Tag Archives: Olive

Veracruz-style red snapper

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here. I’d love to say it’s because I’ve been doing exciting, productive things in my spare time. But that’s really not it. If I’m being totally honest, it’s because I made this recipe months ago, and it was one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten. But I’ve been hesitant to show it off, because the only photo I have of it is terrible. (Ed: Photo replaced with a better one.)

This is one of the things that frustrates me most about food blogs. Everything’s got to be gorgeously plated and naturally lit. Everything’s got to look mouthwatering, no matter whether or not it actually is. Even if you’re just snapping a photo with your iPhone while your hungry family waits out of frame, it’s got to be magazine-worthy (or just a Photoshop revamp away). Gluten-Free Girl had a glorious “Fuck Pinterest” post up a while back, which I’m unable to find now, but which laid out the pressure of the perfect photograph so beautifully. It’s not really about the recipes anymore, but about how they look through a lens.

And while I’m ranting: I’ve also noticed lately that a lot of food personalities tend to use the word “rustic” as a substitute for “not asthetically perfect.” I bristle at that. There’s nothing “rustic” about my cooking. It’s homemade. I make mistakes. Calling an imperfectly chopped or arranged or plated dish “rustic” is pretending that even kitchen accidents are deliberate. It’s insisting that everything has to be “food-styled,” rather than just letting things look how they look. It’s like the cat that runs splat into a wall, then walks away with its tail high, as if to say, “I meant to do that.” (Though it’s significantly more adorable when a cat does it.)

I may not be a food stylist, or any good with an iPhone camera. But I sure can tell you how good this recipe tastes. It’s a Mexican fish dish, quick and easy to prepare and phenomenally delicious. It starts with fillets of flaky white fish, layered in a baking dish with a piquant sauteed mixture of tomatoes, capers, olives, and pickled jalapenos. In the oven, the fish exudes its own juices, creating a gauzy sauce in the bottom of the dish that’s perfect for spooning over rice or tortillas or bread. For the amount of time it takes to prepare–maybe 45 minutes, tops, if you’re a slow chopper like me–I can’t think of any dish that offers more explosive flavor per bite. I’ve now made it multiple times, and it’s become one of my go-tos for a simple but very special supper.

I’m sure another food blogger could make this look like a million bucks. Me? I just say make this, and make it soon–no matter what the photo says.

veracruz halibut

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Fig and olive tapenade

There are some foods that just fit me like a glove. Foods that mingle up my favorite flavors, all at once, and deliver them in walloping bites. Foods that not everyone loves as much as I do, giving me full license to pretend I’m just more sophisticated than they are (all the while stuffing whatever’s left into my greedy maw). Olive tapenade is one of those foods.

I never met a salty briny thing I didn’t like, and tapenade’s got a trifecta of them: olives, capers, and anchovy. Mashed or blended with a healthy punch of raw garlic and a glug of olive oil, these three make one of the most weirdly compelling foodstuffs I’ve ever met. A good tapenade is salty but not withering, spicy and nose-tickling from the garlic and gardeny-fragrant from olive oil and herbs. Slather some on a piece of crusty bread, and I’m powerless to resist. Dollop some on fish or stuff it under the skin of a chicken, and I swoon. Use it as a salad dressing or pasta sauce, and I’ll be over at your house before the plate hits the table.

This particular tapenade started with a pack of oil-cured olives I found in my boyfriend’s fridge. Oil-cured olives are particularly powerful things–ugly as sin, to be sure, all black and wrinkled and greasy, but with an incredible salty wallop and lovely oily finish. They’re far too gutsy to use on their own in a tapenade, which is why I jumped at a recipe that called for a mix of olives and dried figs. The combination of funky-sweet fig and salty-sharp olive, with the potency of garlic and the deep savor of anchovy, is absolutely phenomenal. I ate it on bread until the bread was gone, and then scraped out the bowl with a spoon. I think my friends avoided me for the rest of the day, but eh. Their loss.

As with pesto, there are several ways to make tapenade. (In a way, I suppose a tapenade is kind of like a pungent olive pesto.) You can chop it finely with a knife, mash it together with a mortar and pestle, or blitz it to pieces in a food processor. I like my tapenade with a little bit of texture–slightly bumpy, in a way. But it’s a matter of taste, so take it to the consistency that feels right to you. And then hide it from me, or I will eat it all and leave none for you.

fig olive tapenade

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