One of the regrets of my life is that I’ve lived it in latitudes too cold to have an olive tree in my yard.
Olive trees are beautiful. They’re humble in size, not lording it over us mere humans, but still providing shade for a picnic or a nap. Their small light green leaves move with any breath of breeze, catch the sun when it shines and seem to give it back again when clouds roll in.
There is something special, almost magical, about an olive tree. It can easily outlive a man, if given half a chance. There are olive trees in southern France and throughout the Mediterranean that are several centuries old. They are gnarled and bent and even twisted, but they stand upright. An olive tree is an example of a verb that Faulkner held dear: they endure.
And there’s something magic about olives themselves. If you’ve ever plucked one off a branch, you know that they’re totally inedible. So who was the first person to have the idea of taking this bitter, sour–tasting thing and macerating it for a month or more until it miraculously became delicious?
Well, I’m not going to give you a class in curing olives because I don’t have that tree in my yard and probably neither do you. Besides, there are other sources for that. But I am going to give you a recipe revealed to me by the chef at my favorite restaurant in Provence. It makes olives that will be perfect with long, cool drinks by the pool this summer and on into the early days of autumn.
Olives à la provençale
Cut the following in a brunoise cut (i.e. diced fine):
- onion, and
Mix them with 3 pounds of black and green olives.
Add 1 tsp each of:
- herbes de provence,
plus a few grains of aniseed.
Cover with olive oil and the juice of a large lemon and let macerate for one week.
Obviously, you may not want 3 pounds of olives - remember, this is a recipe of restaurant proportions - but you can cut it down any way you like. And you can share it with friends. Over a glass of something.