Cristiana Sadigianis | Piece of Mind

Cristiana Sadigianis | Piece of Mind
 
From fig-filled hillsides to breezy Aegean shores, Cristiana Sadigianis has retraced her roots to beautiful Greece, where she harvests and presses her inimitable Oracle Oil. 
 
Ever the gracious host, Cristiana invited us to share in her idyllic day-to-day, providing us with her thoughts on culture, tradition, and the healing powers of good food, always made with love and attention. Read on to learn more about her life in Andros, philoxenia, and Oracle's small-batch practices, passed down for generations.
 
 
Cristiana Sadigianis
 
What inspired you to start Oracle?

As I was nearing the close of my thirties, I felt an innate calling — a homecoming really — to return to Greece, were I spent much of my childhood, longing for an antidote to New York. I had spent much of my life inspired by all the practices around food, the growing, the preparation, the enjoyment and relationships a meal can create. In addition, I had become curious about the way food affects our health, our well-being, mood, and in general how it can heal us. After many integrative nutrition and olive oil sommelier courses, I felt compelled to create what the basis of Greek (and Mediterranean) cooking is — a high-quality organic EVOO that is transparent in its production practices and celebrates Greece. 

Oracle is really an ode to my Greek ancestors and the land that has been supporting us. Olive groves, and consequently olive oil, have been a significant presence on both my mother’s side of the family (from Delphi) and my father’s (from the Peloponnese) where my family have been stewards of the land — cultivating olives and producing their own small-batch organic EVOO for hundreds of years, but the practice in Greece really goes back thousands of years, and that history and weight is felt when you’re walking among the olive groves. The olive line runs very deep! 

Growing up, olive oil was used for practically everything — my grandmother used it as a moisturizer for her skin, she cooked and preserved with it, and she made tinctures with it for the winter using oregano and thyme. It really has been a full circle for me. returning to my roots, both physically and spiritually, and being able to work with my hands. I feel so grateful to be able to support the local community of farmers and to be in Greece for the harvest and press in the fall. To witness the alchemy from olives to oil has always been a very special and mystical process for me. 

You emphasize preservation — bridging a gap between the old and new worlds — in your production. How does tradition manifest in your process?

My intention was to create an olive oil that carried the old traditions and practices of my family, maintaining the integrity and story of the oil, but packaging it with the modern kitchen in mind. I wanted a bottle that was beautiful enough to sit on one’s counter as a centerpiece that brings joy to the room, and equally feels elevated enough to gift. My hope in making it was that it be used for daily cooking and not be precious. I wanted to dispel the idea that something that is special can't be celebrated daily. With that said, we use the same farming practices my ancestors have been using for hundreds of years — our small batch olives are grown without any pesticides or chemicals, we use natural sheep fertilizer and the olive leaves are recycled back into the land as compost.  We hand pick the green Koroneiki olives while they’re still young and high in polyphenols and oleocanthal, rendering an oil that is spicy and grassy with a very low acidity. We press the olives within a few hours after they’ve been picked to preserve their freshness and prevent them from oxidizing. Oracle is certified organic both in the EU and in the US. Our olives are sustainably grown and support regenerative farming practices. The trees are lightly pruned in the spring as we prefer to apply minimal intervention to their growth cycle. Our groves are on a rocky coast with direct sunlight near the sea creating a micro climate enriching the soil with its salinity. Oracle is comprised of our small organic farm in Laconia, in the southeast of the Peloponnese, as well as a cooperative of two neighboring organic farms.

 

Cristiana Sadigianis
 
You produce your olive oil in beautiful Greece, where you spent many of your childhood summers. What do you enjoy doing most during your visits?

This summer, my husband and I had the great opportunity to live in Greece, on the island of Andros, for four months. This has really allowed me to sync with the local rhythm of the island and community and witness all the different harvests and the changes of the sea daily.  Things move much slower here — the pace is never hurried, everything shuts down for hours in the middle of the day, (which can be frustrating at times!) but the culture inspires presence — something that isn’t always so easy to switch into coming from NY, however I think it’s this slowdown that is the most nurturing. That and the Aegean water, which to me is the most healing of all the elements. 

My days in Greece always involve spending time with the local farmers, where I’ve been learning so much about the growth cycle of food, picking seasonal fruits and vegetables from the garden for the day’s meals, a hike in the pine and fig-filled mountains with our dog, Bo, a swim, and preparing and sitting down to long nurturing meals with family and friends. (And when the possibility allows, reading fiction — the ultimate time and space travel). Here are some of the books I’ve loved, with special ties to Greece:
 
Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis
The Magus by John Fowles
The Colossus of Maroussi by Henri Miller
Outline by Rachel Cusk (I love all of her books, but this one is set in Greece)
 
I’ve also enjoyed discovering other islands and more of mainland Greece — despite the numerous years spent here, there is still so much I feel is unexplored. This year we spent time on Tinos and discovered its delicious local food and natural biodynamic wines. In the coming weeks we will be traveling to Pelion in the north of Greece to explore the magical chestnut forests, donkey trails and rustic seaside tavernas.

