Tag Archives: olives


This is another offering I took to the poetry reading. The recipe found its way into the family cookbook many years ago when my sister-in-law sent it to Susan from CaliforniaShe had made hidden olives for a cocktail party, and they got rave reviews. Now the reason that the recipe made it into the cookbook is not because it is delicious – even though it is – but rather because of the laughs that go along with it. The first time she tried the recipe, Susan used jumbo-size olives and the individual pieces turned out also to be JUMBO. At the time, Bernadette Peters was making us all laugh with her advertisement for a medication for indigestion. “What a big dumpling,” her on-screen husband say. “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing!” We, Susan included, thought that the hidden olives were our equivalent of the television big dumpling. If you decide to try the recipe, there are two things to remember about the olives: (1) use small olives, and (2) use olives that have had the seed removed.

For this version, I added butter to make the dough come together. It worked, but it probably also enhanced spreading in the oven. Try the recipe without butter; you can always add some if you need to. Note that with that addition, the recipe is nearly identical with the Southern classic, cheese straws.


Hidden Olives


  • 1 pound sharp or extra sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup flour
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter, cut in ½ inch cubes
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 32 small pimiento-stuffed olives (a 5 ounce jar should contain more than enough)


  1. Grate the cheese and let stand at room temperature until soft.
  2. Place the grated cheese, flour, butter, cayenne, garlic powder, and Worcestershire sauce in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the ingredients come together as a smooth, soft dough.
  3. On a work surface, shape the dough into a round ball. Cut in half. Shape each half into a ball and again cut in half. Repeat three more times. You should have 32 equal-sized pieces of dough.
  4. One by one, press an olive into the center of one of the pieces of dough, covering the olive completely and rolling between your palms to form a ball.
  5. Arrange the olive-filled balls on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a Silpat, leaving at least 1½ inches between the balls. They will spread during baking.
  6. Bake in the middle of an oven preheated to 400°F for 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack.
  7. Reheat for a few minutes to serve warm, if possible, though they’re still good at room temperature.


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The other night we dropped by the bar at Staab House in La Posada Resort and Spa. That was where we had the reception for our younger daughter’s wedding some years ago, so we went back for a bit of nostalgia. It was Happy Hour, so we got their house cocktails. I got Julia’s Manhattan. The drink is named after the resident ghost of the Staab House. (Doesn’t very bar of any age have its own ghost?) and the drink included elderberry liqueur. It was delicious.

We also got some of their bar foods. A standout was the fried green olives stuffed with goat cheese and served with fried Marcona almonds. The olives were so delicious and so unique, that I determined to try them at home. I found some giant olives at the store along with goat cheese. I just bought things off the shelf, but you could get fancy and use olives from the olive bar and artisanal goat cheese.  The major challenge was to figure out how to get the breadcrumbs to stick to the olives. The bread crumbs on the original looked like panko, so that was a place to start.

I tried xanthan gum as the glue, but all I got was a sticky blob of clumped xanthan. Then I tried egg wash made from egg white diluted with a little water. That didn’t work any better than the xanthan gum. I checked my cookbooks to no avail, so I was finally forced to turn to the internet. There, mirabile dictu, were at least ten recipes for fried olives stuffed with all sorts of things including Italian sausage. They all described the dish as “easy”. What was the secret of all of these recipes? The answer seemed to be using classic breading technique – dry the olives, dredge them in flour, coat them in egg, and then dip them in bread crumbs. Regular bread crumbs work, but if you want to use panko, you need to grind them a little finer in a spice mill or with a rolling pin. I tried these suggestions and wound up with this recipe. After all my scouting efforts, I opened my new (May, 2015) cop of Saveur magazine to find yet another recipe for olives stuffed with ground beef and pork (page 57)

Shamelessly, I am posting my own recipe in the face of all of that professional competition. It might be easier just to go back to the Staab House.


Fried Goat-Cheese-Stuffed Green Olives


  • 24 colossal pitted green olives
  • 4 ounces mild goat cheese, softened at room temperature
  • all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 egg, beaten until smooth
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • dry bread crumbs or crushed panko
  • peanut oil for frying


  1. Drain and dry the olives
  2. Place the softened goat cheese in a pastry sleeve fitted with a ½ inch plain tip. ( Alternatively, you can use a 1/8 teaspoon measuring spoon or your fingers to stuff the olives._
  3. Fill the pitted olives with the goat cheese.
  4. In a pie plate, mix the flour and salt. In a small bowl, combine the beaten egg and water. Sprinkle bread crumbs in a second pie plate.
  5. Dredge the filled olives in a shallow dish filled with flour mixture. Individually, toss the olives in your open hand to remove any extra flour.
  6. Dip the floured olives one by one in the bowl with the beaten egg mixture. Transfer to the pie plate of bread crumbs and toss lightly to coat the olives with bread crumbs. Make sure the cheese stuffing is well-coated.
  7. Dry the olives for 30 minutes on a rack. You can prepare the olives ahead up to this point.
  8. When you are ready to fry the olives, heat enough of the peanut oil in a heavy, high-sided pan to submerge the olives. Heat the oil to 350°F. Use a thermometer to check the temperature.. In batches, fry the olives for just a few minutes, turning occasionally until the crust is golden brown. Drain on layers of paper towels. Keep warm until all of the olives are fried.
  9. Serve while still warm.


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It is hard to say enough good things about the b. Patisserie. This French-style bakery has been open only a short time , but it has already collected a lot of awards and a big following. It is located in Pacific Heights/Laurel Heights at 2821 California Street. The chef/owner, Belinda Leong, a friend of Sarah and Evan, is an experienced pastry chef with many awards. She is formerly the pastry chef at the Michelin-starred Manresa in Los Gatos, CA and has also spent time in the fabled Parisian patisserie, Pierre Hermé.

