Over the last 20 years, I have made countless trips down Interstate 5 to Southern California to visit friends and family. Unless you factor in the occasional blizzard, it’s a long, boring bouncy drive, whether we’re in the car or motor home. Fortunately, my husband does the driving, leaving me free to catch up on my reading, reprogram my cell phone and plan our next meal.
Eating out on a repetitive road trip is pretty boring and expensive. So, we eat as many meals in the RV as possible. Basic and uncomplicated, our meals are simply a necessary biological function. Until we get to the Olive Pit at Corning.
I love the Olive Pit! Just walking in the door inspires me. Suddenly I’m salivating over the possibilities to spice up our formerly bland ham and cheese sandwiches. I’m conflicted by all of the choices facing me: cranberry-mustard spreads, artichoke salsas, tapenades, pickled vegetables, flavored oils and vinegars and more! The Jordan almonds and fresh, locally grown oranges are just the icing on the cake.
The olive selection is overwhelming. Olives are one of those foods that you either love or hate. Personally, I love them.
My family prefers colossal black olives but my personal favorites are the big fat green ones. You can serve them to me whole, pitted or stuffed with garlic and pimiento. I’ll even eat the ones stuffed with jalapeños but they’re a bit hot for my taste. In the Middle East I devoured the bitter Kalamatas for breakfast along with yogurt and cucumbers.
One of my favorite ways to spice up a sandwich is with a specialty bread such as Foccacia, spread with an olive tapenade. Foccacia sounds rather elegant but it’s really just a rustic yeast bread. A tapenade is simply a rich olive spread. (Sorry, I know that combining ‘olive’ and ‘tapenade’ is redundant but I like the sound of it!)
Spice up your next sandwich with one of these recipes. The tapenade is also delicious spread on crackers or toasted, thinly sliced Italian bread.
¾-ounce cake yeast (cut in half for dry yeast)
2 cups flour, sifted
¾ cup water
½ cup white wine
½ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
4 cups flour, sifted
¾ ounce kosher salt
¼ cup additional olive oil to drizzle before serving
Combine sponge (water, yeast and 2 cups flour) in bowl and let sit in warm place, uncovered, 20-30 minutes.
Add remaining ingredients and mix until just combined. This is wet dough. Cover with a damp towel and let this double — 1 hour.
Punch down as you transfer this to a well-oiled baking sheet. Allow to rise 30 minutes in pan. Once it has risen and is able to hold a fingerprint. Then, oil your fingertips and press them into dough randomly, yet evenly, 1-2 inches deep.
Place in oven and bake at 350-dgrees for 25-30 minutes. Time varies depending on thickness of dough. When ready, dough will be golden with a slight crumb to the top. Invert onto a tray and cool on a rack.
To serve, drizzle with extra olive oil and kosher salt.
1-1/4 cups pitted manzanilla olives or other green Spanish olives; rinsed and drained well
1-tablespoon capers, drained
1 large garlic clove, minced
1-teaspoon fresh lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil (preferably extra-virgin)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
Makes approximately 1 cup.
1 1/2 cups Klamath or Gaea olives, pitted
3 tablespoons capers, drained
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4-cup extra virgin olive oil
In a food processor or using a mortar, combine the olives, capers, garlic, parsley, salt, and pepper. Slowly add the oil and pulse or work with the pestle into a coarse paste, retaining some bits of olive and caper for texture. Taste to adjust the seasonings. Stored tightly covered in the refrigerator, this will keep well for a week or two.
Makes about 2 cups.