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olives

The last post I did about olives in 2013, we were having to pick them green to beat the birds. Maybe it’s because our trees are a bit more mature and the olive harvest is bigger. Maybe it’s because climate change is bringing the harvest forward a little. Maybe it’s because the rainforest trees are bigger and native figs are in season too.  The last few years though I’ve been able to harvest them fully ripe.  We’ve just started picking this year’s olives but it looks like there will be a good year’s supply for us and enough to give away again this year.

Olives are easy to process.  You just have to allow them time.  I pick them over to remove any damaged ones, then put them in big glass jars and cover with water and drain and change the water every day for a fortnight.  This is the work part. The rest is mostly just waiting.

Make up a strong brine – one-third of a cup of salt to each litre of water – and soak them in that for three months.  The only hard part in that is stopping them floating in the brine, for which you need something heavy that will fit inside the jar to push them down.  I have some little ceramic saucers that do the job nicely.  After three months, I drain off the brine and cover them with olive oil, some jars with some preserved lemon, chili, garlic, or herbs added.  They are good at this stage, but it takes another month or two to get to superb.

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green olive and macadamia tapenade

It’s pretty well the end of the macadamia season.  They last in shell for several months more, but fresh ones are so much better.  We have several macadamia trees and I use a lot of them.   My maca cracker is one of the few kitchen tools allowed to  live on my kitchen bench!  Having a tool that makes the hard hard shells easy to crack turns them from something you’d only go to the bother with for a special recipe, to something I regularly add to breakfast  crumble topping for fruit and yoghurt, or cook with.  Most people don’t put fresh nuts on the routine shopping list, but they are really good for you – there’s some very good science that just a handful of nuts a day makes a huge difference. Macas substitute really well for pine nuts in recipes, which is a good thing for me because I don’t have any pine nut trees and they are fearsomely expensive.

The other inspiration for this is that our olives are ready for eating.  We have a dozen huge jars which feels very decadent.  Back in midwinter I drained off the brine and covered them with olive oil.  We’ve been eating them since and they’re getting better and better. Trouble is, I’m not a huge fan of green olives.  The black ones go into antipasti or salads as they are, or marinated in preserved lemon, garlic and herbs.  But the green ones need a bit of tarting up.

The Recipe

  • Deseed 200 grams of olives, which will yield about ¾ cup of olive flesh.
  • Toast about half a cup of macadamia kernels, roughly chopped, in a heavy pan for just a few minutes till they start to colour.
  • Blend with
    • the  juice and finely grated rind from ¼ lemon,
    • a dessertspoon of capers,
    • an anchovy (or not),
    • and enough olive oil to make a good texture

It goes really well with the sweetness of sun-dried tomatoes.  Sometimes I roughly chop them into the tapenade itself, or serve them on top of it or on the side.

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Edamame are green soy beans, and most Australians anyway only ever encounter them in a sushi bar. They’re easy to grow in a garden though, and to me, they work so well as a snack food because they have a distinct nuttiness to them. They remind me more of boiled peanuts than anything else.

Which raises all sorts of ideas about fusion-ing them into dishes from distinctly non-Japanese cuisines. This is one of the ways I like them. It’s kindof like sprinkling toasted nuts through a salad. It makes it into a satisfying meal rather than a side dish. It’s almost like your body recognises that there’s the full range of macro nutrients in there.

So edamame which is a Japanese idea, in fattoush which is an Arabic one. The joys of living in a multicultural society!

The Recipe:

Boil the edamame, in their shells, in heavily salted water for five minutes or so until they are tender, then shell them.  (They shell really easily once cooked).

While the edamame are cooking, toast some pita chips.  I use my sourdough pita, cut it into little triangles, sprinkle with olive oil, and put them on a tray in a hot oven for a few minutes till they are crisp.  You could also fry the pita chips.  Cut them into little triangles and fry in light olive oil, or some other oil with a fairly high smoke point,  for a few minutes, then drain on brown paper.  Or you could toast them under the griller. Whichever way you go, you want crisp little shards of bread.