The main attraction of b.’s is, of course, sweet pastry in the French style, but there is also a wide selection of granolas, mousses, quiches, and tartines so you can enjoy a nice lunch or snack with dessert. There ae pln†y of tables inside as well as some comfortable chairs outside. If you prefer, you can have it all packed in a box to take home, but then you have to forego the very interesting people watching.

There is a wide selection of croissants from plain (Is there such a thing as a “plain” croissant?) to a completely decadent chocolate, banana-almond version that is filled with a velvety banana cream.

The kouign amann is a wonder. Made of a light dough (I think it is puff pastry) and shaped like an opening flower bud, the outside is a caramelized brown, crisp and glistening with sugar crystals, reminiscent of a palmier. Break open the petals and the inside is filled with a nectar from the transformed sugar inside. You will need extra napkins even if you eat it with a fork.

The passion fruit-flavored bostock is redolent of almonds and the wonderful scent of passion fruit. The creamy little cake is so elegant and so flavorful.

When we visited, it was lunch time, so I ordered a muffuletta tartine. If you have been to New Orleans, you probably have had a muffuletta from the Central Grocery in the French Quarter where it is said the sandwich was invented more than a hundred years ago. The original is served on a giant Italian bread roll with provolone, salami and cappicola. The thing that really makes it a muffuletta and different from other subs, heroes, and po’boys, though, is the unique “olive salad” rich with garlic, olive oil, chopped olives, and pickled vegetables.

Belinda’s muffuletta nails the flavors of the original, including the olive salad. But it is so much more: served on a thin slice of flavorful toasted French bread slathered with olive salad, covered with Black Forest ham, Genovese salami, and mortadella topped with provolone melted under the salamander. Only one word: delicious.

To help you make your own muffuletta, either like the original or as a tartine, I am providing you with one of our family secrets, a recipe for olive salad that we collected when we lived in Louisiana and have subsequently included in our family cookbook.


Louisiana Olive Salad


  • 2/3 cup chopped green olives
  • 2/3 cup chopped black olives
  • 2/3 cup chopped celery
  • 1/4 cup chopped pimiento
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 anchovy filet, mashed
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1/2 cup parsley, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice


  1. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients
  2. Let stand over night at room temperature.
  3. Use a generous serving when making a muffuletta.
Louisiana olive salad

Louisiana olive salad



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Our family has lived in the Southwest USA long enough that we have adopted many of the local traditions, especially those that have to do with food and with Christmas. For many years we have gathered around the kitchen table on Christmas Eve to make and then eat tamales.

The event is festive, with everyone laughing and each person assigned a particular task. Susan usually prepares the masa – always with lard, and beaten until the dough floats on water to show that it has enough incorporated air. I prepare the corn husks in hot water so that they are pliable and can be used to wrap up the dough and filling. Others make the filling. Our favorite is chicken. The recipe came from the back of a bag of masa harina from many years ago.

Pork in red chile is more traditional, and we sometimes make those, too, but our family favorite is chicken with an unusual ingredient – olives.

After the filling and dough are prepared, the teamwork and fun begin.  Some spread the masa dough on the corn husks. Others put on the filling. Others wrap up the tamales. We try to make things come out even with just enough filling for the masa dough. Usually it doesn’t, and we have a little of one or the other left over. Even at that, we always wind up with enough tamales for everyone to get their fill.

Finally, the tamales  are stacked on a trivet in a big pot to be steamed. The steamer pot is put on the stove, and the tamales are cooked to perfection.

While we wait – it may take an hour or so – we sit around the Christmas tree and enjoy a mug of home-made eggnog. Then the feast begins before it is time for bed and dreams of Christmas Day.

This year, Sarah and her son will join us for a few days before Christmas while Carol and her family will arrive on Christmas Eve so we won’t be able to have our tamales party. Instead we will make them ahead, freeze them, and then thaw and steam them for each of our visiting families.





  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • ½ cup taco sauce, canned or homemade
  • 1/3 cup black olive slices
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups shredded cooked chicken


  • 1 cup lard (may substitute vegetable shortening)
  • 2½ cups masa harina
  • 2 teaspoons ground red chiles (do not use chili powder)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1¾ cups chicken stock

Corn husks for filling (about 2 dozen, soaked in hot water)


  • Sauté onions in oil. Then add taco sauce, olives, cumin, salt, and chicken.  Combine well, cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, then set aside.
  • In a stand mixer, cream the lard (or shortening) until fluffy. Then add masa harina, chiles, salt, and chicken stock. Continue to beat until the mixture is light and fluffy enough that a small piece of the dough floats in water.
  • Divide the masa into 24 balls. Spread each of the dough balls onto a soaked corn husk so that the dough comes to the edge of the husk. Place a good-sized tablespoon of the filling on the dough, fold over the two edges of the husk so that the dough completely covers the filling. Then fold over the two edges of the corn husk so that the dough completely covers the filling. Fold the tail of the folded husk over the tamal.
  • Stack the finished tamales on a trivet over water in a large kettle
  • Steam, covered, over gently boiling water for about one hour or until the masa does not stick to the corn husks. Serve warm with your favorite chile sauce or molé.
  • If you choose to freeze the tamales, thaw them completely before steaming.

Don’t try to make the dough without a mixer as the dough is heavy and it really does need to float in water before you quit beating. That’s hard on the modern wrist. You can use vegetable shortening if you wish, but the tamales are never as tasty as those made with lard. Choose your own degree of heat with the ground chiles. Personally, I prefer “hot”, but some in our family are incredibly sensitive so we choose “mild”. You can always douse your personal tamales with hot sauce.

IMPORTANT: Remember to remove the corn husk wrapper before you eat the tamal.

There should be about 2 dozen tamales.


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