What was your first olive experience? Mine was a childhood sniff of a martini with this green thing filled with red stuff sitting in a pool of alcohol.
Not a good start. And as a consequence, I’ve never been an olive fan. I will occasionally try to “reboot” olive-wise but it always leave me wincing. Too often I find the texture to be pasty or the flavor assaulting to my mouth.
Suzen, of course, loves them. Watch her walk by the olive counter at Whole Foods. You may need a slow motion camera but there it is: a swift hand dips into a tub and the evidence is instantly devoured. I turn away in shame.
She’s working on me. Trying to convert me. And she knows my weaknesses: herbs, chiles, and wine. So this weekend she prepared these marinated olives that look and taste phenomenally. I have to admit that I really did eat more than one.
This recipe is from Gigi restaurant in Rhinebeck, New York. Rhinebeck is truly described as a village, a lovely setting of tall, old trees and distinguished homes. During the summer, there is a Sunday farmers’ market at Rhinebeck that rivals any you have seen. You can pay a visit to the market and then drift over a couple of blocks to brunch at Gigi.
If you can’t get to Rhinebeck, then you are still in luck. The striking recipes from Gigi are now available in the delicious cookbook Hudson Valley Mediterranean. The recipes are distinctive, truly inspired by the Mediterranean, and thoroughly tested. You can browse the book, pick any recipe, and be confident that you’ll soon have an exceptional dish on your table.
Even if you are not an olive-lover, these morsels are worth a test and taste.
Gigi Marinated Olives
Yield: 1 quart
- 2 ½ pounds mixed olives (any combination of picholine, Kalamata, Cerignola, Gaeta or Nicoise)
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
- 2 small by leaves
- 2 tablespoons fennel seeds
- 3 tablespoons dried rosemary
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 ½ teaspoons dried thyme
- Peel from ½ lemon, cut into thin strips
- Peel from ½ lime, cut into thin strips
- Peel from ½ orange, cut into thin strips
- 2 cups medium to full-bodies red wine, preferably with some spice (such as Zinfadel or Primitivo)
- 1 tablespoon good quality balsamic vinegar
- 2 cups olive oil
Rinse the olives for several minutes under cold running water to remove the salt or brine. Set them aside in a storage container with a lid.
In a large nonreactive pot, combine all the ingredients except the olives and olive oil. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the wine is reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
Add the cooled marinade and the olive oil to the container of olives. Stir gently to blend. Let the olives marinate, covered and refrigerated, for 2 days before serving. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.
Source: Hudson Valley Mediterranean by Laura Pensiero
Yesterday’s post, on capers, mentioned the specialty book Anchovies, Olives and Capers by Georgeanne Brennan. Those three Mediterranean ingredients all have some common characteristics: intensity of flavor, easily recognized flavor, and saltiness from their preparation. What would happen if you combined all three? Well the French asked and answered that question long ago. Here is Brennan’s classic recipe for Tapenade, using anchovies, olives and capers.
Brennan notes that centuries of creative cooks have evolved many recipes for tapenade beyond this basic one. The taste will certainly vary with the olives used. More of this recommended thyme, or still other, herbs can be applied. Ground almonds, bread crumbs, and, I suspect, a secret splash of liquor are also possible additions.
Start with this basic recipe. Spread it on bread, enjoy a hearty red wine with it, and marvel at how three strong ingredients can work together so perfectly.
The saltiness of the three primary ingredients means no additional salt is included in the standard recipe. And the flavors are so intense that pepper is not suggested either. If you do add salt, consider taking your blood pressure.
Yield: 1 cup
1 ½ cups salt-cured black olives, pitted
16 anchovy fillets
3 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
½ teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Traditionally, this spread is made with a mortar and pestle, pounding the ingredients until they form a smooth paste. The process can also be accomplished in a blender, however. Put all the ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.
If you are not using the tapenade immediately, put the puree in a jar, cover tightly and store in the refrigerator, where it will keep for up to three months. [See, that salt can really accomplish something — 3 months!]
If you have refrigerated the tapenade, bring it back to room temperature before serving. It’s interesting if eaten cold, but warmth is needed for the flavors to merge, meld, and emerge sublimely.
Source: Olives, Anchovies, and Capers by Georgeanne Brenna