Olive Harvest 2014

I finally pressed my own olives. I’ve been harvesting our olives, all eleven trees, for the last three years; ever since I realized that we had our own olive trees. These trees were planted almost 100 years ago by my maternal grand parents after the vineyard contracted some bug that destroyed all the grapevines.

My olive picking skills have improved dramatically over the few years. This year, I managed to climb to the top of the tree to grab the bounty of olives nestled at the tip. I also learned to look over the tree from every angle. It may seem that you got all the olives, but then you look at a branch from another angle, and all of a sudden, you find a bunch more olives waiting to be picked.

All olives are picked by hand. Any other method, such as hitting the olives, will bruise the olive. When there is a bunch on one branch, I simply slide my fingers down the branch plucking off the olives.

Given only eleven trees, my harvest is modest. And the oil press in old Ramallah requires a minimum weight in order to press your olives. I have never had the required minimum weight. The owner always made me trade my olives for oil from someone else’s olives. Those are the rules. But this year was a good season for my eleven trees. I didn’t care if my harvest reached the minimum required weight. I wanted to press my own olives. To drink the olive oil produced from my soil. To enjoy my grandparents’ gift.

I visited the olive press Wednesday afternoon. It wasn’t packed with customers. It was still very early in the olive-harvesting season. And the big Eid Adha holiday was just ending. I had picked my olives early in the season taking advantage of my days off for the holiday. I approached the olive press owner explaining that I harvested my olives. I told him that I thought that I had two bags full, and I wanted to know if he would let me press them. I told him that he had been taking my olives for the last couple of years. But this year, I had a good harvest. And I wanted my own olive oil from my own olives from my soil, planted by my grandparents nearly 100 years ago. I looked him straight in the eye as I spoke. Less than 2 seconds after my diatribe, he agreed. He told me to bring my olives NOW for pressing.

I was ecstatic. I was going to press my own olives. And I think I learned the secret for future years. My lesson learned: Harvest early and press your olives before the masses. Olive press owner guy is much nicer when customers are few.

As I watched my olives press and convert to a fresh green oil, I felt gratitude for the blessing of the land of Palestine and my grandparents vision and gift for us who followed. I filled a cup with the freshly pressed oil as it poured. It was warm and earthy. It tasted like fresh green. There was a mild burn in the back of my throat.

I finally got to taste my own olive oil.

total harvest

total harvest

olives going for cleaning

on their way for a cleaning before being pressed

fresh pressed olive oil

freshly pressed olive oil

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baladi tomatoes in October

It’s October.  Leaves are falling off the trees.  Olives are ripe for picking.  Figs are closing their season.  It even rained this afternoon; a nice but short pour – the first of the season.  And I am feeling blessed as my tomato plants are still providing me with heirloom tomatoes.

IMG_0094

Are you still enjoying tomatoes from your garden this Fall?  Let me know.

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Figs, figs and more figs

A month ago, I was yearning for the hard green knobs to mature into bright green and purple sweet fruit. I could not get enough.

A month later, today, I think I have had enough. Each morning brings another bowl of newly ripened figs. I’ve dried enough to last the entire winter. I’ve cooked them into a sweet and tart jam. I’ve cooked some more for a pie or crumble filling. I took some to work. I gave some to friends. I invited friends over to pick. And yet, each morning brings another bowl of newly ripened figs. The continuous activity of the fig tree is amazing. The hard green knobs are present, and yet, the process of maturation differs for each knob. Some mature early in the season at around mid to late July, others mature later in early August, and still more mature much later into September and sometimes even October. The fig tree gives and gives in total abundance, quite symbolic in the land of blessings, milk and honey, and figs and olives.

