A scourtin, an ancient press to mash cured olives, is also the name of a very old biscuit, now served as an appetizer with drinks, a specialty of Nyons, in the south of France, a town that had a Jewish population from at least the thirteenth century and where many Jews fleeing south during World War II took refuge.
I have changed the formula to make these biscuits, prepared from butter and sugar as well as bits of olive left in the press, a bit less sweet and with salt only sprinkled on top. They are delectable served alone or spread with a creamy Provençal cheese and, of course, a glass of wine.
Editor’s Note: They’re also the perfect accompaniment to our collection of delicious Hanukkah cocktails.
Yield: about 2 dozen
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
½ cup cured black Picholine or Moroccan black olives, pitted and coarsely chopped, drained
½ teaspoon fennel seed
1 teaspoon sea salt for sprinkling
In a large bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and the sugar until the butter is soft and pale yellow. Add the olive oil and mix well. Add the flour and mix gentry but thoroughly until the dough is smooth, then add the olives and fennel seed and mix until they are incorporated into the dough.
Remove the dough to a lightly floured work surface and mold into a cylinder, about 1 inch in diameter and about 11 inches long. Wrap with waxed or parchment paper and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
With a very sharp knife, slice the dough into ¼-inch rounds and put them about ½ inch apart on the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with the sea salt.
Bake until golden, about 15–20 minutes, or until slightly brown around the edges. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.
Reprinted with permission from “King Solomon’s Table: A Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking From Around the World” by Joan Nathan. (Alfred A. Knopf)