Friday, April 8, 2011

Classical Cooking

April 2011 023Let’s step back more than 2,000 years for this recipe – one that was noted by Cato, an early Roman soldier and politician who lived around 200 B.C.  In between fighting Hannibal, the Punic Wars, and all that lapsed Roman morality to reign in, this statesman who hailed from ancient plebian ancestors also devoted himself to writing a farming handbook complete with recipes and agricultural advice.

Cato’s recipe for this olive paste is included in “The Classical Cookbook,” a book of recipes from ancient Greece and Rome that I bought at the Getty Villa in Malibu (photo below) on my recent trip to California.

March 2011 458 To those of you who have never visited the Getty Museums in California, you should know there are two, and they are both fabulous. On my last trip to Santa Barbara, my friend Jeannette took me to the Getty Center in Los Angeles, a stunning series of buildings and gardens designed by the architect Richard Meier.


The Getty Center houses European paintings, drawings, sculpture, illuminated manuscripts, decorative arts, and European and American photographs and is a must-see for art lovers traveling to the West Coast.

But this time we went to the Malibu Getty, which dedicates its beautiful buildings overlooking the Pacific Ocean to an extensive collection of ancient Greek, Roman and Etruscan art – from mosaics:

to frescoes:


March 2011 461

to sculptures:

to ancient coins, jewelry, glassware and many other beautiful works of art that have survived not hundreds, but thousands of years, including this vase:

March 2011 440 While I can’t own one of these precious works of art, at least I can content myself with eating in the same manner as Augustus Caesar, Cato or Socrates. And now so can you.

Olive Paste

adapted from “The Classical Cookbook”

printable recipe here

  • 4 oz. black olives (Don’t use bottled or canned olives please – buy olives from a deli or good grocery store)
  • 4 oz. green olives
  • 4 T. red wine vinegar
  • 4 T. olive oil
  • 1 heaping t. chopped fennel leaf or finely diced fennel root (I used fennel fronds)
  • 2 t. chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)
  • 2 t. dried or chopped fresh rue (I left this out since I couldn’t find it at this time of year.)
  • 2 heaped t. dried or 3 t. chopped fresh mint

Buy pitted olives to make your life easier. Chop the herbs roughly and put them, along with all the other ingredients, into a food processor. Whir until everything is blended and finely chopped (but not pureed). Serve with pita bread or crackers. This would be great accompanied by a sharp sheep’s cheese like feta.



  1. That would be perfect in my pan bagnat sandwiches!
    The Getty Museum is beautiful!

  2. Beautiful pictures. Recipe looks good too.

  3. I need to make it because I find solace in creating and eating soemthing from thousands of years ago. It's always about the connections... although rue? Don't know it. The fresco really stood out - don't know why - but I wanted to crawl into it.

  4. The museum is really beautiful a great way to spend the day and I love the mosaics! I'm sorry but what is rue? I never heard of it, I shall google it! Your olive paste slathered on crusty bread with a glass of wine is the kind of thing that makes me smile!

  5. Craig and I are going to spend a week in So.Cal next month. We want to see the Getty museum. It's kismet that you have this posted. I'd love this, with a glass of vino. Nice!

  6. That would make a great sandwich spread. A yummy combo.



  7. Lovely on some crackers with a glass of wine!!

  8. Olives and olive oil.

    What's not to love!!!!!

  9. I love olive paste! Would rather make my own than buy a jarred version. Thank you for posting this recipe~

  10. Ancient tapenade, love it! Funny, we had quite a bit of rue growing in our herb garden in Rome. Never quite knew what to do with it...

  11. Looks tasty. I know my daughter's Greek boyfriend would like this. Will try as an Easter appetizer. Love you site. Please visit my new site at

  12. I ahve not been able to visit either Getty Museum as yet. Hopefully, someday, I will!

    I'm an olive fan ..this looks so delectable!

  13. Linda, your pictures are just lovely. Fresh olive paste would be delicious as you suggested with a good feta cheese - yum!

  14. Linda, this post has it all, great food, travel, art . . . Can I come and live with you? My daughter and I just saw the Toulouse-Lautrec exhibit in Atlanta, which I posted about in March . . . we love art museums. I'm going to have to find this classic cookbook! Thanks for the info and the photo-trip!

  15. Our ancestors knew what they were eating..not be accident. Declicious, healthy and...even logical food! We should eat more like them.

  16. My husband would love this olive paste very much. Thank you so much for the recipe Linda!

  17. I adore olives and would love that on some crusty bread!

  18. Your photos today are wonderful. The museum is, indeed, a special place. As is your olive paste which has just moved to my must try list. I love tapenade and this sounds lovely. Have a great day. Blessings...Mary

  19. The Olive dish sounds delicious! I buy olives and incorporate them with most of my meals!