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I’ve got the BEST iPhone app for all you recipeheads out there. It’s the Epicurious recipe & shopping list app and it’s FAH-REEEEEEEEEE!!!! Yep, you heard me right. Freebie, baby. What’s so ducky about it, you ask? Say you open your fridge and there’s one sad turnip, one lonely jellybean, and one can of Old Style. Your wallet was just stolen so there’s no way you’re ordering pizza. Oh, yeah. You’re in the mood for Indian. You just open your little EpiApp, click the turnip, jellybean, and beer icons under “Search by Ingredient” and then the Indian icon under “search by cuisine.” And voilà. Your recipe awaits. I’d tell you the results but that wouldn’t be any fun. You’ll have to download it to see for yourself.

In the meantime, I searched for lemon and leafy greens last night (my fridge is way more well-stocked than that poor sot above, pooh-pooh) and came up with this little gem called “Herb jam with olives and lemon.” Somehow, despite the pathically unappetizing name (herb jam? weird.), I was intrigued. And thank groodness. What resulted (with mad substitutions) was soh-fine. Regard:

  • 1 bunch swiss chard, coarsely chopped (a sweet green)
  • 1/2 c. cilantro, chopped (a stinky green)
  • 4 oz. arugula (a bitter green)
  • 4 cloves garlic, whole
  • 3 T. olive oil
  • 1/2 c. chopped olivasecca (or black olives of choice)
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 1/4-1/2 t. chipotle chili flakes (can sub. red pepper flakes)
  • 1/8 t. freshly ground cumin
  • salt to taste

Place the greens into a steamer with the whole garlic cloves on top. Steam garlic & greens (chard, cilantro, and arugula) for 15 minutes in a covered steamer. Remove the garlic from the pot and set aside. Remove the greens and place on a cutting board. Chop finely.

Put the olive oil in a large frying pan. With the back of a fork, mash the steamed garlic and fry for a minute or two. Add the dry spices and fry for a minute to release their aroma. Add the minced greens and olives and saute on high, stirring occasionally to further concentrate the flavor as the excess moisture cooks off. Turn off the heat and add the lemon juice and salt to taste. Makes ~2 cups. Serve on gf flatbread, or over rice with fried tofu (omit the sesame seeds for this application) on top.

Gluten-free Pizza á la greca: with spinach, feta, tomatoes, and dried olives


Mmmm… zaaaa.

Gluten-Free Pizza à la Greca: with Spinach, Feta, & Olives

  • One package Gillian’s Wheat, Gluten & Dairy Free Pizza Dough (available at Whole Paycheck)
  • 1 small onion
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 pint fresh cherry tomatoes
  • 8 oz. chopped spinach
  • 2 oz. feta cheese
  • 1/4 c. pitted olives, coarsely chopped (try Penna’s Olivasecca – they’re amazing!)
  • 1-2 T steel cut oats or corn meal
  • oregano, salt & pepper to taste

This is a great quick meal if you have the foresight to thaw the pizza dough the night before. Of course, you can use a different pizza dough that doesn’t require thawing. Do a little exploring in the frozen foods section of your gross-hairy store and see what you can come up with.

Preheat the oven to 400° F. Slice the onion and garlic and saute in olive oil until glassy-looking. Add the can of crushed tomatoes and let cook down until there is very little liquid left. Add the cherry tomatoes and cook until their skins start to split – approximately 10 minutes on medium high heat. Add the spinach; saute another 5ish minutes.

Cut a large piece of parchment paper and set on a flat surface. Sprinkle 1-2 T steel cut oats or coarse corn meal (polenta works) in a circle about 6-8″ in diameter. Flatten the pizza dough into a 1″-thick disc and place on the oats/grits. Roll the dough out until it is 12-14″ in diameter. Pinch the edges so you have a little ridge all the way around. Spoon the tomato/spinach/onion mixture onto the crust and distribute evenly. Spread the crumbled feta cheese and chopped olives on top. Sprinkle with oregano, salt & pepper. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until crust turns golden brown. Ta-zaaa!

It’s been more than 10 days, but forgive me. I vacate. (Did I just turn vacation into a verb? Yes, I did. I kind of like it…) By now my little olivinas are brining happily and approaching deliciosity. But I have not revealed how they got from tasteless snoozefest to their current state of yum. So let me divulge.

Ingredients for Brining Homemade Olives

Ingredients for Brining Homemade Olives

Once the olives are cured of their bitter madness, it’s time to add back some flav-ah-flave. It starts with a basic brine that can be spruced up to your heart’s content with lemon, garlic, fresh herbs, dried herblinas, food coloring (what? ew – totally kidding), hot hot peppahs, gin, vodka, you name it. If you’re unhappy with what you come up with, the beauty of brine is that you can always change the flavor. Either add more of the same to bump up the flavor, add new spices to change the flavor, or if you’re totally disgusted by your first creation, dump the existing brine and start over. Brining is more of an art than a science, so if you feel moved to add 5 cloves of garlic rather than 3, by all means, knock yourself out.

Once brined, the olives need to be stored in the refrigerator. They will be ready to eat in about two weeks. Typically, the longer they sit in the brine the better they taste, but let’s be honest; who can stand to wait longer than 2 weeks!?

