Hungry? Can’t think of what to eat for dinner?
Perhaps I can help:
Even during winter, even vegans can find almost anything at one of San Francisco’s farmers markets. Although not a vegan, I happily and heartily recommend a handy repertoire of vegan dishes for a couple of reasons. First, I host several dinner parties during the year, and when a guest arrives and says, “Listen, I should have told you that I’m vegan,” I enjoy replying, “You will do anything but starve tonight” and watching their reactions. Second, sometimes a day or two of meals without any animal protein, fats or dairy products can have a terrific effect upon overall well being (disclaimer: I am not a doctor, and you should not take my advice without consulting one first).
Third, I love the sheer inventiveness of vegan cuisine.
My New Orleans co-worker who loves the Napoleon of San Francisco recently returned from a visit to Louisiana with a pile of Muffulettas from the legendary Central Grocery for her compadres. Naturally, the office had a muffuletta lunch party. We actually fought over who would take home the Central Grocery red & white sandwich wrappers (I didn’t get one). Aside from the bread, the critical ingredient in the muffaletta sandwich is something called “Olive Salad,” a total misnomer because it looks much more like a variation of tapenade. Ms. New Orleans claimed that she has looked but has never found a good olive salad outside of New Orleans.
I couldn’t resist the challenge.
Slightly Blasphemous Olive Salad, California Style
- 12 ounces of pitted Kalamata olives, drained
- 1 16-ounce jar of Giardiniera (also called Jiardiniera or Gardiniera), drained
- Olive oil to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste. You don’t need salt.
- 1-2 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh rosemary
- Keep only the cauliflower, carrots and celery from the Giardiniera. Anything else, such as cocktail onions, bell peppers, et cetera, must be removed and set aside for another use.
- Put the olives, cauliflower, carrots and celery into a food processor, and pulse until coarsely chopped and blended.
- Add a little olive oil and black pepper. Pulse again until blended.
- Add the rosemary, plus more olive oil if you think need more. Pulse again until you have a smooth paste like tapenade or pesto.
- Scrape into a container, seal tightly and refrigerate. Should last as least 2 weeks if kept chilled.
The rosemary constitutes my slightly blasphemous addition and makes it Californian.
Aside from making muffulettas, vegans, vegetarians and meat lovers alike have dozens of ways to incorporate olive salad into their recipes. It’s a great addition to both tomato and cream-based pasta sauces. Use a spread for BLTs or ham sandwiches. Add to sauteed vegetables for either a main dish, side dish, crepe filling, pasta topping, or omelet filling. Spread it thinly on top of bruschetta or crostini. Let your imagination run wild, and have as much fun as your stomach.
Vonn Scott Bair