In Puglia: Francesca’s Fried Olives

20 Sep

I am WWOOFing in Puglia, at the absolute heel of Italy’s “boot” in the region called Puglia. I am living in a trulli, an ancient dry-laid stone, conical shaped building indigenous to this area. My host, Francesca, is trained as an art restorer but is also an amazing artist and architect working to restore her trulli using sustainable methods and a single mother her 14 year old son. It only makes sense to begin my story here, with olives.

On the way home from the sea one evening we stop at a small market. Advertised as “locale” were a special type of olive, eating by frying in olive oil. This region is famous for its olive oil and centuries old olive tree terrain. Although Tuscany also produces olive oil their trees are much younger, and according to these folks, not as good. I learn that one main difference between types of olive oil is the time the olives are picked. Since Tuscany has a higher terrain olives harvested there during the months of November-January are still green giving the olive a more bitter flavor. Olives harvested here in Puglia are generally left longer and if left until the drop on their own, have a more acidic flavor.
Francesca began by taking a cup full of oil from this drum sitting in the kitchen, oil from her olives that were pressed last winter when the olives are harvested. She comments, “it’s almost empty, this container” and we proceed to discuss the cost of good olive oil in the States. She can’t believe Bertolli costs $20 or so a liter because that’s not even good olive oil!
She pours the oil into a hot fry pan and drops in the olives picked up at the market. She adds that you can’t do this with just any olive, but these are special olives.
After about 10 minutes she removes them from heat, puts them into a bowl and singles one out for me to photograph (below). The fried olives are added to our dinner table with the risotto with zucchini flowers, fresh salad, fresh mozzarella, a zucchini pasta, and of course, white table wine.
They are soft, a bit sweet, and buonissime!


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