Cheers! An appetizer worth toasting

Wow them on New Year’s Eve, with very little effort, with these appetizers that put the cocktail glass into “seafood cocktail.” You simply poach the shrimp in an aromatic mixture of garlic, lemongrass and pepper, then dangle in martini glasses with baby lettuces and seafood cocktail sauce. A lemongrass swizzle stick with olives completes the look and tangy flavour.

The recipe calls for shelling and deveining the shrimp, but I bought frozen ones that were already shelled and deveined at Wellington Wholesale Seafood, in Hintonburg at 1105 Wellington St. W., where the owner was kind enough to count out and sell me exactly the number I needed. It saved a picky step and I doubt much flavour was lost by not having the shells in the poaching liquid.

The recipe comes from Vancouver chef Mary Mackay in The Girls Who Dish! cookbook. Mackay says “despite my culinary training, I still like to serve this with store-bought cocktail sauce.” If you want to go slightly more gourmet, and more local, get Lowertown Canning Company’s Cocktail sauce, made with local tomatoes and fresh shaved locally grown horseradish, for $7 at Lapointe Fish, 46 ByWard Market.


Items for Laura Robin’s column: Prawntini (Julie Oliver / Ottawa Citizen)

Prawn-tinis | Makes: 4 servings | Preparation time: about 30 minutes

20 tiger prawns
1 stalk lemongrass
4 1/4 cups (about 1 L) water
5 whole peppercorns, crushed
5 garlic cloves, smashed
1 tsp (5 mL) salt
8 green olives, stuffed with pimento
1/4 cup (60 mL) seafood cocktail sauce
2 tbsp (30 mL) prepared mayonnaise
2 cups (500 mL) mixed baby lettuces
Half a lemon, cut into 4 wedges

1. Remove the shells from the tiger prawns, leaving the tails intact. Place the shells in a medium saucepan. De-vein the prawns and set aside.
2. Cut 6 inches (15 cm) off the top of the lemongrass stalk and set aside. Chop the remaining lemongrass into 1/2-inch (1.2-cm) pieces. Add the lemongrass, water, peppercorns, garlic cloves and salt to the pan with the prawn shells and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Let cool to room temperature. Strain the stock through a fine sieve.
3. Return the liquid to the pot and bring to a boil. Stir the prawns and remove from the heat. Let the prawns poach for 30 seconds, until pink. Remove the prawns from the stock and cool to room temperature.
4. Make a hole in each olive with a toothpick or bamboo skewer. Separate the reserved stalk of lemongrass into 4 skewers and slide 2 green olives onto each.
5. In a small bowl, stir together the cocktail sauce and mayonnaise.
6. To assemble, line 4 martini glasses with the mixed baby lettuces and top with a dollop of cocktail mayonnaise. Place 5 prawns, evenly spaced, head first into the cocktail mayonnaise, leaving their tails hanging over the edge of the glass. Place a lemongrass skewer of olives in the middle of the glass, leaning to one side, and garnish with a lemon wedge.


Antipasto platter

By Madiha Hamid – Published: January 15, 2015


For the dressing:

•  Mix all the ingredients and whisk them lightly.
•  Keep tasting the mixture every few minutes to check for sourness or sweetness. The dressing should be tangy in taste.
•  Adjust the mixture by adding sugar or honey.

For the vegetables:

•  Marinate the sliced vegetables in the dressing for about an hour or so. Allow them to sit in the refrigerator for the juice to sink in.
•  Sprinkle the veggies with oregano and fresh parsley for added taste.

On the side

•  Cut some pita bread into small, triangular pieces and toast it.
•  Add a small bowl of hummus or salsa sauce to dip the vegetables in.

