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Recently, Steve and I went to a neighborhood restaurant where we had been just once before, and we were surprised that prices had gone up. Where we were expecting entrees of $18 to $20, they were mostly $25 and higher.
We could have left for a less expensive place but we decided to stay and eat economically. For an appetizer, my eyes rested on the cheapest thing on the menu, fried kalamata olives, and certainly something we could share as a starter with our wine.
What we ordered for main courses was forgettable and actually the chef had too heavy a hand with the salt. When the waiter asked the standard, "Is everything okay?" I was honest and I said my dish was too salty. He offered to replace the dish, but since Steve’s was also salty, I didn't think it would make a difference so I declined. They offered to comp dessert but we happened to have a dessert from Tartine at home, so I passed. We tipped as if we had liked the food -- for a job well done by the waiter.
I believe in speaking up if the food isn't up to snuff. I think it's a kindness, although the chef may not take it that way. How is a restaurant supposed to know that patrons are dissatisfied with the food if no one says anything?
Still, I don't believe in panning the restaurant by name on social media sites. It may have been an off night and it seems unfair to judge on one experience. I'm not a restaurant critic who can afford to try a restaurant over several occasions, over time, to judge fairly.
Those kalamata olives, however, were memorable -- so much so that I decided to make them at home. I always have a large jar of pitted kalamata olives on hand to add to salads and some pastas, and to make a quick tapenade for unexpected company. The olives keep indefinitely in the fridge.
In my version, I’ve added some cornmeal for crunch, but you can go with all breadcrumbs, if you like. And I took a lesson from the restaurant, sprinkling with chunks of feta and chopped Italian parsley to garnish.
It's great bar food at home. Try it.
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Fried Kalamata Olives
Makes 4 or 5 servings
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon cornmeal
20 pitted kalamata olives
Vegetable oil, for deep frying
2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
- Set up three small bowls for dipping and coating the olives. In the first, add the flour. In the second, add the beaten egg. In the third, combine breadcrumbs and cornmeal and mix well.
- Roll the olives in the flour, then dip them in the beaten egg and roll in the breadcrumb mixture to coat. Set on a plate or small baking sheet in a single layer.
- In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, pour in about 1 inch of oil – you’ll need enough oil to just cover the olives when you begin frying. Heat oil over medium heat until a deep-frying thermometer reaches 350°F. Fry the olives in batches until golden brown, about 45 seconds to 1 minute. Do not crowd the pan. Remove olives with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Cool about 5 minutes.
- Arrange in a serving dish or bowl; sprinkle with cheese and parsley to garnish. Serve immediately.
- Try seasoned breadcrumbs or Japanese panko breadcrumbs.
- Skip the cornmeal if you don't have it.
- Stuff a bit of cheese in the olive cavity before breading.
- Experiment with other varieties of olives.
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