By Donna Cornelius
Most people heading for the beach take along sunscreen, beach towels and swimsuits.
Cissy LeMoine and her mother, Phyl Smith, used to pack something extra: empty olive oil bottles.
“We clanked when we walked,” said LeMoine, laughing.
The reason the two Vestavia Hills women toted the bottles to Destin, Florida, was also the incentive for LeMoine’s new business.
“My mom and aunt have a condo in Destin, and my mom found a little olive oil store there,” she said. “It was the first place where I bought flavored olive oils. You could hold onto your bottles and take them to the store to be refilled.
“I started wondering why you couldn’t get these types of olive oils at the grocery store. It piqued my interest.”
Back in Birmingham, LeMoine decided to start her own business, Deep Roots Infused Olive Oils.
“This was about a year ago, so everything happened fast,” she said.
The olive oil she uses is important and organic, and all the flavorings are natural.
“It was important to me to go the organic route,” she said. “I want to know that our product is high quality. The organic designation gives us a check and balance. We get a print-out of what’s in it.”
LeMoine said there’s a wide variety in olive oil.
“Sometimes you taste it, and you get an ‘end’ flavor that hits you in the back of the throat,” she said. “I chose an olive oil that has a smooth, clean taste.”
LeMoine said using local companies helped her get her business up and running in a short time.
The olive oil is infused and bottled at Baytree Foods, a Birmingham-based contract packaging company. To market her oils, she enlisted the help of Bamawise, a Birmingham company that specializes in helping small food vendors make the leap to the retail market.
Michael Shuleva, a former Vestavia Hills resident who now lives in Chattanooga, designed the bottles’ artistic labels.
LeMoine is a graduate of Vestavia Hills High School and the University of Alabama, where she majored in economics and Spanish.
“I knew I wanted a degree in business, and I enjoyed Spanish in high school,” she said.
She and her husband, lawyer Bobby LeMoine, met when he was a student at Cumberland School of Law. The couple has three daughters: 6-year-old Livy, 2-year-old Darby and 1-year-old Francie. Her parents are Phyl and Bubba Smith of Vestavia Hills.
Deep Roots Infused Olive Oils come in four flavors: butter, garlic, lemon and rosemary.
“My family members were my taste testers,” LeMoine said. “We tried to get the right balance of flavoring for each of the olive oils. We set up a line, made different ratios – and ate a lot of bread.”
Producing olive oils isn’t a stretch for LeMoine when you consider her family’s roots.
“My great-grandfather was only 15 when he came over from Italy with his brother,” she said. “They were from the Lake Como area in the mountains on the Italian side of the Swiss Alps. Almost everybody in the family has visited the village where he was from.”
On her Deep Roots website, LeMoine lightheartedly refers to herself as an “Itali-Bamian.”
“Italians and Southerners are similar in that the family is a cornerstone of both cultures,” she said. “When I was growing up, we always had family dinner together every night. My grandmother was a fabulous cook, and my mom’s also a great cook. I didn’t cook as a child, but I saw them cooking. I didn’t start cooking myself until I was out of college.”
Her oldest daughter already is beginning to show an interest in her mom’s business.
“She loves to be in the kitchen with me,” LeMoine said. “She makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something. She’ll ask, ‘Did you use your oil to make this?’ I see a change in her eating habits. She’s trying things like asparagus, Brussels sprouts and arugula.”
LeMoine loves cooking with her oils, which she said give her “quick, easy ways to make healthy food.” The oils can even be used to make sweet treats. Her butter infused olive oil is 100 percent dairy free and thus can be used by those who are lactose intolerant.
“My middle daughter has a milk allergy, so that’s something I thought about,” she said.
Deep Roots Infused Olive Oils now are in Publix supermarkets statewide, in Birmingham at Piggly Wiggly and Western Markets, in Hoover at Organic Market and in Homewood at Market Table.
“SoHo Social, a Homewood restaurant, is using it, too,” LeMoine said.
She credits Bamawise for placing her oils in all these places and said Jeff Gentry, the company’s owner, has helped her with valuable information.
“When you’re making things for grocery stores, you have to think about things in a different way,” she said. “For example, shelf space is a hot commodity, so we didn’t want to have too many flavors.”
That doesn’t mean she’s not considering additions to her line.
“There are so many wonderful flavors,” she said. “My husband has me looking into a mesquite or a bacon-flavored oil. The possibilities are wide open.”
For more information about LeMoine’s olive oils, visit deeprootsinfusedoils.com or follow the company on Instagram and Pinterest.
Deep Roots Dishes
Using olive oils – even as ingredients to make sweet treats – is a quick and easy way to make healthy food, Cissy LeMoine said. Here are a few of her favorite recipes:
BROILED FETA WITH HEIRLOOM TOMATOES
1 cup heirloom cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons Deep Roots Garlic Infused Olive Oil
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
8-ounce block of feta cheese
Turn on broiler.
Wash and halve the tomatoes. Pour olive oil in frying pan over medium heat. Add tomatoes and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté tomatoes until soft, about 8 minutes.
Place feta cheese in the center of an oven-safe dish. Pour tomatoes and juice around the cheese. Place dish under broiler for about 5 minutes until the cheese is toasty brown.
ROSEMARY TOASTED ALMONDS
3 cups raw almonds
3 tablespoons Deep Roots Infused Rosemary Olive Oil
2 cloves garlic, sliced
½ teaspoon sea salt
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place almonds on a baking sheet. In a bowl, mix the olive oil, garlic, salt and red pepper flakes. Pour olive oil mixture over the almonds and mix with your hands. Bake for 10 minutes.
2 pints total of a mix of green and black olives
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
3 bay leaves
A few sprigs of rosemary
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, lightly crushed
5 cloves garlic, sliced lengthwise
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 tablespoons Deep Roots Infused Lemon Olive Oil
Drain and rinse olives. In a bowl, combine olives, salt, peppercorns, bay leaves, rosemary sprigs, fennel seeds, garlic and red pepper flakes. Add the oil to the mixture and mix well. Place in a covered container and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
ARUGULA SALAD WITH LEMON VINAIGRETTE
2 cups arugula
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
¼ cup Deep Roots Lemon Infused Olive Oil
¼ cup white wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper
In a small bowl, mix the olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Pour over arugula and tomatoes.
1 ½ cups Deep Roots Garlic Infused Olive Oil
5 cups fresh basil leaves (you can add a handful of spinach for a brighter green color)
¼ cup walnuts
¼ cup pine nuts
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 cup fresh parmesan cheese, grated
Place the walnuts and pine nuts in a food processor and process for 15 seconds. Add the basil, salt and pepper. With the processor running, slowly pour the olive oil into the bowl through the feed tube and process until the pesto is thoroughly pureed. Add the parmesan and puree for 1 minute.
Adapted from a recipe by Ina Garten.
ROSEMARY AND DARK CHOCOLATE COOKIES
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons Deep Roots Rosemary Infused Olive Oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons of maple syrup
½ cup dark chocolate chips
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
Coarse sea salt, for sprinkling
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda. In another bowl, mix the sugar, olive oil, maple syrup, egg and vanilla until smooth. Add the dry ingredients and mix until well combined.
Fold the chocolate chips and rosemary into the dough.
Drop by tablespoons onto a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper. Sprinkle with sea salt. Bake for 7 to 8 minutes.
Adapted from shanghaispice.wordpress.org.