The concept of antipasti

Antipasto (plural: antipasti) is the Italian name given to the foods offered before a main meal — an appetiser, if you will. This is a delightful way to set the stage for the coming feast and invite family and friends to the dinner table. The presentation of antipasti — the different colours, artful composition, varied tastes and the care taken in its presentation  — serve as reminders for guests that it is time for relaxation, pleasure and indulgence.
According to Italian tradition, the ingredients of antipasti are selected on the basis of colour, flavour and how well they complement one another and the main course. A typical antipasti platter includes olives, pepperoni, anchovies, mushrooms, artichokes, cured meats, pickles, different cheeses and vegetable slices dipped in oil or vinegar. It can be served hot or cold, in bite-size plates or as elegant centrepieces from which everyone is served. In Italy, the most common antipasto dish includes a simple display of cured meats like salami or mortadella slices along with hard cheeses garnished with olives, onions, peppers or sun-dried tomatoes.
The Italians generally save antipasti for special occasions and big parties and celebrations. In Milan, enjoying an aperitif (alcoholic drinks served before a meal) has become a sort of institution. The Milanese consider drinking wine while nibbling on some potato chips, olives and peanuts an hour before the main course an essential for the good life. In fact, it would be unthinkable for the Milanese to start a dinner without an aperitif!.

Winter vegetables for antipasti?

Indulge in your favourite cured meats and cheeses, served with a mix of the best vegetables and fruits the winter season has to offer. These include:


Recipe for cream cheese and olive log

DECEMBER 23, 2014


Serves 8

USE: 1 large package (8 ounces) cream cheese, at room temperature | 1 cup Spanish salad olives, drained (chopped green olives with pimento) | Salt, to taste | ¾ cup walnuts, chopped | 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

1. In a food processor, work the cream cheese until it is soft and light. Add the olives and work in on-off motions until the olives are blended with the cream cheese.

2. Break off a large sheet of plastic wrap. Transfer the mixture to the middle of the plastic wrap and use the paper to shape the mixture into a log that is 9 inches long and 2 inches wide. Secure the ends. Refrigerate for at least 1 day or for as long as 3 days.

3. Meanwhile, in a skillet, toast the nuts, shaking the pan constantly, for 4 minutes or until browned; cool.

4. Unwrap the log and roll it in the chopped nuts. Carefully transfer to a plate and sprinkle with parsley. Serve with crackers.

Sheryl Julian


Scallop and Olive Eyeball Mousse

Looks like eyeballs tastes like fish, need we say more? Though might sound like a DIY bush tucker trial, this canapé is deceptively delicious and will kick the sophistication of your no doubt zombie-themed soiree up a notch or two.


  • Scallops500g sea scallops / 2 large egg whites / 85 g double cream / 1 tsp salt / 1 tsp white pepper / 250 g pitted green olives or pimento- stuffed olives / 1 garlic clove, crushed / 100 g mayonnaise / 1/2 tsp smoked paprika / 1 tsp fresh lemon juice / 80 ml extra-virgin olive oil / 10 slices white bread / 4 tbsp unsalted butter / 2 tbsp black olives, diced


  1. In a food processor, combine the scallops, egg whites, salt and white pepper and blend until smooth.
  2. With the machine on, add the cream in a thin stream.
  3. Scrape the puree into a bowl and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes.
  4. Tear four 12-inch sheets of cling film.
  5. Spoon 1/4 of the puree onto each sheet in a 6-inch square.
  6. Slide the green olives lengthwise onto four 6-inch wooden skewers.
  7. Lay one skewer down in the center of each square.
  8. Roll the puree around the olives skewers and tightly roll up the cling film to form cylinders; twist the ends and secure with twist ties.
  9. Wrap each cylinder in another sheet of cling film and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes.
  10. Bring a large, deep frying pan of water to a simmer.
  11. Add the cylinders, cover with an inverted heatproof plate to keep them submerged and poach over moderately low heat until firm, 15 to 20 minutes.
  12. Let cool, then refrigerate until completely chilled.
  13. Crush the garlic with a pinch of salt in a medium mixing bowl.
  14. Whisk in the mayonnaise, paprika and lemon juice, then whisk in the olive oil in a thin stream.
  15. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees (gas mark four).
  16. Brush the bread on both sides with the melted butter.
  17. Using a 2-inch round cutter, stamp out as many rounds as possible from the bread.
  18. Transfer the rounds to a baking sheet and toast until golden, about 15 minutes.
  19. Unwrap the cylinders and remove the skewers.
  20. Using a sharp knife, cut the cylinders into slices about inch thick.
  21. Place a piece of black olive in the center of each green olive.
  22. If desired, use a slightly smaller round cutter to stamp the mousse slices into perfect rounds.
  23. Spoon the sauce onto the toasts, top with the mousse rounds and serve.


