Let’s step back more than 2,000 years for this recipe – one that was noted by Cato, an early Roman soldier and politician who lived around 200 B.C. In between fighting Hannibal, the Punic Wars, and all that lapsed Roman morality to reign in, this statesman who hailed from ancient plebian ancestors also devoted himself to writing a farming handbook complete with recipes and agricultural advice.
Cato’s recipe for this olive paste is included in “The Classical Cookbook,” a book of recipes from ancient Greece and Rome that I bought at the Getty Villa in Malibu (photo below) on my recent trip to California.
To those of you who have never visited the Getty Museums in California, you should know there are two, and they are both fabulous. On my last trip to Santa Barbara, my friend Jeannette took me to the Getty Center in Los Angeles, a stunning series of buildings and gardens designed by the architect Richard Meier.
The Getty Center houses European paintings, drawings, sculpture, illuminated manuscripts, decorative arts, and European and American photographs and is a must-see for art lovers traveling to the West Coast.
But this time we went to the Malibu Getty, which dedicates its beautiful buildings overlooking the Pacific Ocean to an extensive collection of ancient Greek, Roman and Etruscan art – from mosaics:
to ancient coins, jewelry, glassware and many other beautiful works of art that have survived not hundreds, but thousands of years, including this vase:
adapted from “The Classical Cookbook”
- 4 oz. black olives (Don’t use bottled or canned olives please – buy olives from a deli or good grocery store)
- 4 oz. green olives
- 4 T. red wine vinegar
- 4 T. olive oil
- 1 heaping t. chopped fennel leaf or finely diced fennel root (I used fennel fronds)
- 2 t. chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)
- 2 t. dried or chopped fresh rue (I left this out since I couldn’t find it at this time of year.)
- 2 heaped t. dried or 3 t. chopped fresh mint
Buy pitted olives to make your life easier. Chop the herbs roughly and put them, along with all the other ingredients, into a food processor. Whir until everything is blended and finely chopped (but not pureed). Serve with pita bread or crackers. This would be great accompanied by a sharp sheep’s cheese like feta.