Fruit is scarce in the winter months. A taste of late summer sweetness is always welcome in the cold dreary days of January and February. Even though figs are coming out of my ears these days…literally….I am always so grateful that I took the time to preserve some for the winter.

morning picking

morning picking

mom with her morning's bounty

mom with her morning’s bounty

Dried Figs

  • Cut each fig in half.
  • Spread figs onto large tray, such as a cookie sheet.
  • Place the figs in a sunny place.  I put mine on the roof of my home.
  • Bring the trays in every evening.  The evening dew will ruin your figs.
  • The figs will need 3-5 days to dry.
  • Once dried, store the figs in a glass jar.

dried figs

dried figs

Fig jam:

  • Slice each fig in half.  I usually cook a kilo at a time.
  • Place in large pot and cook over low heat.
  • Stir periodically and smoosh the figs to let out the juices.
  • Add the juice of one lemon.
  • Add 1 cup sugar.
  • Allow to cook for at least one hour.
  • Continue to stir periodically and smoosh the figs.
  • Just before spooning the fig jam into glass jars:
  • Pour boiling water into the glass jar and the lids.
  • Remove the boiling water, and immediately spoon in the hot fig jam.
  • Cover each glass jar with the lid, and tighten.
  • Allow to cool.
  • Store in a cool pantry.

fig jam

fig jam

 

Fig Crumble:

  • Prepare fig jam as described above.  I like to add 2 tablespoons of corn starch for this recipe.
  • Crumble mixture:  Add 1 cup of almonds, 1/2 cup sunflower seeds, 1 cup wheat flour, 3 tablespoons sugar, 3 dashes of sea salt, 2 tablespoons flax seeds, and grind all in a food processor.
  • Add 3 heaping tablespoons of coconut oil to the crumble mixture, and mix until you form a moist crumble.
  • In your favorite baking dish, spoon in the cooled fig jam.  Cover with moist crumble mixture.
  • Bake at 175 degrees celsius until the crumble mixture is golden brown, approximately 30 minutes.

I like to add extra sea salt to my crumble mixture for the salty sweet flavor that I love so much.

The fig crumble is delicious warm or cold, alone or with vanilla ice cream.  Enjoy.

 

fig crumble...yum!

fig crumble…yum!

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Figs, figs and more figs

A month ago, I was yearning for the hard green knobs to mature into bright green and purple sweet fruit. I could not get enough.

A month later, today, I think I have had enough. Each morning brings another bowl of newly ripened figs. I’ve dried enough to last the entire winter. I’ve cooked them into a sweet and tart jam. I’ve cooked some more for a pie or crumble filling. I took some to work. I gave some to friends. I invited friends over to pick. And yet, each morning brings another bowl of newly ripened figs. The continuous activity of the fig tree is amazing. The hard green knobs are present, and yet, the process of maturation differs for each knob. Some mature early in the season at around mid to late July, others mature later in early August, and still more mature much later into September and sometimes even October. The fig tree gives and gives in total abundance, quite symbolic in the land of blessings, milk and honey, and figs and olives.

Fruit is scarce in the winter months. A taste of late summer sweetness is always welcome in the cold dreary days of January and February. Even though figs are coming out of my ears these days…literally….I am always so grateful that I took the time to preserve some for the winter.

morning picking

morning picking

mom with her morning's bounty

mom with her morning’s bounty

Dried Figs

  • Cut each fig in half.
  • Spread figs onto large tray, such as a cookie sheet.
  • Place the figs in a sunny place.  I put mine on the roof of my home.
  • Bring the trays in every evening.  The evening dew will ruin your figs.
  • The figs will need 3-5 days to dry.
  • Once dried, store the figs in a glass jar.

dried figs

dried figs

Fig jam:

  • Slice each fig in half.  I usually cook a kilo at a time.
  • Place in large pot and cook over low heat.
  • Stir periodically and smoosh the figs to let out the juices.
  • Add the juice of one lemon.
  • Add 1 cup sugar.
  • Allow to cook for at least one hour.
  • Continue to stir periodically and smoosh the figs.
  • Just before spooning the fig jam into glass jars:
  • Pour boiling water into the glass jar and the lids.
  • Remove the boiling water, and immediately spoon in the hot fig jam.
  • Cover each glass jar with the lid, and tighten.
  • Allow to cool.
  • Store in a cool pantry.

