In June of 1994, my husband and I attended the Aspen Food and Wine Festival in Aspen, Colorado. I remember the year because it was when the infamous white bronco car chase occurred in Los Angeles. I also know that it was June 12th, because two innocent people were killed on my daughter’s birthday. Although only 8, she was not happy about that.
The festival was crazy. There were so many people, and being short, taller people kept elbowing me in the head and practically knocked me over trying to get to a bit of food and a sip of wine like they’d just been released from a concentration camp, which is why we’ve never been tempted to attend another food and wine festival since.
We did see Julia Child in all her glory at a presentation. I’m so glad my husband was with me; he understands now how special that was.
There was a tent on the festival grounds dedicated to Spain and its foods, and what I remember the most were the deep-fried olives. In fact, between wanting to make them as well as Italian arancini, I soon afterwards purchased a small, electric deep fryer.
It was a couple of decades before I finally made arancini. It’s now time to make the olives.
I have many Italian cookbooks, but the one I reached for was Polpo, by Russel Norman, and I found the perfect recipe. Many fried olives are stuffed with blue cheese, and I just wanted the olives to shine. . Others use the Sicilian Castelvevetrano, but those are just so good as is.
This recipe from Polpo uses Queen olives – big and juicy! And very hard to pit.
By the author: “These cunning little savory confections surprise and delight with the first bite. You’re not really sure what to expect, but the double hit of saltiness from the olive and then the anchovy tends to wake up the taste buds and sharpen the appetite. They’re as sophisticated a cocktail snack as any I know and never fail to impress.”
Fried Stuffed Olives
10 brown anchovy fillets, drained
5 sage leaves
1 garlic clove
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 handful of grated Parmesan
20 large Italian “queen” green olives, pitted
3 medium free-range egg whites
Italian 00 flour for coating
1 liter vegetable oil
Chop the anchovies, sage, and garlic as finely as possible and then, using a pestle and mortar (or in a bowl with the end of a rolling pin), turn into a paste, adding the lemon juice a few drops at a time. Mix in a pinch of black pepper and the Parmesan.
Stuff the olives by using a disposable piping bag to squirt your mixture into the hole left from pitting the olives. Dip into the egg white, then the flour, and then the breadcrumbs.
Half fill a deep pan with the vegetable oil and bring the temperature up to 190 degrees C (375° F.) Deep fry the coated olives in the oil for 2-3 minutes, or until golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper.
I don’t exactly remember how the fried olives looked that day at the food festival, but I’m sure they looked better than these. I tried only using flour, and with some of the olives I only used panko. No matter what I did they didn’t coat well and didn’t look pretty after frying.