created at: 2014-04-24Between this week’s running of the Boston Marathon and next week’s observance of Yom HaShoah, I’ve been thinking a lot about the role of food in commemorating difficult—and oftentimes tragic—events. Food can mean comfort, like a homemade casserole delivered to a grieving family’s home, or peace, such as apples in Chinese New Year celebrations. With this week’s emotional events, it seems like the perfect time to highlight a recipe that uses another ingredient closely associated with peace.

I’d never had scourtins—that is, French olive cookies—until recently, when a coworker brought in a batch that had been gifted to her. To say they took the office by storm is an understatement. Our jobs include testing and tasting sweets every day, but these were unlike anything that’s ever come out of the test kitchen.

These cookie-cracker hybrids are sweet and savory. The specks of chopped olives look like swirls of chocolate suspended in a regular old butter cookie, but one bite exposes them for what they are: salty, earthy and sweet, delivered in the tender texture of shortbread. After taking a moment to readjust to what you think is going to taste chocolate-y, you understand just how special these cookies are.

Olive Shortbread Cookies (Scourtins)

Slightly modified from Ovenly

Makes about 35 cookies

9 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup powdered sugar, sifted
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
1½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon minced rosemary
1 teaspoon lemon juice
¾ cups oil-cured black olives, pitted and minced

1. In a stand mixer, whisk butter on medium until soft and light yellow, about 2 minutes. Reduce to low and add sugar in steady stream, then increase to medium and beat for 30 seconds.

2. Lower speed to low and add olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice and rosemary until incorporated. Remove bowl from mixing stand and gently fold in flour and mix until dough is cohesive. (It may still look shaggy.) Add olives and fold in until evenly distributed.

3. Place a piece of parchment paper on countertop. Turn out dough onto middle of parchment paper and gather into one big mound. Roll out into log about 2 inches wide. (It’s OK if dough falls apart a bit. Do your best; the chilling step will help it stay together.) Wrap in parchment paper and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove dough from refrigerator and slice into ½-inch rounds. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until cookies are golden. Cool on wire racks, then serve.