fig jam

fig jam

 

Fig Crumble:

  • Prepare fig jam as described above.  I like to add 2 tablespoons of corn starch for this recipe.
  • Crumble mixture:  Add 1 cup of almonds, 1/2 cup sunflower seeds, 1 cup wheat flour, 3 tablespoons sugar, 3 dashes of sea salt, 2 tablespoons flax seeds, and grind all in a food processor.
  • Add 3 heaping tablespoons of coconut oil to the crumble mixture, and mix until you form a moist crumble.
  • In your favorite baking dish, spoon in the cooled fig jam.  Cover with moist crumble mixture.
  • Bake at 175 degrees celsius until the crumble mixture is golden brown, approximately 30 minutes.

I like to add extra sea salt to my crumble mixture for the salty sweet flavor that I love so much.

The fig crumble is delicious warm or cold, alone or with vanilla ice cream.  Enjoy.

 

fig crumble...yum!

fig crumble…yum!

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More Kar’eeya, AKA baba ghannouj

My mom arrived to Palestine just in time for the long fasting days of Ramadan. It has been hot, but I dared to turn on the oven to roast a chicken and seasonal vegetables for my mom’s homecoming. I squeezed the long, slender Battiri eggplants alongside the chicken roast in preparation for another meal or snack. In the summer, I try to cook as many meals as I can in one shot when resorting to using the oven.

“I’m going to make baba ghannouj with those roasted egg plants,” I explained to my mom.

My mother replied, “You mean kar’eeya?”

In my mom’s falahee (peasant) vocabulary, all pureed vegetable dips are kar’eeya. The summer zucchini roasted and pureed with garlic, olive oil, lemon and plain yogurt is kar’eeya. And the eggplant roasted and pureed with tahini, garlic, lemon and olive oil is kar’eeya. A fellow hiker questioned the use of the term kar’eeya. Kar’eeya is derived from the root, Kara’, which is pumpkin. So in fact, the summer zucchini puree should be called kus’eeya since summer zuchhini is kusa in Arabic. While the eggplant puree should be called bait enjaniya. Nonetheless, it seems that the fellaheen from my mother’s time refer to them all as kar’eeya. And the city folk use their own terminology referring to the eggplant puree as baba ghannouj.

Kar’eeya (baba ghannouj)
2 large or 4 medium eggplant
1 garlic head
3 tablespoons tahini
juice of one lemon
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper for taste

Roast the eggplant and garlic in olive oil and salt in oven at 200 degrees Celsius for one hour. Allow to cool. In a food processor, combine roasted eggplant, roasted garlic (squeeze the garlic out of the skin), and the remaining ingredients. Puree into a smooth dip. Refrigerate. This eggplant puree is great on toast or in a sandwich. You can eat it as a cold summer time side dish. Adjust the tahini and olive oil to your preferred taste.

Do you have a favorite summer time vegetable puree? Please share in the comment section.

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my recent trip to World Heritage Site, Battir

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kar’eeya

Kar’eeya (zucchini spread)

My mom always made kar’eeya every summer when there was an abundance of summer squash. She would sauté the zucchini in a bit of olive oil and salt and blend it with tons of raw garlic. I cringed at the sharp pungent flavor of raw garlic. I realize this must be blasphemy for some foodies out there, but I prefer the softer flavor of garlic after roasting in olive oil and salt.

Here is my version of ker’eeya. I use it as a dip or a side dish. It’s cool and refreshing for Palestine’s hot summer.

Kar’eeya

6 small or 3 medium sized zucchini, sliced in half/length wise

1 head of garlic

3 tablespoons of olive oil

salt for taste

½ cup plain yogurt

Mix first four ingredients in medium pan, cover with foil, and bake at 200 degrees Celsius for approximately one hour. Allow to cool. In your blender or food processor, squeeze the garlic from its skin and add the roasted zucchini and blend. Stir in the plain yogurt. Refrigerate. Eat as a dip or a spread in your sandwich, or as a side dish.

Simple and refreshing.

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