Putting the squeeze on olives

Cooking with Cathie

editorial@sierrastarSeptember 10, 2013 

In my family, like so many others, olive oil was a staple and we would no sooner do without it than we would do without bread or other necessities. When I was a kid, there weren't nearly as many types and brands available as there are now, but it didn't really matter because it was all good.

Olive oil is so tasty and popular that you often see it served in restaurants as an appetizer, in a dipping bowl along with slices of crusty artisan-type bread. I could write a book about its history, healthful qualities, different methods of processing, and different varieties of olives, but as interesting as all that is, we know what we're really here for: recipes! So let's get on with the show.

Pesto sauce

Might as well get the basics out of the way with this recipe for pesto sauce featuring olive oil and fresh basil. A little bit of pesto sauce is great added to a pot of regular spaghetti sauce or minestrone or vegetable soup.

  • 1 or 2 garlic cloves (I use a lot more, but it's up to you)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 3 cups loosely packed basil leaves, stripped from stems
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Chop garlic, salt and pine nuts in a blender or food processor until finely chopped.
  2. Add basil and olive oil; puree until smooth.
  3. Add the cheese and process just to combine; taste and adjust seasonings. Serve with pasta, grilled meats or vegetables.

Butter bean and spinach soup

From the California Olive Ranch. You can substitute any type of dried beans if you don't care for butter beans.

  • 6 ounces dried butter (large lima) beans, soaked in water overnight
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 5 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed
  • 1/3 pound fresh spinach, cleaned
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup chopped fresh parsley or celery leaves
  1. Drain beans and place in a large pot. Add stock or broth, bring to a simmer, and cook for about 40 minutes, or until tender.
  2. Meanwhile, in a sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sauté onion and thyme leaves until soft, about 6 minutes. When beans are tender, add onion mixture to the pot (if you like, add a little more water to get a looser soup). Bring to a simmer, then add spinach and stir.
  3. Check seasoning for salt and pepper and adjust to your taste. Serve in bowls, garnished with celery or parsley leaves and drizzled with remaining olive oil. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Corn with sugar snap peas

It helps if you can find stringless sugar snap peas. I prefer the cilantro over the mint in this recipe.

  • 12 ounces sugar snap peas, trimmed
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • 2 to 3 cups fresh corn kernels (cut from 3 or 4 ears)
  • 1/2 cup green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint or cilantro leaves and tender stems, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  1. Soak the sugar snap peas in a bowl of cold water with a couple of ice cubes for 10 minutes, drain.
  2. Heat the olive oil and garlic in a large skillet over medium-low heat until the garlic begins to s sizzle. Add the sugar snaps and stir to coat with the olive oil. Cook, covered, on medium-low heat, until the sugar snaps are crisp tender, about 4 minutes.
  3. Add the corn and scallions and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Sprinkle with the mint and salt and spoon into a serving dish. Garnish with tiny cherry or grape tomatoes, if desired.Makes 4 servings.

Clementine and olive oil cake

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons clementine zest*
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup clementine juice*
  1. Preheat oven to 375. Grease and flour one 12-by-4-inch loaf pan.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl.
  3. In a mixing bowl, combine sugar and clementine zest and rub together to extract the fragrant oil from the zest. Add olive oil and mix on high speed until completely combined (preferably with the whisk attachment). Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture and mix on slow speed. Add half of the clementine juice and continue mixing. Add another 1/3 of the flour mixture, followed by the rest of the clementine juice and the remaining flour mixture and beat until combined between each addition. Pour batter into the prepared pan.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove cake from oven, cool on a rack for 10 minutes, then remove from pan. Makes 1 loaf.

* Depending on size, 2 to 3 clementines would be enough for the zest and juice.

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