This is a two-part recipe. Each part works on its own, but if you make them as a tag-team, your taste buds will dance like ten lords a-leaping. Each can easily be doubled or halved without getting too unwieldy or requiring tricky kitchen math. (If only I’d known in sixth grade that those damn fractions really were going to be important some day!)
These recipes are from an out-of-print cookbook by Rose Dosti called Middle Eastern Cooking. I have a tale to tell about the cookbook, but recipes first, then story.
Marinated Greek Olives (Elies Marinates)
4 cups black and/or green olives*
3/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup lemon juice or red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon crushed dried oregano
1 leek, white part only, sliced
2 orange slices
1 lemon, sliced
1 bay leaf
Combine all ingredients in a large glass bowl or jar. Mix well. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for several hours before eating. Store in a container with a good-fitting lid for up to a month.
These are delicious! The flavor is bright and fresh — citrusy with just a hint of oregano.
*I like cheap olives. I know: I’m a heathen. I used two cans of jumbo black, one can of large black, and a jar of collassal green… just plain ol’ grocery store brand. If you like good olives, go crazy and treat yourself; the directions remain the same.
Moroccan Spiced Olives (Meslalla)
In the cookbook, the olives are described thusly, which sent launched me into daydream mode: “A touch of the casbah to go with cocktails…” That’s all I needed to be immediately smitten with the recipe. I was suddenly swathed in fucshia silk with gold tassels, lounging on a cushion, sipping an icy martini while a monkey scampers about… (like in Raiders of the Lost Ark… “Bad dates.”)
1 cup Marinated Greek Olives or plain black olives
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon walnut, almond, or olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
salt & pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients in a medium glass bowl or jar. Mix well. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for two hours or overnight. Store in a container with a good-fitting lid for up to a month.
These are earthy and spicy and garlicky-good. The marinade makes a delicious dressing for other salad-type things, too. I threw some chopped hearts of palm into the bowl today, and I bet some roasted red peppers or artichoke hearts or pepperoncini (or all three!) would be genius, too.
So there you have it: two great tastes that taste great together. Or separately. Do what makes you happy. I made both recipes for Christmas Eve so I can go back and forth between the two bowls with a fancy toothpick.
I didn’t have much mad money when I was a student at Syracuse University. My parents very generously paid for school and clothes and books and other essentials, and I had a work study job to keep me in beer and non-dining hall food that often paid me even when I didn’t show up ’cause I was too busy studying. I had plenty for which to be grateful, and I satisfied my book lust at the library.
When I moved into my own apartment, I went through an Italian cooking phase that taught me how to make homemade pesto and tomato-basil-mozzarella salad… a thai phase that required a trip to the Asian grocer for fresh lemongrass and other ingredients to make curry paste from scratch (My advice? Just buy the damn paste in a jar and make everything else yourself.)… and an “I should eat beans instead of meat” phase, based on the book The Brilliant Bean (which I just sold to Half-Price books… thank you, dino-chow).
One trip to the library yielded Middle Eastern Cooking by Rose Dosti. My dad is part Lebanese, so I grew up eating hummus, stuffed grape leaves, kibbeh, and lamb kabobs. I had my dad’s recipes for all of those things written on index cards in my kitchen cabinet. Dosti’s cookbook was 192 pages of the best Greek, Arabic, Israeli, and North African recipes to round our my repertoire. I loved the cookbook so much, I was ready to buy it. But I couldn’t find the book in the local bookstore, and this was pre-Internet.
When my dad came to visit one weekend, the two of us went to Kinko’s and photocopied the whole thing. It took a long time, and we chatted and laughed while we plunked the book down on the glass, over and over, oohing and aahing at each recipe, and playing the “You know how that would be good?” game.
I bought a bright yellow cardboard expandable report cover, and that bootlegged cookbook traveled with me from Syracuse to an apartment in Escondido, California to a houseboat in Sausalito to an apartment in San Francisco, and finally, to a duplex and now our house here in Austin. Last year, I found a copy of the book on Amazon, but I couldn’t bear to toss the photocopied version. I just keep ’em both — side by side — on the bookshelf.
I’ve made baba ghanoush and tahini dressing so many times, I don’t need the cookbook to make them anymore. But every few months, I pull out Middle Eastern Cooking… for spiced olives or a totally naughty Chicken Bastela (chicken, ground almonds, and cinnamon baked inside buttered philo dough and sprinkled with powdered sugar. I mean… really!)… and I remember my Dad and I, talking about nothing in particular while we broke several first amendment laws simply to hold onto some awesome, authentic recipes.
If you enjoy the olives, you can thank my dad for teaching me to love a well-constructed recipe and food from the heart.
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