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Ahhh, The Slow Life and Lucca-Style Olives Print E-mail
by Sandra Lewis    Fri, May 25, 2007, 11:23 am
As a child my favorite piece of playground equipment was the merry-go-round. I would grab on, run as fast as I could, jump on, and then hang on for dear life especially if the merry-go-round had the momentum of several kids giving it a go.

With every dizzying rotation it was a battle; gravity versus me. Sometimes gravity won; sometimes I triumphed making my way to the center and standing triumphantly.

Transition to adult life. It’s busy, hectic, and fast. Traffic. Alarms. Appointments. Meetings. Deadlines. Plane schedules. Rental cars. Rental car shuttles. Airport security lines. Double-booked calendars. Email and the incessant cell phone. Constant noise. Radios. Loudspeakers. Slot machine’s dinging (that one’s random, but I’m in Vegas at the moment).

Sometimes it’s too much. And I feel like that little girl on the merry-go-round losing my grip, one knuckle, two knuckle, three knuckes. Gone!

Except I never really fall off, just down. And without my help the merry-go-round of life just keeps on spinning.

Yet there are moments for me, spent mostly in the kitchen and around the dining table with friends and family when I feel I’m defying the gravitational pull of the fast life.

Fresh ingredients. Alluring aromas. Pleasing tastes. Enchanting wine. Fantastic conversation. Laughs. Smiles. Memories. Refreshing.

Yes, I need more of these slow moments, see the smile?

A year and a half ago I joined Slow Food – an international organization with 80,000 members who share my sentiment. Founded in 1989, Slow Food’s mission is to revive the joy of eating with an emphasis on taste, promote diversity in our food chain, and link artisanal producers with consumers.

It’s a growing movement. The Slow Food Dallas chapter now has more than 200 members.

It takes a slower life to reconnect with our tastebuds, understand where our food comes from, and care about how our food choices affect our planet and ourselves.

So I joined with eight other Slow Food Dallas members for a communal supper this past Saturday night, each of us contributing a dish to complement an Italian-themed meal.

My contribution to the meal was the antipasta: marinated chickpeas, peppered, sliced salami alongside sliced parmigana reggiano, and Lucca-Style Roasted Olives.

My dinner mates’ contributions were a green salad served in individual homemade parmesan crisp bowls, “Braised Pork to Taste Like Wild Boar,” white cannelloni beans with rosemary, and homemade panna cotta with hazelnut praline caramel sauce, and bit of violin music ala Ariel between the main course and dessert.

It felt like we took a step back in time with food, music, and fellowship.

The supper was slow, the conversation engaging, and the food divine.

And on one more evening I triumphed.

I beat back everything that is fast about my life to stand triumphantly and serenely in the middle of the merry-go-round.

Lucca-Style Roasted Olives
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 large cloves garlic, unpeeled, lightly crushed
5 or 6 fresh thyme sprigs
1 pint (about 2 cups) oil-cured black olives
1/2 pint (about 1 cup) Nicoise or Alberquina olives
4 orange zest strips

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Cook the olive oil and garlic cloves in an ovenproof skillet over moderate heat until the cloves begin to sizzle and carmelize slightly. Add the thyme sprigs and let them sizzle in the oil for about 30 seconds. Add the olives and stir until they are hot throughout, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the orange zest.

Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake, stirring occasionally, until the olives start to soften, 5 to 8 minutes. Serve warm.

Sandra’s Cooking Notes:
- This is Michael Chiarello’s recipe from his book, Michael Chiarello’s Casual Cooking.
- If the pork recipe sounds intriguing it can be found in Marlene De Blasi's “A Thousand Days in Tuscany.” I’ve never had wild boar so I can’t compare, but the flavors made my tastebuds dance.
- The rest of the evening's photos can be found here.
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