Olive Harvest + Caramelized Squash with Scallion Oil Balsamic Vinaigrette and Burrata

California Olive Oil Harvest | bettysliu.com

Imagine five adults piled on top of a tractor-like machine, as this machine seemed to “gobble up” olive trees, stripping the trees of their ready olives and then filtering these olives simultaneously. Now, imagine them with cameras, eager and daringly using both hands to capture the moments. I was one of them, and I was terrified and exhilarated at the same time – and I definitely took both hands off the railing so that I could get some shots with  my camera. Stupidly, I had my 45 mm tilt shift on, my 35mm was in my bag (and there was no way I was changing lenses there, with stray leaves and dust flying everywhere), which is a manual focus lens, AND I had no strap whatsoever (I only wear my moneymaker when I’m shooting weddings), so there I was. Clutching my camera for dear life, and trying to plant my feet on this rumbling machine so that I could manually focus and take a shot.

IT WAS WORTH IT!!!!!!!!!

I’m also sharing a recipe for Caramelized Squash Scallion Oil Balsamic Vinaigrette with burrata – scroll all the way down for that.

Caramelized Squash Scallion Oil Vinaigrette | bettysliu.com

California Olive Oil Harvest Sacramento | bettysliu.comA few weeks ago, I took a whirlwind trip out to Sacramento, CA, to explore an industry I’d never really gotten to know, despite growing up a few hours south from there – the olive oil world. I’d gotten to know the folks at California Olive Ranch last year, when I tried out their product and fell hard for it. Since then, I’ve been using their extra virgin olive oil every single day.

California Olive Ranch’s slogan is “Made Right, Here.” Listening to the harvesters and the olive oil sommeliers talk about the product – I realized how true this was, and how special that was. They not only harvested from their own ranch but also from smaller family farmers all throughout northern california. They do so in a sustainable way, minimizing waste and examining each step of the harvesting process. Differing from traditional harvesting methods,  California Olive Ranch uses machines, to maximize trees/acre, increase the efficiency, and so that the olives never touch the ground. The cycle of fruit to oil is shortened, so that the fruit is fresher and yields a higher quality product. They harvest arbequina, arbosona, and koroneiki olives, and from these olives come the different varieties of extra virgin olive oil they create. The olives are crushed into paste, strained for the juice, and then the oil is separated out.

THERE IS A MYTH, that I think everyone should be aware of – since I started cooking, I’ve received advice to never heat up olive oil too much, otherwise you will reach the smoking point and it’ll be bad for you etc etc, but actually, that applies only to lower quality olive oil with more free fatty acid content. The olive oil made at  California Olive Ranch is fresher, with more antioxidants, and therefore has a higher smoking point. So, feel free to cook/fry with this (and I do, daily).

California Olive Oil Harvest Sacramento | bettysliu.com


Bright and early, I, along with four other amazing bloggers – Amanda of Heartbeet Kitchen, Erin of Naturally Ella, Kimberley, and Nik of A Brown Table – boarded a bus -actually, no wait, it was a party LIMO BUS, and headed out to the olive groves and their facility. We were blessed with perfect blue skies and not a droplet of rain.

California Olive Oil Harvest Sacramento | bettysliu.comCalifornia Olive Oil Harvest Sacramento | bettysliu.comCalifornia Olive Oil Harvest Sacramento | bettysliu.comCalifornia Olive Oil Harvest Sacramento | bettysliu.com

We watched in fascination as harvesting machines rolled up, deposited their collected olives, and then went on their way again. Then, we donned lab-gear and protective clothing and headed inside.

California Olive Oil Harvest Sacramento | bettysliu.comCalifornia Olive Oil Harvest Sacramento | bettysliu.com

It was an incredible whirlwind of information, visuals, and non-stop photography of all the steps. It was hard to cut the photos down even to this much. The tumble of the fresh, pale green and yellow olives, the residue of branches and silver-y leaves, the paste and oozing oil – I wanted to capture it all. Call it the wedding photojournalist in me, but all I wanted to do was capture each moment.

We got to taste some of the olive oil as it came straight from the paste – so grassy and sharp! We later had a sampling of various olive oils California Olive Ranch sold, and did you know? They’re placed in transparent blue cups so that we can’t really discern the color of the oil. First, warm up the glass, and take a whiff of the aroma. Then, you kind of “inhale” a bit of oil in with a hissing motion, to aerosolize the oil. Close our mouth, then breathe out with your nose. It’s an experience, and one you can do at home. This will help you discern the true characteristics of the olive oil, and help you understand the flavor so that you can pair it appropriately. Fascinating, truly.

