"It's so beautifully arranged on the the plate – you know someone's fingers have been all over it." – Julia Child

Posts tagged Olives

Have you ever been to the supermarket and not found a tomato? Probably not. We live in a seasonless era where produce exists year-round. You can buy peaches in the dead of winter and strawberries in the fall, but they never taste good. The same goes for tomatoes. These sci-fi versions with their lipstick red hue and taut skins are more decor than food.

I’ve become used to perennial produce, just like many, and I buy those out of season fruits (mostly tomatoes, because, I just really, really want one in my sandwich) only to eat them and feel deep disappointment.

It’s now late summer and the proper time to eat tomatoes, finally. There are so many beautiful, sun-ripened, juicy ones available you might have a hard time selecting among them, but they’re only around for a short while so eat as many as you can and store the memory of their proper flavor in your mind and belly until next season.

A favorite way we have of eating them is the most simple: salt and pepper, maybe some olive oil, good bread, and whatever cheese you may have, like mozzarella or goat cheese or sharp cheddar (try a cheddar, tomato, and mayonnaise sandiwich!).

We also love this take on a BLT with pork belly and herbs, and a vegetarian ensemble with green and yellow tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, cucumbers, and basil.


1 1/4 pounds pork belly
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1/2 cup ketchup
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons molasses
3 tablespoons malt vinegar
1 tablespoon sharp mustard
1 cup water

– Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350°F.

– With a sharp knife, score (gently cut) the top of the pork belly in a cross-hatch pattern. Season with salt, pepper, and the dry mustard.

– Whisk the remaining ingredients together in small saucepan and bring to a boil. Place the pork belly in a small baking dish and pour the sauce over it (it should come up at least halfway up the sides of the belly, otherwise, transfer to a smaller container). Cover with foil and transfer to the oven. Bake 1 hour until tender.

– Cool the belly completely (preferably refrigerated overnight) and slice into 1/2-inch thick slices. Cook the slices in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp. If you like, you can simmer the cooking sauce and use it to glaze the pork.

– For the sandwich, spread toast with mayonnaise or mustard, then top with the pork belly and ripe, salted tomatoes. Add herbs like lemon thyme and basil and serve.

Finally, eggplant and tomatoes in a version of caponata. Caponata is a Sicilian classic, with myriad interpretations, but mostly it starts with eggplant cooked until tender. Other ingredients include the aforementioned tomatoes, onions, and celery, plus carrots, capers, olives, pine nuts, and herbs. The flavor is agrodolce (sweet-sour) and all of these ingredients combine to hit your palate in multiple locations at once.

This edition is a bit loose, having been made quickly from what was on hand. The dish, as you can see in the photo, is meant to look like a thick, fruit-heavy compote. Our caponata starts with eggplant and includes bits and pieces of fresh tomatoes. It’s actually a great way to rescue leftover bits of tomatoes you might have from having made a sandwich or a salad. You can use anchovies, or sardines as this recipe does—don’t worry, they won’t be “fishy” but will impart a heady dose of umami.


Olive oil
2 black-skinned eggplant (2 to 2 1/2 pounds), cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
Aleppo pepper or red pepper flakes
6 ripe tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup pimento-stuffed olives (chopping optional)
1/3 cup capers, rinsed and drained
2 sardines packed in oil
1/3 cup raisins (optional)
2 rosemary sprigs
Lemon juice
Red wine vinegar
– Heat 1/4 cup olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Add the eggplant and onion and season generously with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant begins to soften and the onion is translucent, about 20 minutes. It’s ok if the eggplant turns a bit brown, but do lower the heat if any excess charring begins to happen.

– Add the garlic and a pinch of Aleppo pepper and cook 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and any juices and continue cooking, stirring, until the mixture is becoming homogenous and thick. Stir in the olives, capers, sardines, raisins, and rosemary and cook for 10 minutes longer.

– Stir in 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, and vinegar.

– Cool to room temperature and serve as an appetizer with garlic toast or alongside grilled fish or chicken.

