In Ancona, an avant-garde surgical practice called "awake surgery" and the exquisite olives of Ascoli intertwine in a story that has an incredible
Prepare the Ascoli olives while being operated on by the brain as a wake-up call. The news reported by Ansa quickly traveled around the world, up to the major American television networks. A story that is incredible and that happened in the capital of the Marche, at the Ospedali Riuniti of Ancona. The woman, a sixty-year-old from Abruzzo, prepared 90 stuffed olives in just under an hour, while undergoing surgery on the left temporal lobe, an area responsible for the control and organization of language and complex movements of the right part of the body. It is a consolidated practice called "cutting edge" awake surgery, which allows you to monitor the patient while surgeons intervene on brain functions.
"Everything went well," Dr. Roberto Trignani, head of the Department of Neurosurgery, at the end of the operation, which lasted a total of two and a half hours and which involved 11 people including neurosurgeons, neuroanesthesiologists, nurses, a psychologist, a neurophysiology technician.
Now, the news itself could rightly be relegated to the medical field, if it were not for the great value that the kitchen assumes in the life of all of us. An activity that is part of our culture, of daily life, so much so that it becomes a panacea for the most difficult moments and, as in this case, an indispensable placebo saves lives in the operating room.
So here is what the Ascoli olives are and how they are prepared from the nineteenth century to today.
The Tenera Ascolana, the giant olive
The tradition of stuffed olives in Ascoli is widespread among the provinces of Ascoli Piceno and in Abruzzo of Teramo, where tender olives can be found, a prized variety of giant olives. From noble preparation, today this dish has become one of the emblems of street food. It is a giant ellipsoidal and elongated olive (each drupe weighs 4 to eight grams), with fleshy pulp. The color of the fruit goes from green to straw yellow until it becomes purple with full ripeness. It is one of the four Italian PDOs, but the production is particularly limited and, above all, the tender is difficult to pitting with a knife due to its fragility. Reason why artisan producers apply a higher price for stuffed Ascoli. The food industries offer them in the fridge of supermarkets with fillings of various kinds, but this variety is hardly used in industry, due to the limited cultivation. Furthermore, in Ascoli Piceno, if it is not prepared by hand, it is not a real "fried liva ascolana".
The recipe for Ascoli olives
The recipe for stuffed olives is very old. It dates back to 1800. Preparation takes several hours and each family has its own version. The differences come from the choice of meats, the use of spices or lemon, breading and, of course, the type of olive. In Ascoli, every restaurateur has his own little secret that makes them unique, local delicatessens send them home throughout Italy.
To make 100 stuffed olives (about 1.5 kg of finished product)
1 kilo of “tener Ascoli” olives; 300 grams of beef pulp; 100 grams of pork meat; 100 grams of chicken or turkey breast; a hectogram of grated Parmesan; three fresh eggs; nutmeg; zest of 1/2 untreated lemon; a clove; a stalk of celery; an onion; a glass of white wine; 00 flour; bread crumbs; extra virgin olive oil and salt.
Once the olives have been drained from their brine, one of the main precautions is to keep the olives in fresh water for a few hours with a generous dose of wild fennel (in the local dialect "bastard fennel"). Chop celery, carrot and onion and a clove and just brown them with a little oil in a saucepan. Cut the meat into small pieces, brown it together with the vegetables and lemon zest until golden brown, then blend with the white wine, preferably from the Picene hills (a good Falerio) and season with salt. When the meat is cooked, it must be left to cool and then grind it to a very fine grain with a meat grinder or mixer. Add a pinch of nutmeg, 2 eggs and Parmesan; mix well mixing until a homogeneous mixture is obtained.
In the meantime, pitted the olives with a smooth blade knife: starting from the stalk, cut the pulp from the core by drawing a spiral without ever detaching the blade from the olive, thus obtaining a single strip of pulp. Take the dough and fill the olives by reassembling the original shape of the fruit with the peel. Pass each olive first in the flour, then in the beaten egg and finally in the breadcrumbs. In a large pan, bring the temperature of the extra virgin olive oil (or sunflower) to 170 degrees and immerse the olives by turning them until they are golden brown outside; drain them, place them on a paper towel and serve them still hot.