While all this is happening, you can add another layer of multitasking and make the dressing.  This is just a very simple olive oil and lemon juice dressing: good fruity olive oil and fresh lemon juice, and a pinch of salt, in a jar and shake together.

Assembling:

By adding edamame, we’re already going non-traditional, so I don’t suppose it matters what else you add.  This one has:

  • olives (green and black)
  • tomatoes (fresh and sundried)
  • feta
  • labneh
  • chopped parsley and mint
  • cucumber
  • lettuce
  • cooked, shelled endamame
  • pita chips

Lightly dress with the dressing – be careful not to drown it – and serve.  Or pack the pita chips and dressing separately so they stay crisp, pack the salad into a lunch box and make your workmates jealous.

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curing olives

We actually managed to harvest olives this year!  Some years – most years in fact – we’re a bit too slow.  I play chicken with the birds and lose. I like black olives better than green, so I wait and watch the trees, laden, ripening. Then one day, just at the point where I’m thinking best not to risk waiting any longer, I check and they’re all gone.  All….gone.

Maybe I jumped in a little early this year.  Only one jar of black olives, and the rest are green, but a decent harvest and … I can learn to like green olives.

We’re using a southern Italian method of curing.  The black olives are left as is, but the green olives are cracked with my garlic rock, before being put in jars and covered with fresh water.  Cracking just involves hitting them hard enough to split, but not so hard as to crush. I drain them and change the water every day for two weeks, then put them in a strong brine solution ( 1/3 cup salt to every 1 litre of water)  and leave for three months.  Then I drain off the brine and cover with olive oil, packing in some preserved lemon, dried herbs, garlic, and chili.

The last of last year’s olives were the centre of the platter this week, and for green olives, they were pretty good after a year of curing.  Marinated olives, cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices, grilled haloumi, marinated green beans, pomegranate juice with soda water and ice. Yum.

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sun dried tomato tapenade

This is the third of my “Food to Share” series, with the main ingredient inspired by this week’s heat wave tomato sun drying binge.  The heat wave ended yesterday, and the day was cool and misty rain all day. Lovely weather, but I had a tray of tomatoes semi-sun dried, nearly but not quite dry enough for me to feel comfortable storing them in oil.  My basic rule for storing things safely in oil is that if the food would store safely out of the oil, it’s fine.  So tomatoes dried to the leather stage, where, so long as they were kept dry they would not go mildewy, are fine. But semi-sun-dried tomatoes that would go off if they weren’t under oil, should be stored in the fridge, and even then not for too long.  Foods with a high acid content are safe for longer, and this tapenade would probably last for weeks, but the experiment will never get a chance to run in my household!

Everything on this platter is in glut in my garden at present:

  • Sliced fresh Roma and yellow tomatoes
  • Sliced fresh cucumber – the first of the Suyo Long.  The flavour is lovely, but I’ll wait to see how the plant performs before adding it to the favourites
  • Blanched Blue Lake beans
  • Chargrilled eggplant and tromboncino
  • Homemade polenta (I had some sweet corn that we didn’t get around to eating, and it had overmatured)
  • And the star – sundried tomato tapenade

Served with sourdough crostini.

 Sundried Tomato Tapenade Recipe:

In the food processor, blend together:

  • ½ cup sun dried tomatoes (dried to soft leather, not crisp)
  • 6 green olives, deseeded
  • 6 macadamia nuts, lightly toasted
  • ¼ cup fresh sweet basil
  • good tasting virgin olive oil -about 4 dessertspoons, but it will vary depending on how dry your tomatoes are

The flavour is intense and wonderful on crostini or chargrilled vegetables.  I can imagine it would go amazingly well with bocconcini too.  Or on Turkish bread as a base for a Mediterranean-style lunch roll.

