Tuesday, April 2, 2002  [!]

Olive You!! Another Tuesday Gardening/Cooking Class at the Arboretum. (I missed last week—rosemary— but hey, that trip to Seattle was important!) Today's theme is (are you ready for this?) Olives!

[see Class 1: Citrus]

olive lecture: The class began with a lecture about olives by someone whose name I didn't catch (I *had* to grab coffee beforehand, so I missed the introduction, eek), a representative of Divina olives (alas, Divina has no web site that I can see). Also, Jill Vig, the class instructor, is in the background.

Divina is a brand of olives from Greece—estate grown, and painstakingly prepared. For instance, all olives are soaked in a lye to get rid of the bitterness of fresh-picked, but Divina soaks for merely 2 hours, rather than the 48 hours of some other brands (48 hours in lye and olives are ready to go; a 2 hour soak still requires a couple months of just sitting to cure just so. You can see why other brands do it that way, but you lose some flavor with the longer lye soak).

olive sampler: But hey, we didn't just get to hear about olives, we got to taste them. Here are some of the olives and peppers and some way cool onions we got to sample, thanks to Divina and Whole Foods Markets, who donated the olives and peppers to us today.

Then Jill gave a short lecture about the care and tending of olive trees, which are extremely durable, indeed. Since the class is Gardening and Cooking in a Mediterranean Climate, why, it comes as no surprise that olive trees are native to the mediterranean area.

The cooking portion of the class was taught by Chef Steven Mary, who's from Pasadena's Huntington Ritz-Carlton (specifically, he's the chef at The Terrace restaurant, the one by the pool; he told me that his colleague Craig Strong, chef at The Grill, just got a very nice writeup in the L.A. Times). Steven Mary prepared and demonstrated portions of his olive-based menu:

tapenade: The Tapenade is an olive-type dip eaten with bread. (slice baguettes, brush with olive oil, salt n pepper, toast under broiler). The Tapenade has a blend of different greek olives, garlic, parmesan cheese, anchovy, basil, thyme, lemon zest, and salt and pepper to taste. What part of 'to die for' don't you understand?

processing tapenade: Yep. You take all those wonderful ingredients, make sure that the olives have been pitted (else eek!) and put 'em in a food processor or blender. Even with all the wonderful olive samplings, I had to say yes when seconds was offered.

steven serves bread: Steven Mary goes around the tables, serving bread.

roasted red pepper: One of the ingredients in the Olive/Fennel Pasta Salad —um, excuse me, the Saffron Fusilli with Olives and Fennel and Olive Vinaigrette— is roasted red pepper. Here Steven shows what it looks like after charring in the broiler, and then being set in a plastic-covered bowl to sweat, before the skin is peeled and the pepper is julienned as part of the salad.

pasta salad: Here's the pasta salad; which is strong on its own, and is designed to be paired with the olive oil sorbet; each one offsets the other.

consulting re saffron: The pasta is cooked with saffron to color it yellow and to add that little saffron something (somewhat related to je ne sais quois). Here Steven looks up saffron to tell us a little tidbit about it. Saffron, which is the stigma of the plant crocus sativus, which itself is a drought-tolerant plant that dies back in hot season and comes back with the rains.

scooping sorbet: Who'd a thunk it? Olive Oil Sorbet? But oh oh whoa, was it good. It was steeped with basil, too! Methinks that with all these great sorbets it's time to look into getting an Ice Cream maker. :D

answering questions: Say, that recipe you gave us, how many will it serve? Aaah, I just went and looked it up, and it will serve 4 for a meal, and 6 if it's to be a side dish...

Google: olives; tapenade; crocus sativus (saffron)

The Elusive Olive Branch of Peace. The problem with going out of town and other pursuits is that I miss out on the news about the middle east, other than that it's horrible and I'd rather be an ostrich. Catching up is daunting. Thanks to The Guardian for providing historical context.