Portuguese Green Olive Dip

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When I visited A Bolota, a lovely restaurant perched on the sweeping plains of the eastern Alentejo, this dip, called pate de azeitonas verdes, was brought to our table. As I nattered away with friends, I dipped, spread, and nibbled, until I realized I alone had eaten all of it. Later, when I became friendly with the cook, Ilda Vinagre, I watched her make it and was flummoxed when she whipped up its silky base: milk “mayonnaise”—whole milk whirred into a smooth consistency with the addition of vegetable oil. I serve this as a dip with a platter of crudites, alongside crackers or bread, or, sometimes, as a topping for grilled fish.—David Leite
 

Note: Don’t make this in a food processor. The bowls of most processors are too large to allow the scant amount of ingredients to whip up to the right consistency. A small narrow blender, or a mini chop or handheld blender, works best.
 

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup whole milk, more if needed
  • 6 oil-packed anchovy fillets
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • Leaves and tender stems of 6 fresh cilantro sprigs
  • Pinch of freshly ground white pepper
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup pitted green olives such as Manzanilla, rinsed quickly if particularly salty, roughly chopped

Instructions

Add the 1/3 cup milk, anchovies, garlic, two thirds of the cilantro, and the pepper to a blender and pulse to combine. With the motor running, pour the oil in what the Portuguese call a fio, or fine thread. Keep whirring until the oil is incorporated and the mixture thickens, 30 seconds to 1 1/2 minutes, depending on your equipment.
 
Scrape the dip into a serving bowl and stir in the olives. Mince the remaining cilantro, sprinkle on top, and serve. If the dip thickens, stir in a tablespoon or two of milk.
Prep time: 
5 min
Cook time: 
5 min
Total time: 
10 min
Yield: 
1 1/2 cups
  • Is the ability to cook what made us human?

    Richard Wrangham, a professor at Harvard University and author of Catching Fire, studies the role of cooking in human evolution. "Once you start thinking about the importance of cooking -- its supply of energy, its strange distribution compared to natural foods -- it's bound to have affected our evolution hugely, our behavior, our society, our cognition, all sorts of features about us," he says.

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