The holidays had us going non-stop in the happiest way. First, a cross-country flight to spend Christmas week with my family; then, we flew back home (where our cousins were already staying in our house) and had one day to visit with the cousins and cook for our annual New Year’s Day party. After the last of our fifty-plus guests left — carrying goody bags of cookies and candy — we packed for a 2-night stay in Lake Tahoe with three other families. The night after we got back, we hosted old friends for dinner.

Our friends would have been totally satisfied with a simple meal, and I think we would have been totally justified in even serving them take-out — after all, when I look at the calendar, I see that we had only had one dinner at home, just the four of us, over the two week school vacation; every other meal has been an “occasion” meal and/or for a group — but cooking is how I settle back into my routine, how I welcome myself and my family home, so cook I did.

As usual, Tony handled the main course (a vegetarian pasta Bolognese; recipe to come) and I made appetizers and dessert. For the appetizers, I served a few new things: fresh olives, cured at home with olive oil and orange peel; peanuts roasted with lapsang souchong tea; and Spanish olive crackers. It’d been years since I made crackers, and last time I swore I wouldn’t go to the trouble again; they are usually so much work, and shops have a great variety of delicious crackers on their shelves. But this recipe has been hanging out in my folder of torn magazine recipes for so many years I just had to try it. Now I can report that the crackers are a) not much effort and b) a great cocktail accompaniment.

Olive Crackers

12 large pitted green or black Spanish olives, drained
6 T butter, softened
2/3 cup flour
3 egg whites
1 1/2 T whole grain mustard
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 325. Slice the olives in thirds crosswise and bake until slightly dried out, 5-7 minutes. Set aside.

Mix the butter and flour until it resembles coarse meal. Add the egg whites, mustard and salt and mix until well combined.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Drop 2 teaspoons of the batter onto one of the baking sheets and spread into a thin circle, about 2 1/2″. Place an olive in the middle of the circle. Repeat with the remaining batter and olives, keeping the crackers an inch apart.

Bake the crackers until golden brown around the edges and still slightly pale in the middle, about 20 minutes. Remove from the pan while still warm and let cool completely on a wire rack.