Monday, January 19, 2009

Black Olive Tapenade and Mediterranean Daydreams

I don't mind the winter. Really, I don't. It's January, I enjoy having a little snow on the ground; at least the first day. But once it's grey and sloppy, it really is time for the snow to go. I mean have a little dignity. You look ... less than. Time to consider a rapid melt down.

And there is a definite beauty to the bare black limbs of trees against that blue winter sky that defines the shade sky blue. Inevitably it's at about this point of my revelry that the wind begins to pick up and sway those branches, waving them just enough against the background of white flossy clouds, to focus your soul on the two words that sucks the joy right out of Jack Frost. Wind Chill.

Not many options at this point except to pull the cap down tightly, readjust the scarf and head indoors to the solace of a freshly uncorked bottle of Montepulciano di Abruzzi, Bandol, Rioja or Cotes de Provence. There are the options of tea, hot cider or cafe con leche of course... but this is MY daydream and I'm headed south, and way east. As in France and her southern nether regions and neighbors.

Once unencumbered of scarf, earmuffs, hat, gloves, down coat, boots, sweater, flannel shirt, jeans, long sleeve undershirt, long johns and woolly socks ... I can slip into a short sleeve pastel shirt, linen trousers and sandals. I do live in a typically overheated NYC apartment after all. Next load the CD player with some Edith Piaf, Gypsy Kings and Charles Aznavour, or any other personal favorites. Gather together the selection of St. Felician, Comte and Fresh Chevre I so intuitively purchased yesterday and place it next to the warm baguette I strangely don't even remember buying. But this is my daydream.

So here I am. Perfectly positioned to travel through time and space to spend a warm afternoon on some nondescript locale somewhere between the Costa Brava and Portofino. And yet, fine as fragrant bread, fruity reds and perfectly ripe cheese can be, I needed something quintessentially European, something capable of slapping my sense memory backwards several lives or so, into a lifetime when I'm sure I roamed the planet warmed by a Mediterranean sun.

Ahhhhh. Tapenade. That's the ticket. An earthy, black-purple, oil rich, paste of in your face flavor. Ready to smear, slather and dip into those yeasty chunks of fresh bread. Now I'm nowhere near this snowy Brooklyn landscape.

Make some of this kids. Covered with a thin film of olive oil, it will keep refrigerated for weeks, should it last so long. Great on sandwiches, stuffed in a chicken breast, or schmeared on a crostini with a salad.

Black Olive Tapenade

This recipe makes a little more than a pint, and has been cut down from a larger "catering sized" recipe, so as always feel free to tweak ingredients up or down based on your own perfect palatte.

14 ounces kalamata olives, pitted
(or your own preferred type or mix of black olives)
3 tablespoons nonpareil capers, drained
3 anchovy fillets - top quality
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons brandy
1 1/2 tablespoons roasted garlic cloves, mashed

Rinse olives in fresh water and drain well. Very roughly chop the olives to ensure no pits remain. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. Feel free to leave some chunky texture if you prefer. Pack in glass or plastic containers. Lightly cover with olive oil and let "cure" in the refrigerator for 24 hours if you can resist.

There's a treat for you my lovelies. Not much I suppose after so many months absent. But make a batch, call me and I'll bring a cheap and tasty bottle to share. Be seeing you soon.

Contented Eating,
Big Mary

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