first, and the flavor of the dish completes it.
Chef Akis is one of my favorite Greek chefs as well. His passion for food really shines through his recipes, and you can see that on his YouTube channel, and blog.
4. What’s the importance of olive oil in the Greek cuisine?
– Besides being a main ingredient in almost every Greek dish. Olive oil is much more than an ingredient for Greek people. Olive oil is a way of life for the Greeks. From cosmetics to lotions to baptisms to food, Olive oil is used in everything the Greeks do. Olive oil is of such importance to the Greek cuisine they have actually committed a word with refers to food with olive oil. The word “lathera” means oiled, Which are foods usually eaten during times of fasting. Lathera are foods prepared with Greek olive oil. Since Greek olive oil is of the highest quality olive oils produced today, no wonder why it is such an important ingredient in the Greek cuisine.
5. As a Greek American chef, I find it hard to actually get a true Greek olive oil here in the states. Greece is number 3 as an olive oil producer in the world. Why do you think Greece is suffering from exporting olive oil these days, in comparison to Italy & Spain?
– In my opinion, I think Greece has suffered in the past due to the marketing behind huge conglomerate companies that are focused on Spain and Italy. Even though a majority of the companies from Spain and Italy buy Greek olive oil and blend it with their own. Spain and Italy then resell the oil as their own. Italy has been highly associated with great food, specifically, wine, cheese, and olive oil. This is why Italy has done well for themselves, and has boosted sales for many huge companies and made a great name to advertise on a label.
I know this has been a huge problem for Greece, and this is why I wanted people to hear this from you. Many smaller Greek family owned companies are doing their best to make a name for themselves.
6. What do you think needs to be done/ changed in order for Greek olive oil companies more specifically in Greece, to be successful?
– I think Greek olive oil companies need to focus on being the purest and highest quality olive oil out there. They need to stop associating themselves with huge conglomerate companies that buy their olive oil and mix it with their own.
I agree Antonios. If Greek companies just build a brand for themselves, I think they would be better off.
7. Where in Greece is your olive farm located?
– Our olive farm is located in Lakonia , Greece.
Yay, I am proud to represent Peloponnesos Greek olive oil. 🙂
8. When do you harvest your olives? Can you explain the process?
– Generally in Greece the harvest is between November & March (i.e. November ‘15 – March ’16).
Our harvest for (PGI Lakonia) PGI meaning Protected Geographical Indication ensures that or olive oil is never mixed blended or adulterated and strictly comes from our region and our trees. The harvest season for Kouzini is between October & February (i.e. October ‘15 – February ’16). The harvest dates vary on location due to soil and climate differences. The picking of the olives also takes place 1 time per year!
It is not an easy task to harvest olives. Usually the day starts as early as 6 am to do most of the work before the sun gets too hot. Come mid day it can get quite warm while the sun is beating down on you. The average temperature is around 60 degrees in November, although while working outside it feels much hotter. We lay big tarps around the base of the tree stretching outwards of about 20 feet or longer depending on the size of the tree. Then once the tarps are layed down we shake the branches until all the olives have fallen on the tarps. Once we harvest the olives, they are brought to the mill and pressed within hours to ensure maximum freshness and quality. Once brought to the mill the olives are then separated from the twigs and leaves then go through a rinse cycle. After the rinse cycle the olives are ready to be cold pressed for their extra virgin olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil is the highest quality olive oil. This is the first press of the olives. The cold pressed part is a method used to maintain the olive oils nutrient values. The olives are pressed and stored all while never reaching a temperature of over 77 degrees Fahrenheit. If the olives get any hotter, the oil can lose some of its nutrient value.
This is very interesting Antonios. I knew the harvest of olives is very labor intensive, but I didn’t know the process of extracting the olive oil. Wow, it’s like a pure science to produce extra virgin olive oil.
9. When did your olive farm begin? Can you please give us some history?
– Our Olive farm began decades ago. It has been passed down a few generations. Olive farms are not usually sold in Greece. They are usually kept within the family, Kouzini’s farm is no exception. My father has told us countless stories of him and his grandfather picking olives when they were children, which are the same farms we still have in our family today.
This is truly amazing to hear that your farm has been passed down generations, and I am sure the stories you hear are near and dear to you.
10. China seems to be helping Greece with their olive oil. What do you think about this?
– I think china is becoming a more health conscious society as a whole. Last year 1,225 tons of olive oil was imported into China. A total value of 4.18 million USD. That is a 60% increase in olive oil in china. But, most of the olive oil in China is from Spain and Italy. Slowly but surely Greece will make its mark. Greek olive oil is becoming more and more popular as consumers learn the truth behind what the olive oil producers in Spain and Italy are doing.
