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A couple of oil magnates

Guli and Sara Arshad live in the Boston area and also own a home in Italy, in the tiny town of Impruneta, about 15 miles south of Florence. Olive trees flourish on their 45-acre estate, and the Arshads produce 2,000 to 3,000 liters of oil each year.

The Arshads' olive oil is made in an old-fashioned, granite-wheeled cold press, one of the few remaining in the region. The family presses four kinds of olives, which Guli Arshad says gives the oil a more complex flavor and texture. "It has a very distinctive bouquet," he says. "When you taste it for the first three to six months, it has a slightly bitter aftertaste. It's not what Americans are used to."

But Americans who have tried it can't get enough of it. Locally, the Arshads sell their olive oil to Il Capriccio and Campania restaurants in Waltham. They expect to have it at some specialty shops in this area once this year's harvest is over. Each year they save several liters for family and friends.

A native of Pakistan who grew up in New York and Boston, Guli Arshad, 57, an investment adviser, met his wife in the early 1970s, when they were both living in Florence. After they married, the Arshads bought a house there, neighboring the farm where Sara Arshad's parents live. The two families combined the olives from their 2,000 trees and began producing oil.

In 1981, when Guli and Sara Arshad moved back to Boston, they kept their house in Italy and continued their olive oil business.

Guli travels to Italy three or four times a year to oversee the production, staying for two weeks at a time. Sara goes once or twice a year. Though almost everything on the farm is done the old-fashioned way, the Arshads installed a satellite dish on the property and have Internet access so Guli can stay connected to his investment business.

For the Arshads, making olive oil is a labor of love. "We do it because we have a passion," says Guli Arshad. "We love the aesthetic beauty [of the grove]. We like to maintain the plants the way they should be. And making good olive oil is important because I like good food."

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lemon almond polenta cake. Used in place of butter, olive oil brings out the flavors of a lemon almond polenta cake. (Globe Staff Photo / Suzanne Kreiter)
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Butter-to-olive-oil conversion chart

Cookbook author Peggy Knickerbocker says that you can't substitute olive oil for butter spoon for spoon, so she has worked out the proportions.
  • For 1 teaspoon butter, substitute 3/4 teaspoon olive oil.
  • For 1 tablespoon butter, substitute 2 1/4 teaspoons olive oil.
  • For 1/4 cup butter, substitute 3 tablespoons olive oil.
  • For 1/3 cup butter, substitute 1/4 cup olive oil.
  • For 1/2 cup butter, substitute 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil.
  • For 2/3 cup butter, substitute 1/2 cup olive oil.
  • For 3/4 cup butter, substitute 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil.
  • For 1 cup butter, substitute 3/4 cup olive oil.

    Source: "Olive Oil: From Tree to Table"
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