This Is Where Olive You

I decided at a very early age that I had a particular disdain for olives. I’d stand even firmer in this opinion when people would tell me that olives were ‘an acquired taste.’ The option of snacking on these small but potent little spheres was ruled out years ago. There are things in life we claim not to like. Certain foods, certain chores, certain people. But perhaps if we were to treat these things differently we’d see a more redeemable side.

Jonathan Tropper’s This is Where I Leave You describes a dysfunctional family’s reunion while sitting shiva. Longstanding feuds and silences have left the grieving process compounded by awkwardness and hostility. The novel follows the main protagonist through his return home to a catastrophic reunion with his family, and the path to reconciliation paved with changed attitudes and a few surprises.

As I grow older and maybe even a bit wiser, I’ve begun to change my own attitude towards olives. Instead of ignoring them and wrinkling my nose, I have approached them in a new way, applying a new technique, discovering different textures and flavors, and growing to appreciate – and perhaps even like them.

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Deep-Fried Stuffed Olives

1 jar (about 20) black olives : pitted, soaked, dried

1 log (350 g) goat cheese

1 red pepper: roasted in olive oil, salt, pepper

For pané: 1/2 cup flour (mixed with a teaspoon of salt), 1 egg, 1/2 cup breadcrumb

Instruction:

1. Soak olives in water for an hour to reduce brine flavor. Rinse and dry thoroughly.

2. Roast red peppers (with olive oil, s&p) in 350 degree oven for about twenty minutes, then peel skin and dice flesh finely

3. Combine goat cheese with peppers. Pipe mixture into olives.

4. Dredge olives in salted flour, dip in egg, and cover in breadcrumbs.

5. Fill a pan with veg oil, about quarter of an inch deep. Heat oil until shimmering, but not smoking. Add olives until slightly golden brown, then flip and fry the other side.

Enjoy deep-fried stuffed olives with Jonathan Tropper’s This is Where I Leave You, and check in at warandpeach.com for future recipes and book reviews!

Our Flan in Havana

Around the age of 6 or so, I dreamt of becoming a spy. I’d sit on the windowsill in my parents’ bedroom and watch cars and people passing by, writing down observations and descriptions. This was pretty dull work as we lived at the far end of a quiet residential block. Occasionally if I was ‘spying’ during the early evening, I would be able to record a groundbreaking “6:48 pm: Mr. So-and-So* comes home from work.” (*Name has been changed to protect Mr. So-and-So’s privacy.)

Graham Greene clearly had a better understanding of the world of espionage. In Our Man in Havana, he describes a world of political mission and international secrecy. Greene’s main protagonist, James Wormold, stumbles through the world of the British secret service on the backdrop of Cuba in the 1940s.

The flavors of Cuban cuisine carry plenty of heat. This roasted red pepper flan is light and airy, and to the naked eye, it is quite simple, but one taste reveals its powerful flavor combination of oregano, cumin, and chili powder. Perhaps my aspirations of trickery are better suited for the kitchen.

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Roasted red pepper flan:

6 red bell peppers

1/4 cup veg oil

1 tbsp oregano

1 tbsp cumin

1/2 tbsp chili powder (or more, depending on how much heat you like!)

1 clove garlic

Salt and pepper

Zest of 1 lime

1/4 cup heavy cream

3 eggs

Instruction:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut the bell peppers in quarters and remove seed and whiteish flesh.

2. Make a marinade of oil, salt and pepper, garlic, and half of the oregano and cumin for the bell peppers. Coat the peppers on both sides with the marinade and roast in oven, skin side up, for twenty minutes.

3. Remove bell peppers from oven and transfer back to marinade bowl. Cover immediately in cling film and allow steam to continue to wilt the bell pepper skins.

4. When bell peppers have cooled, remove skin and put in blender. Blend bell peppers, lime zest, chili powder, and remaining oregano and cumin. Taste and add salt to season. Blend in egg and heavy cream. Transfer into miniature spring form pan or any mold whose shape you’d like your flan to take. Place mold in larger pan and create a waterbath.

5. Cook flan in oven until for about thirty minutes (until mixture is firm and toothpick comes out clean).

Enjoy roasted red pepper flan with Graham Greene’s Our Man in Havana, and check in at https://warandpeach.com/ for future recipes and book reviews!