It is Lundi Gras, the eve of Fat Tuesday, and somewhere up North, two ex-New Orleanians huddle together with their bulldog for warmth and fortitude on yet another brutal subzero morning. That’s enough complaining for Monday. Izzy protested our not going to New Orleans this year, first Mardi Gras we’ve missed in seven years, by chewing up my red feather boa. She meant to help me pack it, which was when I broke the terrible news to her, and then she went into a feather-feasting fury. I totally understand. If any year we knew what it means to miss New Orleans, this is it.
The taste of these olives, in a small way, brings me to a Mediterranean state of mind.
Pane di Chiavari
Adapted from The Italian Baker
1 cup sourdough starter
1 cup + 3 tbsp warm water
½ cup olive paste (I made my own, see below)
3 ¾ cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
10 black olives (garnish)
1 egg white, beaten
Blend together in a food processor:
¾ cup olives (green or black—I used green)
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp red wine (that has been sitting on the counter too long, more like vinegar)
1 garlic clove
For the bread
Stir together the sourdough starter with the warm water and olive paste.
Add flour and salt and knead by hand until smooth. Gently place in an oiled bowl and let rise for 1.5 hours.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, punch out the air, and fold into an oval loaf. Twist the ends “so it looks like an olive” and cover loosely on parchment. Let rise for 45 minutes to an hour.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees (and baking stone). Just before the bread goes in, throw on a couple of black olives for garnish—push them down into the bread. (I learned the hard way that if you don’t, the olives turn into little burnt buttons on the surface of the loaf.) Brush the whole loaf with egg white. Place bread in oven and bake 10 minutes at 450. Then decrease the temp to 400 and bake for 35 minutes more. Cool on rack.
Had several gigs this weekend, along with a raging flu. Somehow managed to drag my aching corpus to stand upright behind the microphone. And then, as one would expect, the singing cured me. Miracle treatment, really.
Also hosted our annual Oscar’s party last night, and the victors attended dressed as the central characters from American Hustle. Congratulations!