Italians take aperitifs very seriously – or rather, the bite sized food that you eat when drinking an aperitif. Last month I wrote a post about spuntini to have with an Aperol spritz, specifically tiny panini. However sometimes a warm appetizer works better – something tasty and salty, maybe like an olive but with an added kick. Years ago at a bar in Greville Street Prahran I remember sipping on wine and eating incredible crumbed and fried olives. You could not stop at one (or two, or three…). They were olive Ascolane (or Ascolano olives), which I now know are typical of the region of Le Marche, on the Adriatic sea, south of Emilia Romagna (around the middle of the boot that is Italy).
So you want to know more? Well imagine this – large green olives, pitted and stuffed with an array of meats and spices, crumbed and then deep fried. Then imagine dipping one in some aioli before taking a bite into this tasty decadent little morsel. Sigh…. Perfection.
They take a little bit of time to construct but they are simple. We all love a foolproof recipe! You don’t need to serve them with aioli (garlic mayonnaise) – but it is a nice touch and balances the saltiness. You can use the recipe for aioli below or else one from an older post that uses roasted garlic (link is here). As they are appetizers, serve them with your favorite aperitif on the side, which for me is a Prosecco or an Aperol Spritz. The recipe below is based on one in Gourmet Traveller magazine – and an interpretation of the original “olive Ascolane”. Salute!
40 large green olives, pitted
60g roughly chopped good quality salami or sopressa
90g pork mince
90g veal mince
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, dry roasted
1 – 2 eggs, lightly beaten
Home made bread crumbs
Vegetable oil for frying
Zest of one lemon
2 teaspoons finely chopped rosemary
1 egg yolk
125ml olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon lemon juice (or more to taste)
1/2 clove of garlic, crushed
Sea salt to taste
To dry roast the fennel seeds – place them in a small fry pan over medium heat and roast them for a few minutes until they start to colour slightly.
Place the roughly chopped salami in a food processor and process. Then add the mince meats and whizz until a paste forms. Stir in the dry roasted fennel seeds.
Stuff the olives with the meat mixture either by using a piping bag with a large nozzle or as I did, with a teaspoon and the end of a chop stick to push the mixture down. If you don’t like a lot of salt, I recommend soaking the olives in water for an hour before stuffing them – this removes some of the excess salt. Then drain and stuff as described above.
Roll the stuffed olives in flour, then egg, then bread crumbs. Fry in a deep fryer or saucepan until golden, turning over as needed. Drain on absorbent paper. Roll in lemon zest and rosemary.
Serve with aioli on the side.
To make the aioli, place the egg in a medium sized bowl with the mustard and lemon juice. Whilst whisking, pour the oil in a slow steady stream until it is all incorporated. Stir in the garlic and sea salt to taste. You can add in a bit of lemon zest if you like it very lemony.
*adapted from Gourmet Traveller