Herbed Olives and “A Good Year”

Canorgue-squareI want this.

I wish no ill will on anyone, but I wish that I had a secret benefactor, a crazy estranged uncle, someone who would leave this for me in their will.


Nope.   Didn’t think so.


This month’s Food ‘n Flix is hosted by Tina at Squirrel Head Manor.   Tina picked A Good Year, a Ridley Scott directed film based on Peter Mayle’s book by the same name.     The scenery is divine.   The film is set in Provence and a lot of it was filmed on location in Vaucluse in Avignon.  And, besides that, you have the Russell Crowe scenery as well!

a good year

The Hubs and I had seen the film soon after it came out in 2006.   I remembered it fondly.   As we rewatched it a couple of weekends ago, we both kept thinking, “Not so much.”   It is a cute film, but we both remembered it as being more sympathetic with the main character, Max, truly finding himself in the people, culture, and environment of Provence.    Actually, I found Max to be extremely insipid.    (Go over to Tina’s other site, Novel Meals, for a review of the novel.  I wish I had taken her advice and read the book first. )

If you haven’t seen the film, here is a brief synopsis:

Max, a financial wizard, seems to be just in the gray area as to what is legal/ethical when it comes to the London financial market.    About the same time he is going to be investigated, his Uncle Henry (who seems to have helped raise him) leaves him a wine estate in Provence.   (Max admits to loving the old man but had not talked to him in years and it even takes months for the news of Henry’s death to reach him.)    So, off he goes to France to try to sell the crumbling estate as soon as possible and be rid of the mess.

Of course there are complications.   There’s Duflot, the master of the vineyard you sings to the vines and loves them like his children.   There’s Christie, an alleged illegitimate daughter of Uncle Henry that appears about the same time as Max.   There has to be the love interest, Fanny, ” a very, very choosy…. very, very suspicious; very, very irrational” woman who is “also extremely jealous and slow to forgive.”  (These are her character’s own words.)

There should have been  great promise for this story line.    I have read that Scott had the same idea almost simultaneously with Mayle’s book publication.    I can’t help but wonder if Scott’s vision overpowered Mayle’s .

But still, it is a cute movie.   Loved the characters of the Duflots and Uncle Henry.   Wish we had learned more of their wisdom.   In fact, let me list some of these gems here:

  • “You’ll come to see that a man learns nothing from winning. The act of losing, however, can elicit great wisdom. Not least of which is, uh… how much more enjoyable it is to win. It’s inevitable to lose now and again. The trick is not to make a habit of it.”  (Uncle Henry)

Uncle Henry and a young Max

  • Tempier Bandol, 1969, the kind of wine that’ll pickle even the toughest of men. I once saw a Castilian prizefighter collapse in a heap after drinking just a single glass. Perhaps my knee landing squarely in his testicles may have been partly to blame… What was I talking about before?”  (Uncle Henry)

I wish we had seen and heard more of him through the flashbacks in the film.

I was not going to make croissants, wild boar pressed in its own blood or chewy asparagus.     But Tina did mention that in the book Fanny  brings Max a plate of simple olives and a glass of wine with her menu.    This recipe is based on one from Dorie Greenspan from Around My French Table  so I think it is apropos as well.

Herbed Olives

1 (6 oz.) can black olives*
1 (6 oz.) cans green olives*
4 rosemary sprigs (about 3 “), divided
4 thyme sprigs (about 2-3″), divided
1/2 t. whole black peppercorns
1/4 t. fennel seeds
1/8 t. ground coriander
1-18 oz. extra virgin olive oil, divided
4 large cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
2 bay leaves
1/4 t. red pepper flakes
zest of 1/2 lemon
1 quart jar with lid

Place olives in a large colander to drain and rinse.

Let drain and then place olives in jar along with one sprig of rosemary and one sprig of thyme.

Strip the leaves off the other three rosemary and thyme sprigs and chop (discard these stems.)

In a small heavy skillet, toast the peppercorns and fennel seeds.   When aromatic, scrape them in a small bowl and set aside.    Let skillet cool slightly and add 1/4 c. of the olive oil.    Add coriander and toasted spices along with the rest of the ingredients.   Heat the mixture just until it’s warm and fragrant (about two minutes).

Pour the herbed oil over the olives and top off the jar with the remaining oil.    Let set at room temperature for at least 4 hours.    (Keeps in the refrigerator for up to two weeks).

Herbed Olives from Eliot's Eats

Herbed Olives

*I used Lindsay’s Natural brands of olives.   They are simply canned in a brine, without any other flavorings.   These cans look like regular 15.5 oz. cans but are labeled  “DR. WT. 6 OZ.”   Didn’t want anyone to be confused.

I originally posted this recipe earlier this year but these olives are definitely worthy of a repost.     (For the original post, click here.)   For a more authentic French recipe, turn to page 16 in Around My French Table.  Dorie’s recipe uses coriander seeds (instead of the ground coriander I use), and suggests using orange rind or lemon rind.     She recommends using whatever olives you have on hand.)

Thanks Tina for hosting this month.

Want to join us for Food ‘n Flix in November?   Cheap Ethnic Eatz is hosting Who is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe. Grab a copy of the film, get inspired, head to the kitchen and then post your recipe during the month of November.   It is that simple and it is great fun!   (If you are having trouble finding this film for November, check with your local library.   That is where I nabbed the copy for us to view.)

For all my Food ‘n Flix posts, click here.

And now for something somewhat unrelated….Have you seen “Henri, Le Chat Noir.”   OMG, these clips are hilarious.

All cats must be existentialists. I know Eliot is.

bw eliot

I am pondering my own being and nothingness (and cuteness).

Finally, a great big hug goes out to Abigail and her family today. You see, this past week, Abigail finished her final round of treatment.   Best wishes and congratulations!!!!!!!  🙂

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