Monday, December 12, 2005

Olive dessert

Yesterday was devoted to olives. My roommates Rick and Sean and some friends picked 450lb of olives a few weeks ago for olive oil; after pressing at a press run by Greek Orthodox monks, the resulting oil had a strong green color and more of a bite than much of the storebought oil. Sean thought we could do better, so he got together a bigger group, about 15 people or so this time, and spent the day gathering olives. It was a gorgeous day, not too cold, and the same trees that they had harvested a few weeks ago looked untouched today. Speed reigned over accuracy, and by sunset, we'd gathered 850 pounds of olives. Then we adjourned to our house, where the snacks emerged--blue cheese, brie, crackers, celery, carrots, chips and tangerines--and quickly disappeared again. Between bites of crackers coated with stinky cheese, I did the final kneading of the bread I'd been carrying around all day so as to punch down at opportune intervals. I incorporated Kalamata and pimento-stuffed Manzanillo into the bread and shaped it into two loaves for the final rising. Next dish was a carmelized onion (and olive) tart. And finally dessert! After soliciting olive dessert ideas from several artful friends, I had grand fantasies, but no plan. However, a touch of vodka enveloping a few olives led to inspiration. My olive dessert:

1/2 can medium black pitted olives
ground walnuts, 1/2 cup or so
butternut squash (of course)
ground ginger
brown sugar
phyllo dough + butter

Mince olives and combine with ground walnuts.
Halve butternut squash, remove seeds and bake face down in baking dish with 1/2-1 inch water at 425 F until soft. Scoop out flesh, mash and combine with sugar, cardamom, ground ginger and nutmeg to taste in saucepan over low heat.
Melt butter and brush phyllo dough sheets with butter, layering to taste and cut into squares to fit in greased muffin cups. Fill with squash mixture then cover with a generous spoonful of the olive/nut topping. Bake at 325 until pastry is golden brown.

Dessert was surprisingly tasty, despite the concept of olive dessert, though it might have been cheating to combine somewhat bland olives with nuts. But no matter. After a round of martinis and once the two large olive pizzas arrived and were consumed, the international agriculture and development students showed us what health conscious people do at parties. It started off with competitive headstands followed by flashy inverted yoga pose demos and other feats of strength. At one point the living room was full of people standing on one leg with their other leg arms and body stretched out horizontal to the ground. If only we'd taken pictures. Sean demonstrated that if you spin really fast, then stop and "detach your hips" (it looked like wiggling his ass to me) you don't fall over. This was tested by several skeptics and ended when Sean confirmed that if you don't wag your tail you fall over dramatically. The coffee table was pushed aside and the rug pulled up, then sock sliding followed. Some breakdancing moves were pulled out as was a long pole, and it degenerated into a limbo contest. The first prize? A jar of olives.

Despite the athleticism of the party, we managed not to break anything, inanimate or otherwise. Quenby's dogs thought we were crazy and at one point retreated to the kitchen and stared at us with more than mild concern. But I sold these two pairs of knitting needles and got some more orders, so today I'll be working on a pair of cat needles and reptile and bird hairsticks.

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