the joys of green-olive relish


olives in bulk, originally uploaded by shaunaforce.

There’s a story in my family told so often that it has become legend. When I was nearly two, my father babysat me by himself for the first time. Apparently he didn’t keep that close a watch over me, because I somehow wriggled my fingers into a jar of olives and ate all of them, one by one. Instantly, I broke out into hives across my body. My father never babysat me again.http://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gif

That never stopped me from eating olives, however. I love sharply tanged kalamata olives, pitted and tossed with goat cheese and arugula in a salad. Densely wrinkled black olives in a nicoise salad. Giant green olives stuffed with almonds or garlic cloves. When I was a kid, I loved the jumbo black olives out of the can; I’d put one on each finger and eat them with a satisfying pop. Sometimes, nothing makes me happier than cruising by the bulk olive bar at Ballard Market or Whole Foods, perusing the choices and planning menus.

I even like reading about the history of olives. Did you know that human beings began cultivating olives before they developed written languages?

And I can’t even begin to discuss how much I love great olive oil. Ahhh.

Thank goodness, there is no gluten in olives. If there were, I’d be in trouble. I’d much rather give up beer and bread than olives.

Happily, I now have one more way of eating olives. Yesterday, at my lovely party at Golden Gardens, my friends handed me new recipes for my birthday. I asked for favorite dishes instead of presents. Sonora brought me a gorgeous Indian cookbook, so you can probably expect plenty of spicy recipes here. I’m so looking forward to the potato pancakes and West African groundstew I’m going to be making soon. But today, I made green-olive relish.

But first, I have to admit this: I never used to follow recipes. Real cooks just make it up as they go along, right? For years, I threw in a bit of this, tossed in a bit of that, and fleshed out the basic skeleton with my own muscles. It always tasted great. I’ve always been showered with compliments. But now, I’m following recipes. In the new world of gluten-free, I have to know which specialty flours to mix with how much xantham gum. And doing that has inspired me to actually pay attention to the other recipes, the ones that were always gluten free. Finally, I know this: I have a lot to learn.

So I looked at this recipe, and thought, “Ah, I could make this up.” But Amy, the dear friend who gave this to me, is a precise, wonderful cook. I followed it to the letter, just doubling it for volume. (Okay, I used Sicilian green olives instead of the jarred, pimento-stuffed ones. They were in front of me.) And it’s gorgeous. Filled with flavor. Densely packed. And good on these excellent, gluten-free crackers. Tomorrow, I’m going to sautee some halibut and throw some of this one top. I’m already excited about tomorrow night’s dinner.

Green-olive relish, thanks to Amy Harris

1/4 cup drained, bottled pimiento-stuffed green olives
1 small garlic clove, minced and mashed to a paste with a pinch of salt
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Pulse the olives in a food processor until they are finely chopped. Add the remaining ingredients and pulse until everything is mixed.