White Cheddar Olive Poppers | Friday Night Bites

Are you looking for a proven crowd pleaser appetizer recipe?  Look no further.  These little bites of divine goodness are your ticket to elevating your entertaining status to a high level.  They are simple, tasty and addictive.  They combine the “carb” component we all crave, along with the saltiness of the olive which makes for an unbelievable combination.  Trust me, the only problem you will have is that you and your guests will devour them and will want you to make more.DSC02069

We are having a bit of a heat wave in the Bay Area this week.  It is actually sort of refreshing after a winter of chill yet little rain.  The sprinkling of heat signals that summer is around the corner and our Friday Night Bites can now move from indoors to outdoors.  Got to get hubby to refresh the fountains and get them running again.  I love sitting outside with the sound of trickling water along with a light breeze and a glass of wine in hand with some scrumptious appetizers an arms length away. Continue reading

Warm Citrus Olives with Rosemary and Garlic

Don’t weekends go way too fast? After a long week at work, I completely look forward to Friday night. It is the beginning of the weekend. In addition we have our Friday night tradition of wine and appetizers. Our Friday night this week was filled with friends and great cheeses. DSC01532
Our dear friend brought a very special bottle of wine to celebrate Friday night. It was a bottle I have never had before and now has become a new favorite. Seven Stones Winery sits east of St. Helena. Ronald and Anita Wornick didn’t take long after they purchased 45 acres for their family estate, to take on the exceptional task of creating some of the best wine. They only produce 400 cases, and dedicate to a single varietal –Cabernet Sauvignon.DSC01512

As quoted on their website – “Seven Stones is comprised of just under three acres of vines and a winery on the Wornick family estate in St. Helena. From small, meticulously cultivated vineyard parcels, we produce a limited amount of some of Napa Valley’s most sought after Cabernet Sauvignon.”DSC01507 Continue reading

Roast Tomato, Onion, Feta, Olive And Basil Salad

When I made the zucchini, haloumi and feta fritters recently I wanted a delicious salad to go with it.  I love roast tomatoes and often make a risotto with roasted cherry tomatoes, so I decided to try roast tomatoes (this time Roma tomatoes) in a salad.  The results were delicious.

I love how roasted tomatoes take on a juicy, sweet flavour that is so much more intense than an unroasted tomato.  The roasted onion takes on a sweetness too, and coupled with the fresh creamy danish feta and basil it’s a flavour extravaganza.


  • roma tomatoes (large, quartered)
  • purple onion (peeled and quartered)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • pepper, salt
  • 30 grams Chalkidiki olives (green)
  • 50 grams feta (I prefer Danish Feta)
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsps white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 clove garlic (grated)

Continue reading

Table Olive Processing (Method 1)

fermentationThis method is similar to the natural fermentation process we use. It allows the sugars in the olives to ferment and form lactic acid. The end result will be well worth the effort and the wait. All the wonderful flavours are preserved and this gives the olives its delicious taste.