California Olive Oil Harvest Sacramento | bettysliu.com

After the tour of the facilities, we headed out to the actual olive groves!!!!!! Rows of silvery green trees with their characteristic leaves greeted us, waving hello with the wind. I took about a hundred photos of just that one point perspective down two rows of olive trees….

California Olive Oil Harvest Sacramento | bettysliu.com

California Olive Oil Harvest Sacramento | bettysliu.comCalifornia Olive Oil Harvest Sacramento | bettysliu.com

And me: standing casually between the rows of trees.

California Olive Oil Harvest Sacramento | bettysliu.comca-olive-ranch-harvest-tour-2016-bettysliu-24California Olive Oil Harvest Sacramento | bettysliu.comCalifornia Olive Oil Harvest Sacramento | bettysliu.comCalifornia Olive Oil Harvest Sacramento | bettysliu.comThen, my favorite part: we climbed aboard this yellow monster, and yup, stood on top of this machine as it ate its way through the trees.

California Olive Oil Harvest Sacramento | bettysliu.comCalifornia Olive Oil Harvest Sacramento | bettysliu.com

We were rewarded with this beautiful view of the rows of olive trees, stretching out across the distance.

California Olive Oil Harvest Sacramento | bettysliu.comAnd here we are!!!!!! Our blogger group:) California Olive Oil Harvest Sacramento | bettysliu.com

We had a late lunch at Matchbook Winery, where we had a feast of wood-fire oven pizza and olive oil lemon cake and wine tastings, all overlooking a beautiful view of the winery.

California Winery Sacramento | bettysliu.comCalifornia Wood-Fired Olive Oil Lemon Cake | bettysliu.comca-olive-ranch-harvest-tour-2016-bettysliu-45

A rest at the hotel, then a superb dinner at Empress Tavern, with an entirely olive oil based menu – including olive oil gin cocktailchickpea fritter with saffron aioli, and so many other wonderful dishes. After a packed morning, this was the perfect way to settle down and take in all the creative ways olive oil could be used in food. This inspired me to create a flavored oil for the dish below – Caramelized Squash Scallion Oil Vinaigrette

California Olive Oil Harvest Sacramento | bettysliu.com

THE RECIPE: Caramelized Squash Scallion Oil Vinaigrette

And now, I have a recipe for you, made with one of my favorites: California Olive Ranch everyday extra virgin olive oil. I’ve been feeling the squash buzz for awhile this season, and recently I had a craving to pair it with burrata. It was a match made in heaven, so much so that coincidentally, my friend Sarah of Snixy Kitchen made her version of squash and burrata, which you can check out here. This could be the perfect last-minute Thanksgiving side, right? Who doesn’t like burrata?Caramelized Squash Scallion Oil Vinaigrette | bettysliu.com

I used two types of squash – delicata and honeynut squash, but you can use any kind you want. It’s tossed with olive oil and maple syrup, roasted until caramelized and soft, then drizzled with scallion oil balsamic vinaigrette, fresh burrata, and roasted pumpkin seeds.

Caramelized Squash Scallion Oil Vinaigrette | bettysliu.com

This post is sponsored by California Olive Ranch. All opinions expressed are purely my own, as always. Thank you so much for supporting the companies that support this blog. 
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RECIPE: Caramelized Autumn Squash with Scallion Oil Balsamic Vinaigrette and Burrata
*you can eat the skin of both honeynut and delicata squash. Serving size is for 2, but you can easily double/triple. And don’t forget to check out Sarah’s version here! 

1/2 honeynut squash, seeds removed and sliced
1/2 delicata squash, seeds removed and sliced
2 tbsp maple syrup
pinch salt

Preheat oven to 375F. Toss squash slices with olive oil, syrup, and sprinkle with salt. Bake in a single layer for 10 minutes. Flip the squash slices, then roast for another 10 minutes.

Scallion Oil Balsamic Vinaigrette
3 scallions, sliced thinly into coins, but dark green tops and white roots removed
1/4 cup California Olive Ranch extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper, to taste

fresh burrata
salted roasted pepita

In a skillet, heat up olive oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add scallions and stir to mix with oil until wilted and charred, about a minute. Let cool slightly. Mix with balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper, to taste. Mix thoroughly to emulsify.

Assemble: Arrange squash on a plate. Drizzle with scallion oil balsamic vinaigrette. Top generously with burrata and pumpkin seeds.

