Olives are a great source of vitamin E, protects from heart disease, support the gastrointestinal health and has beneficial anti-inflammatory effects. No wonder it’s one of the oldest food known since its origins thought to be in Crete. Brought to America by Portuguese and Spanish explorers during the 15th and 16th century, this fruit needs to be processed after harvest to reduce their natural bitterness. Have you ever tried an olive directly from the tree? It doesn’t taste good, whether is unripe and green in color or already ripe and black. I have a slight memory that I was once discouraged to try one fallen out of one of my grandparents olive trees, but I’m not quite sure if I did it.
Traditionally, the olive harvesting was an agricultural work done between November and February. A ritual repeated year after year, in a time when the tasks were mixed with songs, laughs and baskets full of regional food and wine. Nowadays, it’s a mechanized job, but there are a few places where the tradition insists to survive. I’m talking about my country, as you might have guessed, and for afar this memories that I didn’t even follow closely are now much more treasured. Everybody knew how the process was done, at least by hearsay so many times the old rituals. Men and women would bring a set of utensils necessary to the harvest, like a ladder, some sticks with a hook to catch the fruit, bags, some sieves used to separate the fruit from the leaves, panels to place under the tree to where the olives would fall, and big sticks used to shake the tree. Normally, men would shake the tree with the sticks while women would pick the olives falling into the big panels and place them in the bags. Old times.
Back to this day, here in my American kitchen, I simply pick a jar bought at the store to use in any meal. This time olives are going into some homemade bread rolls. Black ones, always a favorite of mine. Kalamata, a diamond shaped olive preserved in wine vinegar and olive oil, meaty and smooth. Preferably fully grown in the city of Kalamata, in Southern Greece, and hand-picked to avoid any bruises. Hopefully, prepared with love just like in ancient times.
Olive Bread Rolls
Preparation time: 1 hour and 50 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Makes about 10-12 rolls
Note: This is the same dough used for the basil and garlic knots. It’s very versatile and good also for pizza. In some of these rolls I changed the olive/garlic mix for walnuts, a daughter’s favorite nut. That is to say, you can play with this dough as it pleases and do different versions.
2 package active dry yeast, about 5 tsp
4 tsp sugar
2 cups warm water (about 100 F)
3 cups white whole wheat flour
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp sea salt
4 Tbsp olive oil
For the olive mix:
1 jar (7 oz) pitted olives (I used kalamata olives)
3 to 5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 Tbsp oregano
1 Tbsp olive oil
Cheese, sliced – optional (I used provolone and smoked cheddar)
For the walnut option (optional):
a handful of walnuts
In a small bowl, mix the yeast and sugar and add the warm water (at 100 F). Let it rest for five minutes until yeast is frothy. In a large bowl of a stand-mixer, mix the flours with the salt and make a well in the center. Pour in this well the yeast mixture and olive oil. Attach the dough hook in the stand mixer and knead the dough until incorporated about 3 to 4 minutes. If you doing it by hand, mix the ingredients with a fork and then knead in a lightly floured surface for about 5 minutes.
Place dough in a large bowl, greased with olive oil, flipping the dough over to be well coated. Cover the bowl with a plastic wrap and then with a kitchen towel and leave it to rest in a warm place for about one hour, or until dough is double sized.
Prepare the olive mix: Slice coarsely the pitted olives and set in a small bowl. Minced the garlic cloves and add to the bowl. Add the oregano and olive oil and stir to combine.
When ready to make the rolls, roll out the dough in a floured surface into a square shape. It doesn’t need to be perfect. Use a pizza cutter to slice the stripes.
Spread some olives and garlic mix on and some slices of cheese on each stripe. If doing the walnut option, spread some walnuts on the preferred stripes. Starting on one edge, roll the stripe all the way. Tuck each roll on your palm to make sure is well wrapped. Cover with a kitchen towel and let it rest for about 30 minutes.
In this meantime, preheat oven to 400 F. Line two baking sheets (or one if using half dough) with parchment paper.
Place the rolls in the baking sheets and bake for 20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.