 Green Olives:

  • Green olives are soaked in a caustic soda solution of between 1,3 and 2,6% for ±15 hours. The time may vary according to the size and ripeness of the fruit. After a few hours, take out an olive and make a cut through the flesh. When the lye has penetrated two thirds of the distance between the surface of the fruit and the pit, it is ready to be washed.
  • Also try to prevent the olives from coming into contact with air, as this can cause the colour to go dark or an unattractive khaki green. Keep in an airtight container (stainless steel, glass or high grade plastic will not affect the taste) through the entire process.
  • In the mean time prepare the brine by dissolving 1 kilogram of salt in 10 litres of clean water.
  • Now rinse the olives many times with clean, cold water to remove soapiness and caustic residue. This step is very important, because you don’t want your olives to taste of caustic soda or “soapy”.
  • Place the olives into a suitable container and cover completely with the brine. Make sure the container has a tight fitting lid.
  • Leave to ferment ±12 months. Taste them from time to time and decide for yourself when they are to your taste.

Bottling: Remove from the brine, rinse with clean water and place into glass jars and cover with hot brine. To make the brine solution: 20g Salt mixed into 1 liter boiling water. Cover immediately and leave to cool. Store in a cool place and refrigerate after opening.  Wine vinegar may be added to taste. You may even add sprigs of fresh herbs like rosemary or thyme or a few cloves of garlic or lemon slices.

Continue reading

11 Reasons You Should Be Eating Olives Daily

Are you looking for healthy snack ideas? Have you ever thought about adding olives to your diet? The truth is olives make a great healthy snack.  Olives contain a lot of vitamins and macro/micro elements which do wonders to our body. Additionally, olives contain a large amount of fatty acids and antioxidants, including lutein, a potent antioxidant that neutralizes the action of free radicals and protects our body from aging.

  • PicMonkey-Collage2Olives contribute to the prevention of diseases of the heart and vessels, as well as oncological diseases.
  • Maslinic Acid in Olive Skin helps prevent against colon cancer.
  • Olives  have a therapeutic effect in arthritis, podagra, osteochondrosis – diseases of the musculoskeletal system.
  • The calcium contained in olives is important in the strengthening of bone tissue, which takes part in the formation of the joints.

Continue reading

Miranda Kerr’s beauty secret: Super food salads … feta cheese and olives included!

miranda_storysize_650_052314030436Supermodel Miranda Kerr gives credit to super food salads for her slender figure and radiant complexion.

 The 31-year-old said that she survives on a diet of healthy green smoothies and grilled lean meats, as well as a daily dose of leafy goodness packed with essential vitamins and nutrients, reports

Every day I eat a big salad with finely chopped spinach and kale, fennel and macadamia nut oil. (Also) fresh lemon squeezed on that with apple cider vinegar. And feta cheese, olives and cucumber,” she said.

Kerr also said she consumes noni juice, goji berries, chia seeds or maca powder.


Greek Deep Fried Olives

Greek deep Fried Olives 1About 20 green olives stuffed with either sun dried tomatoes, cream cheese or pimentos.
1/3 cup corn flour
1 -2 eggs lightly beaten
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Peanut or vegetable oil for frying. About 1 cup. I use peanut oil, because it has a very high burn point.
Salt to taste
Combine the panko crumbs and parmesan cheese.  Mix well.
Dip olives in egg wash, then in the cornflour. This step is important, as the corn flour helps the crumb mixture adhere to the olive better.

Continue reading

A taste of the Mediterranean: Olives — their oil and our health

Olives in bowls in a shop. Black and green olivesContinuing with the Mediterranean eating theme practically requires that we cover olives and olive oil at some point in the discussion, since they are so widely consumed by Mediterranean cultures. Traditionally, a Mediterranean diet calls for eating several olives (maybe up to 10) or consuming 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil each day. Let’s take a look at what the benefits of this practice may be.

Are there health benefits from olives that are separate from their oil?