Inherent to your founding ethos is the Greek value of philoxenia — generosity expressed through food or ritual. How do you practice philoxenia? 

Philoxenia runs deep in Greece’s DNA — it’s about sharing not just their food, but their lives with others, whether family, friends, or travelers just passing through their towns or villages. My Greek heritage has been the driving force behind all things food and community for me. From how carefully the food has been grown, prepared with love and attention, to who and how it’s shared, so much applies to the notion of philoxenia

I think being exposed to the harvests each season, whether it was olives, or grapes for wine, apricots for jam — pressing our own olives each fall and bartering with families of the small local communities really left an impact on me. Looking back it was a really beautiful tradition of sharing the bounty. No one was ever excluded. Welcoming strangers into your home for a beautiful, simple Greek meal is meant to break down all barriers and transcend the idea of “the other.” This act of preparing something with attention and love, and sharing it as a way to connect is an inherent part of my identity, and that of Oracle. The idea of gifting this bottle, to yourself or friends and loved ones, and the narrative it carries, is a value of philoxenia. I practice this when I’m preparing a meal, whether it is for family or a new friend, or for myself. I am sending love and attention through the meal. It becomes a vessel through which a part of me is shared, and thus a beautiful exchange has ensued.

 

Cristiana Sadigianis

What is your favorite way to use your olive oil? Do you have any tried-and-true recipes you can share? 

I use Oracle on EVERYTHING! Having watched my grandmothers anoint their bodies with olive oil daily I follow the tradition and it makes a fantastic moisturizer. Since it has a high smoke point I love cooking and roasting with it; baking and finishing vegetables and making dressings and pestos. My philosophy for cooking is to lead with the highest quality ingredients, making vegetables the hero ingredient and meat or fish the supporting characters. In addition, I’ve been making some lovely gluten free olive oil based tarts with a variety of seasonal fruit. Here is one for an olive oil stone fruit tart but you can make it with berries, or any fruit really. 

Olive Oil Cake with Stone Fruit 
Ingredients:

⅔ cup Oracle olive oil 
¾ cup coconut sugar, packed
1 cup almond/hazelnut/walnut meal
1/3 cup buckwheat flour 
3 large eggs, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon salt
3-4 apricots/peaches/plums, sliced into ¼” thick wedges
1/8 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Instructions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350° F (175°C)
2. Grease a 9” springform pan lightly with olive oil and line the bottom with parchment.
3. In a medium bowl, stir together the olive oil, brown sugar, almond meal, buckwheat flour, egg yolks, vanilla and salt.
4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form, then fold the egg whites into the olive oil mixture until completely incorporated and smooth.
5. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan, then arrange the stone fruit on top. Bake for about 1 hour or until a paring knife inserted into the middle comes clean.
6. Garnish with sliced almonds and dust with powdered sugar, then serve.

Fire Roasted Beets with Goat Yogurt and Roasted Walnuts
Ingredients:

4-5 large beets
Olive oil for seasoning beets
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp olive oil for dressing 
¼ cup honey or maple syrup
3 tbsp white or red wine vinegar 
1 cup goat milk yogurt or vegan greek style yogurt
¼ cup walnuts, roasted and roughly chopped

Instructions:
1. Heat a grill to medium (or oven to 375*F)
2. Place a sheet of parchment large enough to wrap beets on top of a slightly larger sheet of aluminum foil. Arrange beets in the centre of the parchment then season well with olive oil, salt and pepper and fold all sides of both parchment and aluminum inwards to wrap them. Place this package directly on the grill or on a baking sheet and into the oven.
3. Roast beets until tender throughout, about 50-60 minutes. Check doneness by inserting a knife into the largest beet, you should only feel slight resistance. 
4. In a medium-sized bowl, stir together honey, vinegar, oil, salt and pepper. Once beets are cool enough to handle, peel and slice them into bite size pieces then add them to the honey mixture, stirring to coat. 
5. Season yogurt with salt, pepper and 1 tbsp olive oil, then spoon onto a serving dish to create a bed for your beets. Spoon beets onto yogurt, then garnish with roasted walnuts. 

 

Cristiana

We love watching you move through the Greek islands — do you have a go-to travel uniform? What essentials do you pack for your stay?

Summers in Greece are dry and warm during the day with cool Cycladic breezes in the evening. As I’ve gotten older I’m really happiest when I'm comfortable and can transition from event to event in one outfit! I love being able to go for a hike, a swim and lunch in one fell swoop. Some of my essentials that are highly adaptive are the Trail Shorts in Camel and the Knit Trail Shorts in Navy. They’re chic, versatile. lightweight and are easy to pack! I also love the Nicoya Wrap Shirt Dress, it feels right at home in Greece, as does the Isla Wide Leg Jumpsuit, it doesn’t wrinkle and feels breezy over salty happy skin. 

I accessorize very simply when I’m in Greece: a Cajamarca straw hat from Peru is always on repeat, a pair of cream Marni slides, Sophie Buhai silver small hoops and my local woven bag from Tinos.