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Spin and sing, spin and sing
Half year out, half year in,
Earth at full must spiral in

The longest day, the shortest night, the night of midsummer dreaming.  Happy solstice everyone! Today is the longest day of the year in the southern hemisphere and the shortest in the northern hemisphere, and it’s been a traditional festival for a lot longer than 2011 years.  For me, it marks the start of holidays, a few weeks with some time with family, community and friends, some time visiting, some time at the beach, some time for standing back and thinking about the meaning of life.

In these longest days it is good to remember to relax and enjoy life. It is good to connect with all our senses, to feel the sheer physical joy of being. Which is a bit tricky in the southern hemisphere, where the summer solstice is overlaid with the traditional northern hemisphere mid-winter traditions.

Tonight is a community dinner before everyone heads off for Christmas with family.  It’s such a busy time though, the summer solstice dinner needs to be low, low, low stress.  So tonight’s theme is “Bring a pasta sauce and dress in something that sparkles”. Lots of candles to catch the sparkles, a big pot of pasta, a dozen or more sauces to try on it, wonderful friends. I am looking forward to a magical celebration.

The Recipe:

“Whore’s style” (that’s what it means in Italian!) pasta sauce is a perfect way to capture the sensuality of the season! Not so much a recipe as a concept:

Lots of garlic, fresh and new season.
Lots of the first of the summer’s sun-ripe tomatoes, at their best from now on.
Lots of strong salty flavours in anchovies, olives, and/or capers.
And not much else – keep it pure and direct kind of flavours .

For this pan-full I have ready to take tonight, I sauteed an onion in a good swig of good olive oil.  Added five or six cloves of garlic and about 20 of last year’s olives, mixed green and black, roughly chopped. Then a tin of anchovies, oil and all and a couple of dessertspoons of capers.  (You can leave the anchovies out if you are vegetarian – just add more olives). Then a good double handful of very ripe tomatoes.  Cooked it down till the tomatoes started to dissolve and thicken, then added just a little finely chopped basil and another good double handful of halved tomatoes.  Cooked that until the second batch of tomatoes softened but still remained intact.

Simple, fast, and glorious.

Season’s greetings, everyone!

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This is an easy, but long slow recipe. Perfect for a wet day at home with the fire going.  Chickpeas and silver beet, livened up with lemons and olives – the nice part about it is that it is the kind of filling, low fat, very yummy soup you can snack on all day and feel good in all sorts of ways.

First, cook your Chickpeas

Soak two cups of chickpeas in water for a few hours or overnight.  Drain off the water, add clean water and a good pinch of salt, and simmer for about an hour or pressure cook for about half an hour until they are quite soft.  The time will vary depending on your chickpeas.

At the same time, make your stock

Every vegetable stock is different, depending on the vegies you have to hand.  For this one, I used the green tops of a large leek, several stems and leaves of celery, a diced carrot, silver beet stems, a broccoli stem, some amaranth, some nasturtium leaves (for their peppery-ness), a big handful of rocket leaves, a couple of chillies, a couple of bay leaves, a good pinch of salt and a grinding of black pepper.

Mostly it is the parts of vegetables that would normally be discarded. Add 6 cups of water, cover with a lid,  and simmer for an hour or so.  Then strain out the vegetables and discard them.  Taste the stock and add salt (or soy sauce) to taste.

Assembling:

Saute 5 or 6 garlic cloves and a diced onion in olive oil.

Add 6 cups of vegetable stock, and 4 cups of cooked mashed chick peas.  You have a few choices with the mashing.  The aim is to break them up but not to blend them smooth.  You can add a little of the stock to the peas and use a potato masher or fork.  Or you can add half  the stock to the peas and use an egg beater. Or you can add all of the stock and (careful not to overdo it) use a stick blender.

Add 20 black olives, pitted and roughly chopped.

Bring up to the boil then add about 10 large silver beet leaves, stripped from the stem and chopped into spoon sized pieces.

Simmer for just a few minutes until silver beet is wilted.  Then add ¼ cup lemon juice.  Taste and add salt or soy sauce to taste.

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