Basic Olive Brining Recipe

  • 3 ¼ c. water
  • ¾ c. white vinegar
  • 5 T salt

Some of my creations in past years:

Homemade Olives A la Gioco:

  • 1x basic brine recipe
  • 2.5 lbs cured olives (will fill 1/2 gallon jar)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 T fennel seeds
  • 4 whole dried chili peppers
  • 2 star anise
  • rind of 1 orange
  • 1 T black peppercorns

Homemade Speecey-Espicy Olives

  • 1x basic brine recipe
  • 2.5 lbs cured olives (will fill 1/2 gallon jar)
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 10-20 whole dried chilis
  • 4 cloves garlic

Lemony Snicket Homemade Olives

  • 1x basic brine recipe
  • 2.5 lbs cured olives (will fill 1/2 gallon jar)
  • 1/2 lemon, sliced
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 4 cloves garlic

Herbaceous Homemade Olives

  • 1x basic brine recipe
  • 2.5 lbs cured olives (will fill 1/2 gallon jar)
  • 5ish sprigs fresh thyme or rosemary
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 T black peppercorns

Where to buy fresh olives:
For the past five years, I have bought my olives from Penna, a family-run business in California. While you’re at it, check our their Olivasecca – amazing dried black olives the likes of which you’ve never tasted. You can also follow them on Facebook and they’ll keep you up-to-date on when olive season starts and ends.

Other posts in this series:

  1. Blather on about the greatness of home-cured olives and order freshies
  2. T’aint no lye: Curing olives without the nasties (hint: use water!)
  3. Brining is the key to olive happiness. Oh, the places we’ll go! (you are here)

Homemade Olives: The curing process

Homemade Olives: The curing process

Olive night came and went and the olives are now happily eating up all my available counter space, curing their little brains out. Why must they cure? Olives in their raw state are seriously bitter (try one! It’s shocking), so they must be cured to remove the ick. There are three ways to do this:

1. Salt-Drying: I don’t know much about this method other than it uses a shocking amount of salt. But suffice to say, at the end of the process you get shriveled little uber-olives. Power-packed with flavor. Not for the faint of heart or the fair-weather olive friend. I love them.

2. Curing with Lye: Commercial olives are typically cured with lye. It’s the lower-maintenance method (barely) and has therefore won the hearts of olive manufacturers eager to turn out this year’s batch of olives and make a buck. Any olives you see that have not been cracked have likely been lye-cured. But everything I’ve heard about lye tells me it’s a nasty thing to work with in your home, so we’ll be curing with…

2. Curing with Water: Oleuropein*, the substance that makes olives bitter, is soluble in water (how lucky). So an easy, albeit more labor intensive way to remove the bitterness is to soak the little olivinas in water. To do this, first you must crack the olives (really well) to allow the bitterness to leech out. Then put them in a jar and cover them completely with water. At this stage there is no need to refrigerate them. Change the water every day for 10 days. Over the course of the ten days, you’ll notice the water you dump each day gets less and less stinky yellow. At the end of this process, the olives will smell faintly olive-like but will be almost tasteless.

How do you crack an olive?

I’ve experimented with several ways; faced with 20-30 pounds of olives, I alternate between two to avoid sore hands or amputated limbs (you think I jest…) The first method involves placing one olive at a time on a cutting board and either leaning on it with the flat side of a cleaver (any wide, stiff knife will work. A second, smaller cutting board will work as well). This works better if you’re tall or like to cook in platforms or stilettos. The second method is similar; you rest the flat side of the knife on the olive, but instead of leaning on the knife, you give it a swift whack with the heel of your hand. Sometimes the knives get slippery from the olive goo (careful, it stains) and you get scared that you’ll slip and chop off a limb. When that happens, you might consider switching to smashing the olives with that second, smaller cutting board I mentioned instead of the slimy knives.

*This is priceless – Wikinerdia’s explanation for what oleuropein is: “tyrosol esters of elenolic acid that are further hydroxylated and glycosylated.” In case you were wondering.

Where to buy fresh olives:
For the past five years, I have bought my olives from Penna, a family-run business in California. While you’re at it, check our their Olivasecca – amazing dried black olives the likes of which you’ve never tasted. You can also follow them on Facebook and they’ll keep you up-to-date on when olive season starts and ends.

Other posts in this series:

  1. Blather on about the greatness of home-cured olives and order freshies
  2. T’aint no lye: Curing olives without the nasties (hint: use water!) (you are here)
  3. Brining is the key to olive happiness. Oh, the places we’ll go!
Raw Olives, oh joy!

Raw Olives, oh joy!

The anticipation sets my little tastebugs atwitter. September is olive harvest month and I just got 40 (yes, 40) pounds of fresh green olives delivered to my doorstep. Saaaa-weeet! Bitter, actually, but we’ll fix that. Stay tuned for this three-part post:

  1. Blather on about the greatness of home-cured olives and order freshies (you are here)
  2. T’aint no lye: Curing olives without the nasties (hint: use water!)
  3. Brining is the key to olive happiness. Oh, the places we’ll go!

Stay tuned. Olive curing happens tonight.
YUM!

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