In my fridge you are likely to always find green and black olives, anchovies, capers and nuts, especially almonds, pine nuts, pistachio, hazelnuts and walnuts. I consider these as staples and frequently add these ingredients, common in Italian cooking, to much of my cuisine.
In my freezer you will always find jars of stock and pulses of some kind, usually chickpeas, borlotti, cannellini or even black-eyed beans. I say “even” because they are not considered a common bean in Italian cuisine. I do not bother storing frozen lentils because they cook so quickly and don’t need soaking.
I have not mentioned how important fresh herbs, spices and extra virgin olive oil are in my cooking – but they are.
What you will also find in my fridge are some jars of homemade pastes – always harissa and maybe a couple of jars of other pastes that contain a combination of three or more of these ingredients: olives, anchovies, various fresh herbs, capers or nuts.
For most of this year, my partner has been doing the shopping. Perhaps he enjoys having this time on his own and to chat with his favourite stallholders at the Queen Victoria Market.
Someone once asked me if I trusted him with the shopping. I do, but sometimes he buys too much…. last week it was too much squid, this week he came home with two large freshwater trouts.
There is no inviting friends around! We are in lockdown in Melbourne.
We eat a lot of vegetables and I can easily turn excess vegetables into soup or pickles. Meat I can freeze, but I do not like to freeze fish, so we had trout for two nights in a row.
The first night I simply fried the trout in butter and a substantial amount of fresh sage. Good, but ordinary.
In my fridge I had a jar of a combination of ground toasted walnuts, hazelnuts, nutmeg, black pepper and Za’atar.
You could say it was a version of dukkah that I had used for something else and I sprinkled some of this on the trout once the trout was filleted at the table.
The second night I cooked the trout on a bed of sautéed shaved fennel and parsley and at the very end of cooking I added some green olive paste. I had this in the fridge. The sauce was plentiful and went beautifully with the braised lentils and endives.
And once again I was able to add a different taste to something that was pretty good in the first place but was made even better.
I do not measure ingredients when I am making a paste, but for the sake of the recipe, I have made an estimation of the ingredients.
My combinations of ingredients vary, but for this particular green olive paste I used:
200g of pitted green olives,
100g capers, either drained if in brine or soaked and rinsed a number of times if using the salted capers,
100g of toasted almonds,
1 garlic clove,
grated orange peel from one orange,
1 cup of extra virgin olive oil
½ cup of chopped parsley
juice from half a lemon.
Making pastes is dead simple. Blend all of the ingredients together except for the olive oil that you can add at the very end….slowly… until you have a paste to your liking. You can make it as smooth as you wish; I prefer some crunch.
Place in a clean glass jar, top with some more extra virgin olive oil and keep it in your fridge.
This is the first time that I have taken a photo of inside my fridge, but you can see what I mean!