I cook a lot of simple meals. The type of meals California cooks occasionally get mocked for. You know the equation - a great ingredient sautéed with local olive oil and seasoned with a bit of salt and pepper. Repeat. For example, this time of year, (as we've discussed) I cook artichokes once or twice a week, and I put all my focus and attention into picking out the best artichokes and then preparing them beautifully. I rarely use more than a bit of oil in the pan (after blanching), salt and pepper, and a bit of lemon zest to finish. I like the artichoke flavor direct and unobstructed, their outside leaves crisped brown in the pan. I leave it at that, without other flavors getting in the way. Increasingly, I find myself thinking this is a missed opportunity. Flavor aside, I should make an effort to boost each preparation with a favorite blend of spices or seasonings for their powerful, and unique nutrients. Many of the phytonutrients in spices aren't present in other foods, and people who live in cultures with a spice-rich cuisine have, in some cases (dramatically) lower rates of certain diseases. That's a long way of saying, they're powerful. Not only on the flavor front, but in promoting health and wellness in general. It's easy to boost your food in this way, and I could be better about incorporating these accents into each meal - an oregano drizzle, a turmeric braise, the dry spices from this tea as a base for miso soup, etc. So, more than anything, this is a note to self - individual spices, spice blends, and pastes are important. Use them generously, and often. Exhibit one - this green olive paste. It's a superfood tapenade of sorts - green olives, walnuts, and good olive oil boosted with anise, and a bit of the wheatgrass powder I sometimes add to drinks or dressings - crumbled nori would be a great substitute.
I imagine a dollop of harissa paste in a black olive version of this would be welcome. Or this green version with a bit of green curry paste (minus the anise). I made this over the weekend, and have enjoyed it in an omelette, as the punctuation on avocado toast, spooned over farro risotto, and on these little soccas!
This is a loose tapenade. If you prefer a more paste-like consistency, chop more, or use a food processor to blend more thoroughly.
8 oz green olives (30 olives), rinsed and pitted
1 green onion, slivered
2/3 cup / 2 oz toasted walnuts, chopped
1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes
1/2 teaspoon wheatgrass powder, spirulina, or crushed (toasted) nori
generous pinch of ground anise or fennel
1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
squeeze of fresh lemon juice
sea salt to taste, if needed
Combine the olives, green onions, walnuts, chile flakes, and wheatgrass powder on a cutting board. Chop together to desired consistency. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the anise and olive oil. Taste and season with lemon juice and salt.
Makes about 1 1/2 cups.
Prep time: 7 minutes