Olives are used often in North African cuisine. It is thought that Greek colonizers that lived in Sicily introduced the olive to North Africa, where the climate proved favorable for its cultivation. The Romans planted large groves of olive trees throughout North Africa and by the 10th century the olives was an important crop throughout the Mediterranean. Morocco now is second only to Greece in the export of olives and olive oil.
Evelyn is a close friend and neighbor whose elderly mother makes the most wonderful Tunisian food. On every visit, her mother arrives with shopping bags laden with neatly stacked plastic boxes, each filled with a different Tunisian dish. Her family gathers around the kitchen table, impatient to taste from all the delicacies, even before properly sitting down. Here is the recipe for olives she gave me last time she came to visit.
Tunisian Olive Salad
250 pitted green olives such as manzanilla (1 can)
1 teaspoon caraway seeds, ground
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 bunch dill, finely chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons olive oil
Cover olives water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Discard the water. Repeat. In a small saucepan heat the olive oil and add the caraway seeds, mix for a few seconds. Add the tomato paste and fry for a few seconds to release the flavor. Add the olives and water, combine until well coated. Add the remaining ingredients. Serve at room temperature. I served it with chopped fennel with a bit of olive oil and lemon juice.