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Last week, my friend and I were taking advantage of a beautiful summer night, hanging out on his rooftop enjoying a crisp white wine and a bowl of olives. And as we lounged under the city sky, I thought how olives are such a sophisticated, adult taste that it’s no wonder I couldn’t appreciate them as a kid. Not to mention that their smallness, which only allows for tiny bites, turning even the act of eating them into a refined endeavor. Which, frankly, works out perfectly because it gives the tangy, deliciously bitter meat time to explode on the taste buds.
Olives in their original off-the-tree state are too bitter to be enjoyed by most people, so they are cured before being eaten, with water curing, lye curing or brine curing. Health-wise, they provide a terrific amount of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as hydroxytyrosol, which is known to help prevent cancer and aid in discouraging bone loss.
Olive trees have their special place in Greek history. The sea god, Poseidon, and the goddess of peace and wisdom, Athena, had been quarreling over whose name would be given to the new city in Attica. It was then decreed in the land that whomever offered the worthiest gift to the citizens would get the city named after them. Poseidon struck his trident on a rock and caused water to flow. Athena struck her spear into the earth and transformed the spear into an olive tree. The olive tree was considered so important, the new city was named Athens.
This recipe for Frittata with Turnips and Olives comes to us from The New York Times. When you’re all done, you can get your dishes spotless with Seventh Generation Natural Dish Liquid in Lavender Floral & Mint, made of a plant-derived formula that is free of synthetic fragrances and dyes.
Frittata with Turnips and Olives
1 pound firm medium-size or small turnips
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon milk
Freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 ounce imported black olives, pitted and chopped, about 1/3 cup (optional)
1 or 2 garlic cloves, minced or puréed (optional)
1. Peel the turnips and grate on the large holes of a box grater or with a food processor. Salt generously and leave to drain in a colander for 30 minutes. Take up handfuls and squeeze tightly to rid the turnips of excess water.
2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-low heat in a wide saucepan or skillet and add the turnips and the thyme. When the turnips are sizzling, cover and cook gently, stirring often, for about 15 minutes, until they are tender. If they begin to stick to the pan or brown, add a tablespoon of water. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
3. Beat the eggs and milk in a bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the parsley, chopped olives and garlic. Add the turnips and mix together.
4. Heat the remaining olive oil over medium-high heat in a heavy 10-inch skillet, preferably nonstick. Hold your hand above it; it should feel hot. Drop a bit of egg into the pan, and if it sizzles and cooks at once, the pan is ready. Pour in the egg mixture. Swirl the pan to distribute the eggs and filling evenly over the surface. Shake the pan gently, tilting it slightly with one hand while lifting up the edges of the frittata with a spatula in your other hand, to let the eggs run underneath during the first few minutes of cooking. Once a few layers of egg have cooked during the first couple of minutes of cooking, turn the heat down to very low, cover (use a pizza pan if you don’t have a lid that will fit your skillet) and cook 10 minutes, shaking the pan gently every once in a while. From time to time, remove the lid and loosen the bottom of the frittata with a spatula, tilting the pan, so that the bottom doesn’t burn.
5. Meanwhile, heat the broiler. Uncover the pan and place under the broiler, not too close to the heat, for 1 to 3 minutes, watching very carefully to make sure the top doesn’t burn (at most, it should brown very slightly and puff under the broiler). Remove from the heat, shake the pan to make sure the frittata isn’t sticking and allow it to cool for at least 5 minutes (the frittata is traditionally eaten warm or at room temperature). Loosen the edges with a spatula. Carefully slide from the pan onto a large round platter. Cut into wedges or into smaller bite-size diamonds. Serve warm, at room temperature or cold.
Yield: 6 servings.
Advance preparation: In Mediterranean countries, flat omelets are served at room temperature, which makes them perfect do-ahead dishes. They’ll keep in the refrigerator for a few days, and they make terrific lunchbox fare. They do not reheat well.
Photo: NY Times