11. Olive oil is the liquid that makes Greece. Can you tell us how you feel about olive oil representing Greece? More so the olive tree.
– The olive tree has been in Greek history for thousands of years. A symbol of peace, but also a symbol of victory, as the winner in ancient Olympic games was given a “kotinos” which is an olive branch to wear around their head. With such symbolism coming from the Olive tree, olive oil is next in line. Olive oil in Greece is also known as “Liquid gold” as it is not only used in cuisine, rituals, and everyday life, but is a way of life, with much more meaning than just a cooking ingredient.
Yes I agree, it is a way of life, especially in our Greek culture. One of the famous Greek poets once said. ” “If you deconstruct Greece, you will in the end see an olive tree, a grapevine and a boat remain. That is, with as much, you reconstruct her.” Odysseas Elytis
12. How to look for the best olive oil when shopping?
– Not too hard, buy GREEK! Haaha but all kidding aside, My way of picking an olive oil if i was shopping for one would be the following things.
1. I would look for a production date. A production date shows when the olive oil was produced. Peak life for olive oil is about 1.5 years from date of production. Although good up to 3 years if properly stored, about 1.5 years is its peak.
2. I would look closely at the label and make sure it was not blended or adulterated in any way. Many oils now days say packed in Italy or Spanish olive oil, but the fine print on the back of the label says “Made with olives from Greece, Italy, Tunisia, and Spain” Never buy a blended oil. Oils from different harvests and difference countries are held in huge tanks and blended together, not an ideal olive oil by any means.
3. I would look for a PGI symbol or the words PGI on a bottle. PGI ensures that the olive oil is single source and comes from 1 region of that country.
4. A dark bottle is ideal for olive oil. Clear bottles let in light which oxidizes the oil, causing it to go rancid much quicker than a tinted bottle would. Over time the olive oil will turn an orangish color if left in the light in a clear bottle.
5. I would never buy olive oil in a plastic bottle due to the fact that olive oil absorbs the taste of the plastic after sitting for too long, I would only use glass or a BPA free Tin can.
6. I would also always grab the bottle on the back of the shelf as it has the least light exposure and also it could be a fresher batch as Grocery stores typically put the older products to sell first.
This is very interesting information, and thank you for sharing that! For the newbies that haven’t tried olive oil, please check out these great useful tips, when shopping for Greek olive oil.
13. How many olives do you press approximately to make 1 bottle of Kouzini olive oil?
– Tree yields approximately 5 liters of olive oil. 1 bottle of Kouzini is about 650 olives!
Wow that is crazy! 650 olives to make 1 bottle of Kouzini eh? See guys, hard work and love goes into every bottle of olive oil. 🙂
14. Let’s end this post with your favorite quote.
-I will give you two of my favorite quotes since I cannot decide on one.
One of my favorite quote is by Demosthenes “Small opportunities are often the beginning of great enterprises” Everything in your life is a lesson or a step toward the right direction.
Kouzini is a small family run business, sharing our product with friends, family, and customers who enjoy the hard work and our product is something that money can’t buy. Knowing that your olive oil is being enjoyed by families and creating great dishes for people to enjoy, is a happiness far greater than money. In the Greek culture all the happiness, laughs, conversation and memories happen over food and drinks around a table full of family and friends.
My second favorite quote is by Aristotle “Good habits formed at youth make all the difference”
I relate this quote to health. As I am an avid health conscious person. I believe good eating habits formed at a young age make all the difference. Olive oil is one of the healthiest fats you can eat. Teaching the young how to eat healthy and stay active can do nothing but better their future.
I asked Antonios to share one of his favorite recipes with us!! Please check out his Fasolia recipe below.
Fasolia Recipe (Kouzini)
- 2 pounds Green Beans
- 1.5 – 2 cups diced tomatoes
- 6 oz tomato paste
- 1 large Onion
- 1/3 bunch of dill and Parsley chopped
- Olive Oil to your liking
- 2 close minced Garlic
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- Fresh toasted bread
- Saute the onions and garlic in a pot with olive oil.
- Then add Diced tomatoes
- add Beans, salt and pepper to taste
- There add 6 oz tomato paste and half a cup of water and 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Once beans are cooked to your desired firmness add dill and parsley
- Serve with toasted bread and feta cheese.
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Thank you very much to Kouzini for stopping by! I hope you enjoyed this post, and please do support Greek olive oil. Follow Kouzini on their official website, and receive 15 % off your first order of Kouzini products.
(Click on the Kouzini Shop below.)
~All photos are credited to Kouzini, and can not be reused in any way.
All rights to Kouzini & Kouzounas Kitchen 2016.