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Classical Cooking

Let’s step back more than 2,000 years for this recipe – one that was noted by Cato, an early Roman soldier and politician who lived around 200 B.C.  In between fighting Hannibal, the Punic Wars, and all that lapsed Roman morality to reign in, this statesman who hailed from ancient plebian ancestors also devoted himself to writing a farming handbook complete with recipes and agricultural advice. Cato’s recipe for this olive paste is included in “The Classical Cookbook,” a book of recipes from ancient Greece and Rome that I bought at the Getty Villa in Malibu (photo below) on my recent trip to California. March 2011 458 To those of you who have never visited the Getty Museums in California, you should know there are two, and they are both fabulous. On my last trip to Santa Barbara, my friend Jeannette took me to the Getty Center in Los Angeles, a stunning series of buildings and gardens designed by the architect Richard Meier. image The Getty Center houses European paintings, drawings, sculpture, illuminated manuscripts, decorative arts, and European and American photographs and is a must-see for art lovers traveling to the West Coast. But this time we went to the Malibu Getty, which dedicates its beautiful buildings overlooking the Pacific Ocean to an extensive collection of ancient Greek, Roman and Etruscan art – from mosaics:

to frescoes:   March 2011 461 to sculptures:

to ancient coins, jewelry, glassware and many other beautiful works of art that have survived not hundreds, but thousands of years, including this vase: March 2011 440 While I can’t own one of these precious works of art, at least I can content myself with eating in the same manner as Augustus Caesar, Cato or Socrates. And now so can you. Olive Paste adapted from “The Classical Cookbook” printable recipe here

  • 4 oz. black olives (Don’t use bottled or canned olives please – buy olives from a deli or good grocery store)
  • 4 oz. green olives
  • 4 T. red wine vinegar
  • 4 T. olive oil
  • 1 heaping t. chopped fennel leaf or finely diced fennel root (I used fennel fronds)
  • 2 t. chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)
  • 2 t. dried or chopped fresh rue (I left this out since I couldn’t find it at this time of year.)
  • 2 heaped t. dried or 3 t. chopped fresh mint

Buy pitted olives to make your life easier. Chop the herbs roughly and put them, along with all the other ingredients, into a food processor. Whir until everything is blended and finely chopped (but not pureed). Serve with pita bread or crackers. This would be great accompanied by a sharp sheep’s cheese like feta.

This Post Has 20 Comments
  1. I need to make it because I find solace in creating and eating soemthing from thousands of years ago. It's always about the connections… although rue? Don't know it. The fresco really stood out – don't know why – but I wanted to crawl into it.

  2. The museum is really beautiful a great way to spend the day and I love the mosaics! I'm sorry but what is rue? I never heard of it, I shall google it! Your olive paste slathered on crusty bread with a glass of wine is the kind of thing that makes me smile!

  3. Linda, this post has it all, great food, travel, art . . . Can I come and live with you? My daughter and I just saw the Toulouse-Lautrec exhibit in Atlanta, which I posted about in March . . . we love art museums. I'm going to have to find this classic cookbook! Thanks for the info and the photo-trip!

  4. Your photos today are wonderful. The museum is, indeed, a special place. As is your olive paste which has just moved to my must try list. I love tapenade and this sounds lovely. Have a great day. Blessings…Mary

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