Olive you so much


Dina Said, Wikimedia Commons

Olives are versatile and popular, as snacks or in many types of recipes.

As recently mentioned, sometimes I get ideas for food columns in wacky ways. Yesterday, I was out in a storage shed to retrieve my large slow cooker. It is out there because it doesn’t get used as much as the smaller one.


My husband was not home, or I would have had him get it for me. (I am only 5 feet tall and my kids say I have T-Rex arms.) I spotted the slow cooker right away, on a shelf, packed in its original box. But sitting on top of the slow cooker box was a 16-pound olive crock, also in its box. I was so afraid I would drop that crock on the shed’s concrete floor, without ever having had a chance to use it for curing olives.


On the Italian side of my family, the curing of olives was a long-standing tradition and a source of pride, mostly among the men. When I was a kid, my dad would take me along when he visited friends. Once we would arrive, the first order of business was The Visit to the Sacred Olive Crock, usually in a garage or barn. I thought this custom was somewhat strange, but over the years I have come to understand it a lot better.


If you are interested in curing your own olives, there are countless resources in books, magazines, online blogs and YouTube videos. Also, try University of California, Division of Agricultural Sciences for some great information. Now for some recipes that feature olives.


Cheesy olive bread


1 loaf French bread, sliced in half lengthwise


8 ounces sliced black olives


8 ounces pimento-stuffed green olives


1/2 cup butter, softened


1/2 cup mayonnaise


2 cups Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (I like to use Pepper Jack)


2 green onions, sliced


1. Preheat oven to 350. On a baking sheet, place the bread, cut side down.


2. In a medium bowl, combine olives, butter, mayonnaise, cheese and green onions. Mix well.3. Spread mixture evenly on each half of the bread. Bake in preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.


3. Spread mixture evenly on each half of the bread. Bake in preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.


Pasta with garlic and green olives


This recipe is a good base for adding things such as cooked and crumbled Italian sausage, cooked asparagus, charred Brussels sprouts, bacon crumbles, toasted pine nuts or whatever you like.12 ounces pappardelle or other wide noodle


Kosher salt


1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling


8 garlic cloves, smashed


1 cup finely chopped parsley


1 cup pitted Castelvetrano olives (see note)


1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes


3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces


1 cup fresh basil leaves


2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice


1 teaspoon grated lemon zest, or to taste


Parmesan cheese, optional


Note: Castelvetrano olives are Italy’s go-to snack olive. They come from Castelvetrano, Sicily, from the olive variety nocerella del belice. They are green and meaty, with a buttery flesh and mild flavor. They can be found under the Mezzetta label.


1. Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until very al dente, about 2 minutes less than package directions.


2. Meanwhile, heat 1/4 cup oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium heat. Add smashed garlic and cook, stirring often, until the garlic is golden and soft, about 5 minutes. Add parsley and cook, stirring occasionally, until parsley releases some of its liquid and slightly darkens in color, about 5 minutes. Toss in olives and red pepper flakes and cook another minute to let the flavors meld.


3. Using tongs or large spoon with holes, transfer pasta to pot with sauce and add butter and 1/2 cup pasta cooking liquid. Cook, tossing and adding more pasta liquid as needed, until each strand of pasta is coated and pasta is al dente, about 4 minutes. Remove pasta from heat and toss in basil, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Taste and season with salt as needed.


4. Divide pasta among bowls and drizzle with more oil. Makes 4 servings.


Chopped salad


For some of these ingredients, a trip to an Italian market would surely help. There are a lot of steps in this recipe, but I think the results are worth it.1 small kabocha or acorn squash (2 to 3 pounds)


2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice


4 teaspoons honey


3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided


Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper, to taste


8 ounces Brussels sprouts, trimmed, halved


2 tablespoons unsalted butter


2 sprigs thyme


1 sprig rosemary


1 garlic clove, lightly crushed2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar


1 can (15.5-oz.) chickpeas, rinsed


2 green onions, thinly sliced


2 1/2 ounces fennel salami (or any type), sliced 1/8-inch thick, slices cut into quarters (about 1/2 cup)


1 cup chopped caciocavallo cheese (or substitute Parmigiano Reggiano)


1 cup Castelvetrano olives, pitted



1/4 cup chopped dill


4 cups torn mixed radicchio leaves


4 cups torn romaine lettuce


1/2 cup finely grated ricotta salata (see note), or substitute feta or pecorino cheese


1/4 cup pomegranate seeds


Dressing:


1/4 cup red wine vinegar1 tablespoon Dijon mustard


1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice


Kosher salt


1 small garlic clove1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes


1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano


1/4 cup plus 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil


Note: Like regular ricotta, ricotta salata is made from whey rather than curds. Unlike ricotta, however, ricotta salata is pressed and aged for at least 3 months, resulting in a much drier cheese. It has a firm texture and salty flavor (salata means salted), making it ideal for grating.


1. Place a rack in the middle of oven and preheat to 350. Cut squash into quarters and scoop out seeds. Place skin side down on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Whisk lemon juice, honey and 2 tablespoons of the oil in a small bowl and rub all over cut sides of squash; season with salt and pepper. Roast until very tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Let cool.


2. Heat remaining tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Arrange Brussels sprouts cut-side down in skillet and cook, undisturbed, until well browned, about 4 minutes. Toss and continue to cook, tossing occasionally and reducing heat as needed, until browned all over, about 5 minutes longer. Reduce heat to medium; add butter, thyme, rosemary, and garlic. Tip skillet toward you so butter pools on one side and cook, spooning butter over Brussels sprouts, until butter smells nutty, about 4 minutes; season with salt. Add vinegar and toss to coat. Cook just until vinegar and butter form a glaze over sprouts. Let cool; discard herbs.


3. For dressing: Combine vinegar, mustard, lemon juice and a large pinch of salt in a medium bowl. Finely grate in garlic and whisk to combine. Allow to sit for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, heat red pepper flakes, oregano and 1/4 cup oil in a small saucepan over medium heat until oil is warm but not yet sizzling. Add remaining 2/3 cup oil to cool down infused oil. Pour infused oil into vinegar mixture; whisk until smooth. Season dressing with salt.


4. To assemble: Toss chickpeas in a medium bowl with 1/4 cup dressing; season with salt. Let sit, tossing occasionally, until chickpeas taste like they have absorbed some of the dressing, at least 10 minutes.5. Toss scallions, salami, caciocavallo cheese, olives and dill into chickpeas. Scoop out bite-size pieces of roasted squash until you have 2 cups; save remaining squash for another use. Add to chickpea mixture along with Brussels sprouts and glaze. Add radicchio and lettuce and toss to combine. Add more vinaigrette to taste; season with salt. 6. Serve salad topped with ricotta salata and pomegranate seeds. Makes 4 servings.


Mock pizza


Hails back to the days of my youth, when every slumber party had to have this treat.


1/2 pound Cheddar cheese, shredded


1 can drained chopped ripe olives


1 small can chopped Ortega green chilies


1 bunch green onions, chopped


2 small cans tomato sauce


1/3 cup olive oil


1/2-inch-thick slices of small-diameter French-type bread (for some reason, we all called it “sardine bread” back in the old days)


1. Preheat oven to 350. Mix all ingredients except bread together. Spread topping over slices of bread. Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until cheese is hot and bubbly, or broil so edges of bread get browned. (Can also toast bread slices before putting on topping.)


2. Cool slightly, then serve.

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