Thursday, June 3, 2010
NEW - Top This: Olive Salad
Marinated toppings and salads/spreads are a big thing in my house. When it comes to sandwiches, burgers, scrambled eggs or any other dish that would go well with a condiment, my wife and I are usually reaching for a jar of roasted red peppers, hot cherry peppers or bruschetta topping instead of ketchup, mustard and relish. There's something about the combination of fresh vegetables mixed with olive oil, herbs and the tang of vinegar to really add a nice punch to a dish.
Roasted red peppers are, of course, the standby. They're fairly easy to make, and nothing beats the taste and texture of home made. Whether you're roasting your own or buying them jarred, they work well with just about anything, from pasta salad to a topping on a veal chop. For as good and versatile as they are, the most recent go-to jarred pepper in our house is Mancini's Fried Peppers with Sweet Onion. Unlike roasted reds, they're a little less on the tang and just a bit more on the heat. We've been buying these two jars at a time as of late!
One of my big late summer/early fall traditions as of late is marinating and jarring eggplant. It's my way of keeping some old world traditions alive for my kids to enjoy and appreciate. Based on the response that I received from my post last year, it's got me thinking that maybe I should make a few more jars this year...just in time for holiday gifts! To read more about my jarring process and serving suggestions, click here for the link to my marinated eggplant article.
Another great topping that we often use is bruschetta topping (made with chopped plum tomatoes, onions, fresh herbs, garlic and olive oil - think of it as Italian salsa). The traditional way to serve it is as a topping on a piece of toasted French or Italian bread rubbed with fresh garlic. However, the flavors and ingredients work so well together that I'll often use it as a topping on white pizza, chicken or mixed with pasta.
Olives are, of course, a great appetizer side. They work well in salads, antipasto, as ingredients to main dishes, or on their own. They're also an endless source of entertainment for my kids. Seriously, who hasn't put olives on their fingers when they were young?!?! Although they only come in two colors – black (fully ripe) and green (unripe) – there's a wide variety of pepared olives to choose from: traditional black and green (in small, medium or large), manzanilla (Spanish green olives, often stuffed with pimientos), kalamata (Greek black olives, brine cured), and gaeta (Italian black olives, salt cured and soaked in oil) just to name a few. My daughter, Julianna, has been eating green olives stuffed with gorgonzola cheese since she was 1-1/2, and her younger sister Ava is following suit right behind her!
This week, I'm going to combine the best of both worlds and make an olive salad/spread. I'm using three types of olives (medium black, medium green and kalamata), mixing it with some fresh garlic, oregano and basil (fresh or dried will work), crushed red pepper, vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and a little bit of grated parmesan cheese for an extra kick. Serves well as a bruschetta-style topping, mixed with pasta, or on your favorite pizza or sandwich.
Now, if you're not a big fan of olives to begin with, this dish probably won't change your mind on them. But if you are an olive lover, give this dish a try. I'm sure you'll like it. And have fun with it...add your own favorite variety of olive, or try spicing it up by adding some peppers!
1 cup medium black olives, pitted
1 cup medium green olives, pitted (with or without pimientos)
1 cup kalamata olives, pitted
3 tspns red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, smashed*
1 tspn fresh oregano, chopped (or 2 tspns dried oregano)
1 tspn fresh basil, chopped (or 2 tspns dried basil)
1/4 tspn red pepper flakes
1 tblspn grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (you can add more olive oil to desired amount)
Place all ingredients in a food processor, adding olive oil last. Pulse to chop until desired texture (I recommend chopped instead of smooth texture).
Place in a jar or bowl, cover and let refrigerate for at least an hour prior to serving.
*To smash garlic, place clove(s) on a chopping board, lay the flat side of a chef's knife on the clove (sharp side facing away from you) then strike the knife with the heel of your palm, crushing the clove beneath the knife. The papery skin will slip right off the crushed cloves which can then be minced very fine or used in the recipe as it is. Not only does smashing garlic simplify the peeling and chopping process, it also releases the flavors of the garlic.