Saturday, October 29, 2011

Secret ingredients

Don't you love discovering a secret ingredient?  Something that you would have never thought to add to a favorite dish, but after you taste it, you realize it was a really good idea?

One of my top ten in this category is black olives as an ingredient in minestrone, or any similar vegetable soup. 

I remember exactly when and where I discovered this secret.  We were in Cincinnati for the Metropolitan Opera Auditions, and on the way home we stopped at Pompilio's, a venerable old Italian restaurant in Newport, KY.  In the minestrone we discovered the secret ingredient and loved it.  Since then, I've often added olives to my soup.  They add a little salt and a lot of concentrated flavor, and they look pretty.

Pitted kalamatas, which I can usually get at the olive bar in my local grocery, are perfect; sometimes I cut them into halves, other times serve them whole.  If I can't find pitted, I'll sometimes get another fancy black olive and cut the pits out; it takes a while, but you need less because the pit-full varieties tend to be saltier and stronger.

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