I am notorious for inviting people over to dinner and not being ready on time. I cook for a living, yet, it seems that when I’m cooking for leisure, I lose track of time. It’s not uncommon for guests to receive apologetic (and admittedly, frantic and misspelled) texts requesting they show up a little bit later. Even after this purchase of a few extra minutes, this hostess is usually sweating and running between kitchen and bathroom with dish rags, tongs, and hairdryer in hand when the doorbell announces the first arrival.

After discussing these issues with Tara we decided that what every hostess who wants to be the one with the mostes’ are easy recipes that can be prepared with little effort yet look and taste amazing. Important tip: seems like a no-brainer, but do try to shop and prep the day before your party; you will ooze calm-and-collectedness rather than perspiration.

Recipe one is for briny olives wrapped in a feta and Mediterranean-spiced crust. The dough comes together quickly and by hand in a single bowl (which minimizes clean-up) and is easy to handle. The olives can be prepared a day in advance and stored in the fridge. When ready to serve, pop in a preheated oven for about 20 minutes, and, voilà, all done.

Pesto is always a crowd-pleaser, but we don’t like to settle for the usual basil variety. Watercress is a perfect substitute, peppery and bold. Creamy, salty feta and pistachios add a curious twist to the old standard. Served with warm naan and crudités (we like to cheat and buy tiny carrots and cucumbers to minimize prep time), this will surely become one of your go-to appetizers.

The grilled squid salad is simple and impressive. The squid tubes are scored in a cross-hatch pattern (don’t worry about making incisions that are too deep as the squid is very resilient) that makes them curl up into gorgeous little tubes when cooked. Squid cooks very quickly so you’ll be in and out of the kitchen in a flash (do this prior to getting dressed, though, to avoid smelling like a poissonière!). If making in advance, chill and let rest at room temperature about 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 4 to 6

1 cup (4 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 1/2 teaspoon za’atar spice
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup all-purpose flour
24 to 30  small pitted olives, such as Manzanillas
Green olives
Peppadew peppers

Beverage pairing suggestion: chilled Lillet

– Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 375°F. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

– In large bowl, stir together cheese, butter, lemon zest, and za’atar until thoroughly combined. Add flour and incorporate with hands until a dough is formed. Cover dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.

– Scoop out 1-teaspoon portions of dough and, using palms, roll into balls. With fingertips, flatten out into 1 ½-inch circles. Place 1 olive on each disc, wrap around olive, and, once again roll between palms. Transfer to baking sheet and, once circles are finished, refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes.

– Bake until golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve warm with green olives and peppadew peppers.

Serves 4

1 garlic clove
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
½ cup shelled roasted pistachios
4 cups watercress
2 teaspoons finely grated zest plus 1 tablespoons juice from 1 lemon
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
Warm naan

– In food processor, pulse garlic, feta, and pistachios until they form a paste. Add watercress, lemon zest, and lemon juice and pulse once again until a paste is formed. With mixer running, slowly pour in olive oil and process until combined. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with crudités and warm naan.

Serves 4

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon finely grated zest plus 2 tablespoons juice from 1 lemon
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
1 garlic clove, minced
½ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon Aleppo pepper
1 pound cleaned squid
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon toasted fennel seeds
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
½ pound small heirloom tomatoes, quartered

– Combine olive oil, lemon zest, orange zest, garlic, coriander, cumin, and Aleppo pepper in small bowl and microwave 45 seconds. Set aside.

– Cut squid tubes open to make flat pieces and, holding knife almost parallel to work surface (at a 30-degree angle), score inner side of flattened squid in a crosshatch pattern (do not cut all the way through). Pat squid bodies and tentacles dry and season with salt and pepper. Toss with vegetable oil.

– Heat grill or grill pan over medium-high heat. Grill squid just until cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes. Cut squid tubes into 1-inch lengths (you can use kitchen shears for this).

– Season tomatoes with salt and pepper.

– Whisk lemon juice into olive oil mixture and drizzle over squid. Garnish with fennel, oregano, and tomatoes. Serve warm or chilled.