appetizers & recipes: an ode to olives plus a tapenade recipe by emeril
Did you know that if you say “olive juice” a person from across the room, who cannot hear you, will see the movement of your lips and think you have said, “I love you.” Give it a try. If you pronounce your words carefully it does look the same.
We have olive love. Olives are considered one of the most important food products that have been known to man and date back 8,000 years. It is believed that Olives come from the Mediterranean region. Technically, olives are classified as fruits of the Olea europea tree, which can live 100 years. The olive tree is a symbol of happiness and peace. In the Mediterranean area, during ancient times the olive was a major necessity for man’s existence. The fruit and its oil were major diet constituents.
Today, we enjoy the health benefits of olive oil, but many people are still eating black olives out of a can or green ones out of a martini (well, at least it’s a fruit) and are missing the wide variety of delicious olives available at specialty stores or even their own supermarket. While some olives can be eaten right off of the tree, most olives sold commercially have been processed to reduce their bitterness. Processing methods vary with the olive variety, region where they are cultivated, and the desired taste, texture and color.
Whole olives are not only delicious, but provide us with a multitude of benefits. The presence of antioxidant nutrients in olives reduces the chance of severe heart disease. Olives contain high amount of healthy monounsaturated fat that act as a helping hand to shrink the risk of atherosclerosis.
Research shows that olives are rich in vitamin E which helps to prevent cancer and reduces the growth of carcinogenic cells. . Researchers from the University of Oxford have concluded that eating olives is an effective measure for the prevention of various types of cancers including the colon cancer and the breast cancer. Of course; with vitamin E present in the olive it is only natural that, along with the antioxidants and fatty acids, the olive is wonderful for skin and hair health.
Olives have a high amount of vitamin C and are a rich source of monounsaturated fats which can help reduce inflammation in inflammatory conditions. Some studies suggest that, because of the high iron content, olives help those with anemia.
Let’s face it, olives are good for us, which is something the ancients probably knew and didn’t need a scientific study to confirm it for them. The benefits of eating olives are many. Break out of the “black” or “green” mentality and enjoy experimenting with a wide variety of colorful olives until you find the ones you love.
Here are some of our favorites:
1. The Alfonso Olive, or Maddelena, is a Chilean olive that is cured in a wine or wine vinegar solution, which gives it a beautiful dark purple color and tart, but subtle flavor. You can almost taste the tannin from the wine. Its flesh is very tender. It is stunning when served on a white plate or bowl. The dark purple color is beautiful.
2. The Castelvetrano Olive, or Nocellara del Belice, is an olive grown in western Sicily with an intense green coloring and sweet almost buttery flavor. When we first saw this olive we knew we had to try it, but it looked so hard and dry that we were hesitant. Its flavor and texture were a pleasant surprise!
3. The Cerignola or Bella di Cerignola is very large and is slightly bland with a hint of sweetness. There are Black, Green or Red (pictured) Cerignola olives. The black are softer than the green are softer than green Cerignolas. These olives are grown in Puglia, Italy. The curing process is what creates the red coloring. The Red Bella Cerignola is another stunning olive when presented in a white bowl.
4. Kalamata olive or Calamata olive can be found in most grocery stores. They are a very common olive with a wonderful salty, tangy flavor that has a hint of sharp Italian cheese.
5. Nicoise olive or Niçoise olive “nee-SWAHZ” You will find these in Salade Niçoise. They are small black olives that have a sour flavor, but you can also taste a bit of buttery earthiness. They have a wonderful distinct flavor. These olives are fantastic for tapenade (see recipe below).
6. Picholine olive: Picholines are green olives that are brine-cured. Those made in Provence are marinated with coriander and herbes de Provence. The American picholines are soaked in citric acid. We find them to be tart, but delicious. These olives are quite perfect for a martini!
The tortas in the photos are Seville Orange Sweet Olive Oil Torta. The hint of orange, the sesame and the olive oil make these perfect to eat with olives, but we also eat them as a snack, by themselves. These tortas are made in Seville, Spain and come in different varieties. Look for them in specialty stores.
12 ounces pitted black olives, such as Kalamata, Nicoise, or Gaeta
3 to 4 ounces capers, drained and rinsed
2 to 4 anchovy fillets, to taste, drained, rinsed and patted dry
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
5 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves finely chopped
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 lemon, juiced
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1/2 to 1 cup good quality extra-virgin olive oil
1. Combine olives, capers, anchovies, garlic, mustard, thyme, parsley, crushed red pepper and lemon juice, and half of the olive oil in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine well, then allow to process until mixture is coarsely pureed, adding more olive oil as needed to obtain desired consistency. (A thicker product will better suit serving on crostini, whereas a looser consistency will work better as a sauce for pasta or cooked vegetables.)
2. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary, then serve as a dip alongside crusty bread with goat cheese, grilled vegetables or chicken, or tossed with cooked pasta and fresh herbs.