This is the first question I had when starting this post. After all, most dietitians can rattle off several benefits of consuming olive oil without much trouble at all, but olives themselves? I tend to think of olives as mostly a garnish of sorts, not really a food, but in the Mediterranean diet they are indeed a food. Olives are rich in phytonutrients that exhibit anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. A recent study even shows that compounds in olive leaves may help increase insulin sensitivity (though the study used capsules and not olives themselves). In fact, one company is seeking a patent for the olive leaf extract, which is a more potent source of the two phytonutrients of interest—oleuropein and hydroxytyrosol—for its effects in the blood sugar control/metabolic syndrome area. These phytonutrients may also play a role in cancer prevention, and are known to have some blood thinning properties. It’s a bit early to jump on the olive leaf extract bandwagon, but it certainly presents some rationale for including more olives in your diet. Olives are also a good source of fiber, iron, copper and vitamin E.

Now to rattle off the olive oil health benefits

Marinated green and black olivesMost of the health chatter around olive oil relates to the fact that it is mainly made up of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs). These are considered healthy dietary fats, and when you decrease your consumption of less healthy fats (such as saturated and trans fats) with MUFAs, you can help lower your risk of heart disease by lowering total cholesterol and “bad” LDL cholesterol levels. There is also some evidence that suggests that MUFAs may benefit blood sugar control as well—great for those with metabolic syndrome or Type 2 diabetes. In fact, studies like this recent one have shown that a Mediterranean diet that includes olive oil and nuts—without energy (calorie) restriction—reduced diabetes risk in a group of adult men and women who were already at risk of cardiovascular disease. Some types of MUFAs appear to have a use in fighting breast cancer, though more studies need to be done before conclusive benefits are demonstrated.

Bringing it to the table

Healthy golden olive oilOlives or olive oil for you? Both have benefits, and many of them are the same. So it may come down to sodium. Olives are usually high in sodium, though the level varies by type and processing technique. Most olives are brined and cured for several months to offset their naturally bitter taste. This means, of course, that they are salty—and rinsing them does little good. If you’re one of those folks who needs to watch sodium, you may want to go the olive oil route instead of the olive route when following a Mediterranean eating plan.

When choosing olive oil, keep these things in mind:

  • Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) has the highest concentration of health-promoting phytonutrients. It’s made by crushing/pressing the olives, and is the first extraction of the oil from high quality olives. Choose EVOO for drizzling, dipping or dressings.
  • Light olive oil, though not worthy of the extra virgin quality label, is still olive oil (albeit likely a mixture of different olive oils) and has comparable health benefits. It is further refined than EVOO, resulting in a more colorless, more mild-tasting oil. It’s better suited to cooking with high heat as its smoke-point is higher than that of EVOO. It’s also a good choice for baking.


Marinated Cheese and Olives

“So, I chopped up some of the Creamy Havarti (to die for), Aged Wisconsin Cheddar (so smooth and creamy), and Parmentino (a harder, stronger flavored cheese that is a mix of Parmesan and cheddar) with some green and black olives. I think next time I’ll swap the Parmentino for the New Zealander cheese. Anyway, I  tossed ’em all in some oil, vinegar, and Italian herbs and then I grabbed a fancy glass of wine and some fancy crackers and I had a very fancy wine and cheese tasting in my bed while watching Veronice Mars.  I’m so classy, you can’t even deal. “


3 ounces cheddar cheese, cubed
3 ounces Havarti, cubed
3 ounces New Zealander or Parmentino, cubed
1/4 cup green olives
1/4 cup black olives
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian herbs


Add the cheeses and olives to a medium bowl.
In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, and seasoning. Pour over the cheese.
Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.


Friday night: Try a couple of martinis as suggested by Jared Brown

martini2Meet the man who is going to make you drink 100 martinis in three weeks

After a lifetime of drinking martinis, Jared Brown shares the secret to a perfect cocktail.

Perched over the bar at Kettner’s in London’s Soho, Jared Brown apologises for sipping his Martini before GQ even has a chance to pose a question. “Forgive me for not waiting, but as Harry Craddock once said, ‘A drink should be drunk while it’s still laughing at you!'”  As a cocktail historian, New Yorker Brown has been studying the perfect Martini for over two decades  – during which time he’s published 30 books on the art of mixing drinks – but he is still fascinated by the endless variants on the  components. “It is the simplest and yet the most challenging of drinks to balance perfectly,” he explains. “Anyone in this world can mix a good Martini. Few can mix a great one”. Currently working as master distiller at London gin company Sipsmith, Brown has recently created a list of 100 Martinis for a drinks showcase at Kettner’s. GQ caught up with Brown to discuss cocktail mistakes, fictional favourites and how to cope with a monstrous Martini hangover.

