Very few things are as reassuring as a bowl of food you know and love. The feeling of closeness and comfort. The vanishing of a time gap. The moment of “remembering things past,” when you take a bite and start dreaming, smiling, hoping. As I have mentioned on numerous occasions, this year has made me think a lot about delicious food and dear people of years past. Maybe this is just a coping mechanism I have developed to deal with the pandemic. Maybe it’s a way to rethink and to reimagine myself as a foodie. Maybe it’s both. 🙂
To reenact memories and to bring back flavors, you need “the right” ingredients. Enter Divina Specialty Foods, who recently emailed to let me know that I had been chosen to be their brand ambassador! This news couldn’t have come at a better time. I have been using Divina’s products for a few years now (I usually find them at Fresh Thyme stores around Chicagoland). Stuck at home working on the computer all day long, I was anxious to go back into the kitchen and to get creative with Divina’s ingredients – and the inspiration was easy to come by. 🙂
FOODMatch + Divina is a producer and importer of Mediterranean specialty foods with a focus on olives, antipasti, and ingredients. As stated in the official company description “through the hands of our growers we create great tasting, responsibly produced, authentic foods that nurture community and enhance your quality of life.” Divina is FOODMatch’s flagship brand, covering a variety of traditionally prepared Mediterranean products which are organic, kosher and non-GMO. These can be found in grocery stores, online retailers and brick-and-mortar specialty shops across the US.
I was happy to discover during the research process that not only are Divina products traditionally crafted, but they are also responsibly made. FOODMatch works with growers who perform regular crop rotation, appropriate acreage density and irrigation, and hands-on care. From pruning to harvesting, from sorting to preserving, each ingredient fully delivers its natural potential. Interesting and relevant fact: as per the company’s website, they were “the first supplier in the olive industry to switch from large heavy industrial plastic kegs to lightweight vacuum-packed bags. This led to an 80% reduction in the amount of plastic used and a 10% increase in product volume per container.” What a fantastic accomplishment!
Indeed, perhaps no other product speaks of Divina’s commitment to mindful tradition than its olives, which come from growers all across the Mediterranean. Varieties such as the Greek Kalamata (Peloponnese), Italian Castelvetrano (Sicily) and Mt. Athos Green (Halkidiki, Greece) are harvested responsibly and cured according to centuries-old methods.
I decided to pair Divina’s olives with some Mediterranean inspired roasted veggies, including a container of colorful mini peppers I had bought from the Amish food store around the same time.
I decided to cook these glorious veggies the way we would usually do, slow roasted, with extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and plenty of aromatic herbs.
…so vibrant and fragrant!
I served the veggies on a bed of sticky rice, and added Divina’s clean tasting green olives for an utterly satisfying plant-based feast.
The authentic flavors on this plate were both exciting and exhilarating. You can create an incredible feast with the purest of ingredients.
Layer upon layer of simple flavors, amazingly enveloped in the luscious herb-packed extra virgin olive oil, with chopped fresh parsley from our garden. Is there anything better than a simple plate of the food you love? I challenge you to provide me with a suitable alternative 🙂
I decided to pair Divina’s dolmas with homemade roasted red bell peppers. Roasting the peppers over the open fire, cleaning and serving them as a meal, is rather time-consuming – but the end result is so worth it! Of course, Divina sells its own, too, imported straight from Turkey – a great option if you don’t have time to roast and prep the peppers yourself.
I could tell these dolmas were going to be fantastic the moment I looked over the ingredient list, which was rather small and included familiar names (no strange, chemical-sounding concoctions there, thankfully). In Divina’s dolmas I encountered the beautiful flavors of my childhood – of rice, grape leaves, dill, and onion. The only dolmas element which was new to me was the mint – and wow, what a revelation it was!
These dolmas were light, whimsical, and super refreshing thanks to the potent mix of dill and mint. The texture was very pleasing – the stickiness of the rice was just like I remembered it from childhood. Convenient and yet traditional and authentic, these spectacular rolls of Mediterranean goodness were perfect to put me in a good mood – a Proust-inspired “madeleine moment” of dreaming, smiling, hoping.
When it came to creating desserts using Divina’s products, I knew what I wanted to make right away. Divina’s sour cherry spread is my favorite Divina product – so I had to start with it, naturally 🙂
Cue in my take on Ina Garten’s plum tart! I added some blueberries I had in the fridge, and drizzled the finished tart with Divina’s sour cherry spread.
Such a joyful dessert!
Chock-full of berries and topped with preserved sour cherries, this tart was a vision of flavor heaven.
The assertiveness of the sour cherry spread was beautifully counterbalanced by the crumbly notes of buttery delight from the crust. Just when you thought the sensory experience was complete, additional drops of sour cherry tartness were there to provide an ultimate layer of joy.
Such an incredible dessert – a long-time favorite of mine, now reimagined with berries and sour cherries 🙂
Baked apples stuffed with jam was another dessert I made with Divina’s spread – this time, it was both the sour cherry and fig spreads. This is one of the oldest recipes posted on this blog – revisited recently for a roundup post you can read here.
The apple filling was a mix of homemade orange peel preserve and Divina fig spread. The apples were baked slowly for 1 hour and topped with Divina’s amazing sour cherry spread…
… and with chopped roasted hazelnuts, for crunchiness. So good!
Divina products are just what you need if you’re looking for traditional, clean and authentic Mediterranean flavors, grown with care and respect for the planet and for fellow human beings. I appreciate Divina’s concern for sustainability and authenticity, and as such I am very excited I was picked to be their brand ambassador. I will continue to experiment with Divina products – to taste flavors, to make food, and to recommend ingredients. Their offerings epitomize delicious escapism and ultimate foodie destinations, and I highly recommend you give them a try.
Who else is a lover of Mediterranean food? Let me know in the comments 🙂
Disclaimer: While I received complimentary products to facilitate this review, all opinions expressed here are my own.