It's that glorious season again - the one and only time of the year when olive growers all over the country will be harvesting and pressing their olives for the fine oil that has been one of the staples of this land, for Jews and Arabs alike, since ancient times. To celebrate, for the 15th consecutive year growers in the Golan and Galilee have banded together for the Olive Festival, beginning on October 27 and running for three weekends in a row.
This year, Hananiah Farm will be the center of activities, with a "street" fair of local olive oil producers offering tastings of their fresh-pressed oils, and various Arab, Jewish, Druse and Circassian homes and kitchens all over Galilee opening for tastings. What to expect: specially designed meals based on olives and olive oil, of course.
The emphasis of the festival is on olives as a "lucky charm for a good life." Throughout Galilee there will be workshops, tours and other activities centering around, health, cosmetics and gastronomy.
For further information about the Olive Festival, call (03) 546-4844.
To get you into the spirit, this week's column is devoted to olive recipes.
ARI LOSSIN'S GREEN TAPENADE
Ari Lossin of Gedera just adores olives, so much so that he has become a champion at olive pickling. But what does one do with so many olives? Here's one of his solutions - a delicious, luscious tapenade spread that is handy to have on hand.
Note: the recipe makes about 700 grams of tapenade. It can be divided into small containers (you can use plastic, but I prefer not to) or jars (fill glass jars three-quarters full to leave space for expansion) and frozen.
3 cans of pitted green olives
1 small can anchovies (30 gr. after draining)
3-4 garlic cloves, peeled
10 fresh basil leaves (the kind from supermarket packages)
3 Tbsp. salt-cured capers
Quarter cup olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper and cumin to taste
Place anchovies, garlic, basil and capers in the bowl of a food processor and process till smooth and uniform. Add the olives, and season with black pepper and a pinch of cumin and grind. Slowly add the oil while the machine is running, and process till smooth.
EYAL HEFETZ'S RED TUNA CEVICHE
For this dish, Chef Eyal Hefetz from Havat Hayatzranim in Kfar Kisch, recommends using Meshek Burger's varietal olive oil made of Picholine olives, a type of olive with roots in southern France. "It's a very fine oil, and contains a high concentration of oleic acid," Hefetz explains. "The flavor is full-bodied, fruity and grassy, characterized by a fragrance that recalls Granny Smith apples. It has a bite but doesn't overshadow food." On Thursday, October 29, Chef Hefetz will serve a special tasting menu at the Hava in Kfar Kisch. For information and reservations: (04) 662-0788, or www.havat.co.il.
250 gr. fresh high quality red tuna
1 small fresh hot red pepper
1 box of radish sprouts
1 Tbsp. black sesame seeds
Freshly grated ginger to taste
Juice of 3 lemons
50 ml. extra virgin olive oil, preferably Picholine
Remove the skin from the tuna and cut into tiny half-cm. cubes (chilling the tuna well before cutting, or sticking it in the freezer for 10 minutes facilitates the process). Place in a glass bowl. Cut off the bottoms of a small bunch of the sprouts, leaving 2.5 cm. of the stems, and add to the bowl together with the black sesame seeds.
Finely mince the chili pepper and ginger to taste and stir in into the fish.
Just before serving, add the olive oil and lemon juice, taste for salt and garnish with remaining whole radish sprouts.
CHICKEN WITH OLIVES AND SUMAC
Sumac berries ripen just before the first of the olives, and were dried and stored in Israel since biblical times to impart a lemony flavor and slight red tinge to foods. It's easy to find in spice stores.
11â„2 kg. chicken, cut in 6 or 8 pieces
1â„3 cup flour
3â„4 tsp. cumin and 1â„3 tsp. ground coriander
1â„4 tsp. powdered ginger and 1â„4 tsp. garlic salt
1 tsp. turmeric
Black or white pepper to taste
1â„4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1â„4 cup canola oil
2 cups halved and thinly sliced red onions
2-3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups boiling water
2 cups pitted green olives
4 Tbsp. ground sumac
In a small bowl, mix flour, cumin, coriander, ginger, garlic salt, turmeric and pepper and pour into a plate. Dip each chicken piece in the flour mixture, shaking lightly to remove excess flour. Heat oil in a large skillet and sautÃ© half the chicken pieces slowly over medium heat till golden brown on both sides. Remove and place on a paper towel. Strain the oil and sautÃ© the second batch of chicken. Set aside.
In a large wide pot with cover, heat 2-3 tablespoons olive oil and sautÃ© the onion on medium heat till golden brown, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of the sumac over the onion and mix well. Place the chicken on top, add boiling water and olives and bring to a boil.
Cover and cook over medium-low heat for 1 hour, or until chicken is tender. Remove the cover, sprinkle the top with the remaining sumac, and serve.