GQ: What’s the cardinal sin of Martini making?
Jared Brown: The first thing that can go wrong is the use of cheap gin and vermouth. Because it is such a pure drink and there’s no juice or soda to mask the alcohol’s flavour, what you mix with is crucial. Also you couldn’t do anything worse than pouring a Martini into a warm glass. Why would you go to so much effort to perfectly chill the drink, and then warm it back up before it hits your lips?

Other than the English, who makes a really good Martini?
One of the best bars in the world for martinis is in fact Bar High Five, located in the Ginza district of Tokyo. You can generally find an amazing martini at Barcelona’s Boadas too.

martini1Other than Kettners, which other bars would you recommend?
In London, I would definitely recommend Duke’s in Mayfair; The Savoy, because their head bartender, Erik Lorincz has more than inherited the great Harry Craddock‘s post and studies his classic work extensively; and because I must, The Artesian at the Langham.

Out of the 100 variations, what are your personal picks?
I absolutely love the original Martini, which so few people have actually tasted. Everyone thinks that it was originally created with dry vermouth, but it wasn’t. The original martini was made with equal parts gin and sweet or Italian vermouth, a dash of orange bitters and often a drop of absinthe.

Second would have to be Julia Child’s reverse Martini, which is mixed with three and a half parts sweet vermouth to one part gin in a wine goblet that’s filled with ice and topped with a lemon twist.

Lastly, a dry gin Martini with olives. When I was in school and on a very low budget, there were days when my lunch would involve going into a bar, ordering a Martini and a glass of olives. I would pour the drink over the olives and that was my meal. A very nicely marinated olive salad.

What do you like served with your Martini food wise?
The Martini is a wonderfully versatile drink to pair with food and honestly for me, cocktail pairing is easier than wine pairing. With wine, the best magic often happens several years prior and hopefully somewhere in France. With a cocktail, the magic happens here and now. They can be tailored, balanced or tweaked with any different additions or garnishes. I once designed one specifically to go with steak, which featured gin, vermouth, fresh tomato, Tabasco sauce and garnished with a blue cheese-stuffed cherry tomato. It was really quite phenomenal.

What trend in cocktails needs to die out?
Bartenders telling customers how they should have their drink. The rise in consumer sophistication has allowed for better interactions and it’s wonderful to see when customers give instructions that are respected. By all means, ask for a shaken Martini if you want one.

martini3Other than Bond, what’s your favourite cultural reference to Martinis?
The Thin Man. Hands down. It was a four film series which did so much for the Martini. Myrna Loy’s character, Nora walks into the bar and asks her husband Nick, who is played by William Powell: “How many have you had?” To which he replies, “Six Martinis.” “Well waiter, line up five more Martinis for me!”

What should no man ever order at a bar?
I believe that in a good bar, anything can be as amazing as the person behind it. Unless you really need a beer or you’re desperate for a glass of wine, have a mixed drink because you’re missing the opportunity to take advantage of the great talents of many bartenders. Leave it up to them. Ask them what they are working with and give them some direction. There is no wrong order – when you let a good bartender build on their inspirations, you get that much more love and care in the drink.

What is your hangover cure?
Firstly, always have a good-sized glass of water for every cocktail you have. Secondly, have a vitamin before bed to replace what has been depleted. Lastly, if you really think you’ve had too much, then purging might just be the answer. In fact you will be more functional in the morning if you take that drastic step. I absolutely do not recommend a “hair of the dog”, either. It simply postpones your hangover at a great cost. Not only are you putting it off, but you’re also banking it!