Caramelized Squash Scallion Oil Vinaigrette | bettysliu.com

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  • Okay, first off, WOAH – I’ve never seen an olive grove before (helloooo from the Midwest) and loved seeing it through your eyes and lens (literally). Second, how do you like your tilt shift lens? I’ve been contemplating getting one for some time now and your dreamy photos in this post are making me lust for one even more! <3ReplyCancel

    • Hi Shelly! I could go ON and ON about my tilt shift – it’s my all time favorite lens to use, and I actually love that it is manual focus. On the Nikon it’s macro as well, and it’s optically correct and I just love everything about it. I’ve always used it for weddings / portraits, and it’s the lens I always have with me for food :). I actually just bought the Canon 45 tilt shift as well, but it’s not macro and I haven’t had time to play with it, but will soon!ReplyCancel

  • Betty! This is a gorgeous story. Looks like you had so much fun. The recipe looks delicious tooReplyCancel

  • Ahhh!!! I want to visit an olive grove too! Wow, it must have been an amazing experience!! I’ve never seen their olive oil here in Canada but I’ll keep an eye open. I’ve heard fabulous things about them and can’t wait to try their oil for myself. And I can totally picture you on top of that huge machine, trying to manually focus and take pictures haha. Well, let me tell you that you did a fabulous job! These photos are insanely gorgeous!! The tilt-shift lens sounds totally dreamy. <3ReplyCancel

  • i’ve never visited an olive grove before and am now so so desperate too! you’re my favourite photographer ever betty, seriously – each shot is just UGH AMAZING!! can’t get enough of that photo with the scallion vinaigrette!ReplyCancel

  • Squash + burrata = 2 of the best things in the WORLD. So making this!!!!ReplyCancel

  • Betty!!! These photos are simply breathtaking. They make me want to go visit these places. I use California Oil Ranch olive oil and love it.
    I love the simplicity of this dish so much. And who can say no to burrata? :)ReplyCancel

  • Ingrid

    Great story and awesome photographs..it depicts your adventure beautifully. And burrata with delicata Squash. Both of my all time favorite all in a plate. Yum!!ReplyCancel

  • Ah that trip looked amazing!! I love hearing about how ingredients are grown and processed before they hit the table – going to a pineapple farm and a coffee bean plantation recently was absolutely fascinating, and I imagine olive oil would be the same. So interesting that the smoke point depends on the quality too! Plus that lemon olive oil cake was GORGEOUS – I’m a sucker for cake edge gradients and shades of yellow.ReplyCancel

  • What an amazing trip!! So jealous! And oh man, I’m literally drooling behind my screen. I need that bowl of squash!!ReplyCancel

  • Betty, your photos are amazing!!! I´ve gone to visit olive groves several times in my life here in Spain and the whole process is simply fascinating!! So beautiful experiencing it again through your pics!
    That olive oil cake looks A-MA-ZING!!!!

  • These photos are gorgeous Betty, it feels like I was there! This recipe looks delicious, I have to make this dish.ReplyCancel

  • WOW!! I love how this sounds like Italy in California! Wood-fired over pizza and lemon cake <3

    Olive harvesting is a really cool thing to witness. My family did it up until 2 years ago – we'd put large nets on the ground and rake the tree branches by hand!! It was an insane amount of work but I loved how the whole family gathered together for the event.
    Totally making this – I have a piece of squash in my fridge!ReplyCancel

  • FRICKIN GORGEOUS. Your photos are always stunning. Ugh. Teach me your ways!!! I need to get to one of your workshops!!! CA Olive Ranch is the only kind of olive oil I use – they’re the best!! What an amazing trip you guys had. :-)ReplyCancel

  • i will never forget riding that machine, hanging on for life, but so desperate to capture beautiful photos! ugh, so fun, and fascinating. i’m grateful we were able to experience this together. all these images make me relive in again. they’re amazing.

    i love squash so much, but have never put it with burrata. it doesn’t take much convincing when it looks this good. xoReplyCancel

  • I know, I know, I’m late to the party, BUT I still can’t stop looking at these photos. I feel like you transported me to the olive orchards with you. I’m so glad you told me about that myth because we were just cooking a recipe for NYT and it told us to fry the french toast in olive oil – Alanna and I were like “what? really?!” THIS IS REALLY GOOD INFORMATION. Can’t wait to try your version with this beautifully fragrant vinaigrette!ReplyCancel

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