Coastal oil baron
Santa Barbara County is known for being home to many fabulous things -- wine, a gorgeous coastline, Oprah Winfrey -- but it also produces amazing walnuts and locally pressed walnut oil. Like olives, the flavor of walnuts is often best savored as oil, which brings out the nuts’ depth and richness. Rancho La Vina, a family owned and operated ranch on 2,800 acres, has been raising livestock and crops -- among them Pinot Noir grapes, heirloom tomatoes and walnuts -- since the 1860s. Their La Nogalera oil comes from coastal walnuts, lightly toasted and then cold pressed, and is available in three different blends -- Hibbits Ranch Lompoc Variety, Buellton Concord, and Rancho La Vina Canon Orchard Blend. Though it has a smoking point high enough to use in sauteing, the flavors of a great walnut oil are showcased best in vinaigrettes, for finishing roasted vegetables, or as a dipping sauce for slices of warm baguette.
La Nogalera roasted walnut oil, $25 for 6.9 ounces. Available at the Rancho La Vina stand at the Wednesday Santa Monica farmers market, the Saturday farmers market in Santa Barbara and the Sunday market in Ojai.
-- Amy Scattergood