This week at Cucina DiBella is a very exciting one for me. The 4 months that I lived in Italy were spent in Ascoli Piceno, a little medieval city in Le March. So, cooking the food from Le Marche this week is making me unbelievably nostalgic. Who wouldn't be when they lived in a city as beautiful as this?
The abundance of olives in this region and the high quality that they are able to claim is amazing. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity while living in Ascoli to help with an olive harvest. The process is a long one, using little rakes to comb the olives off of the trees into nets to then collect and bring to the press for olive oil. It is so worth it though. As a thank you, all who helped received a bottle of the freshly pressed oil. It was without a doubt the most amazing olive oil I have ever tasted.
With such wonderful olives available in the region, it's not a surprise that one of the foods that Ascoli is most well known for is their Olive all'Ascolana (Ascolani Olives), or as they are called around town, Olive Fritte. They are large, green olives that have been pitted and stuffed with meats and cheeses and then fried. They are a delicious antipasto and are served at nearly every restaurant in the city. To be honest, I'm not sure how I've gone the last 3 years (God, has it been 3 years??) without them. So making them as the antipasto from Le Marche was really a no brainer. And luckily for me, they weren't nearly as difficult as I thought they would be! If you can find good quality pitted olives at your grocery store you will cut your prep time dramatically. However, if you do find already pitted olives, rinse them thoroughly to get some of the brine off. Otherwise, the end product will be super salty.
Adapted from About.com
-makes about 25 olives-
1/2 pound (about 25) large green olives
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 pound Italian sausage
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup beef broth
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon breadcrumbs
1/4 cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
flour, for dredging
oil for frying
- Pitt olives if you didn't buy them already pitted.
- Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Remove the casing and crumble the sausage into the skillet. Cook for several minutes until browned. Add the wine, scraping up the little bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook for about 5 minutes until most of the wine has evaporated. Add in the beef broth and cook another 5 minutes. Remove the sausage to a bowl with a slotted spoon, leaving the drippings in the pan.
- Using a meat grinder or a food processor, grind the meat.
- Removing the pan from the heat, add 1 tablespoon of breadcrumbs to the drippings in the pan. Return the meat to the pan as well. Add the parmigiano cheese and 1 egg (beaten) to the pan. Combine together to make the stuffing mixture for the olives. Let the mixture rest for a bit to cool.
- Once cool, stuff each olive with some of the sausage mixture. Don't over stuff the olives or they may break apart.
- Set up a breading station. Make 1 plate of the flour, 1 bowl of the remaining egg, and 1 plate of the remaining breadcrumb. Coat each olive in flour, then in egg, and finally in breadcrumbs.
- Heat the oil to a medium heat. Don't make it to hot or it will burn the olives. Once the oil is hot, fry the olives (in batches, depending on the size of your pot) just until they are a golden brown color. Using a slotted spoon, remove the olives from the oil to a paper towel to drain them. Let the olives cool a little before serving.
Ryan's rating of Olive all'Ascolana - 4.