Back to the Kitchen: An Olive Lesson with Recipes

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The olive tree is very hardy and can withstand drought, disease and fire, while living to a ripe-old age. That is why for thousands of years the olive branch has been a symbol of peace and goodwill.

Olives come in all shapes and sizes —green, purple, black, tiny and large — with unique and fragrant flavors. While they’re very tasty and satisfying on their own, and even more so alongside an evening glass of wine,  olives are also awesome for dressing up the most boring of dishes. I love to add them to pasta with tomatoes, basil and red peppers, omelets, and even on a tuna sandwich. They were one of the three foods my daughter would eat as a toddler, so I have always created fun dishes around them.

Whole Foods Market defines some of the characteristic from the most popular of their olive bar:

Arbequinas: A popular Spanish olive; small, crisp and slightly bitter.

Beldi: A small, fruity olive from Morocco. They’re brine-cured and are very popular in olive mixes.

Bitetto: Named for the Southern Italian town where they’ve been grown since biblical times. They’re sweeter than most with almond tones—a killer combination.

Cerignola: These giant green olives are harvested in Cerignola, Italy, in the Puglia region. Their size makes them an impressive accompaniment to antipasti and good for stuffing with garlic, cheese, peppers, capers or anchovies, too.

Kalamata: These popular purple-black Greek olives are cured in a red wine vinegar brine to create rich and smoky flavors.

Manzanilla: This familiar olive from Spain is brine-cured, making for a refreshing crispness and slight smoky flavor. Traditionally, they’re stuffed with pimientos.

Niçoise: These famed tiny, meaty olives from Nice, France, are tree-ripened.

Nyon: A small, jet black, shiny olive variety from southern France, this one will romance you. Nyon olives have a mild, salty bitterness and are usually dry-cured and packed in olive oil.

Picholine: These French green olives are wonderfully crisp and crunchy, with a refreshingly tart flavor, similar to granny smith apples, believe it or not. Simple and elegant, they make perfect hors d’oeuvres.

With so many olive varieties to choose from you can easily switch them up in these recipes to make them your own.  (Recipes serve 6).

Spanish Olives

24 large unpitted Spanish olives

2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

1-tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons coriander seeds, crushed

1 sprig thyme, chopped

1 sprig rosemary, chopped

1-teaspoon red pepper flakes

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

Fresh rosemary sprigs for garnish

Combine first eight  ingredients in a bowl. Cover and marinate in refrigerator at least 8 hours. Serve at room temperature. Garnish with rosemary sprigs.

Noni’s Olive Tapenade

4 large garlic cloves

2 cups pitted kalamata olives or other brine-cured olives

4 anchovy fillets

2 tablespoons drained capers

1 teaspoon each fresh chopped rosemary, thyme

3 tablespoons lemon juice

5 tablespoons olive oil

Rinse the olives in cold water (this makes the tapenade less salty). Finely chop garlic cloves in food processor. Add 1/2 the olives, anchovies, capers, thyme and rosemary. Process until almost smooth. Add the lemon juice. With machine running gradually add olive oil. Blend mixture until smooth. Then coarsely chop the remaining cup of olives and mix in. Season tapenade to taste with pepper. Transfer to small bowl. Serve with toasted French bread.

Marinated Roasted Pepper, Olive and Fresh Mozzarella Salad

6 large red bell peppers

1 cup whole Greek or pitted ripe olives

6 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into cubes

1/4-cup olive oil

1/2 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

1/4 cup teaspoon chopped fresh oregano leaves o

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

Pre heat the oven set on broil. Broil bell peppers with tops about 5 inches from heat, turning occasionally, until skin is blistered and evenly browned. Place peppers in a plastic bag and close tightly. Let stand 20 minutes.

Remove skin, stems, seeds and membranes from peppers. Cut peppers into 1/4-inch strips. Place peppers, olives and cheese in glass bowl. Shake remaining ingredients in tightly covered container; pour over pepper mixture. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours to blend flavors, stirring occasionally.

Gwen’s Greek Salad

6 cups romaine lettuce, chopped

6 perishing cucumbers, sliced diagonally

2 cups cherry tomatoes

1-cup Kalamata olives

1-cup feta cheese

12 mini bell peppers

Lemon-dill dressing

Toss lettuce and cucumber with dressing to coat. Lay out on a large flat platter. Decoratively place the tomatoes, olives and mini bell peppers. Sprinkle with cheese or put on the side.

Serves 6.

Lemon-Dill Dressing

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 cup lemon juice

1-cup olive oil

4 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons dill

Place all ingredients in a small jar and shake vigorously. Makes 2 cups

Lentils and Quinoa with Olives and Peppers

2 cups quinoa

2 cups vegetable stock

2 cups little green lentils

2 onions, brown or red or a combo, diced

4 cloves garlic

2 cups red, yellow or orange bell peppers, or a combo diced

2 cups black or kalamata olives, diced

½ cup olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste.

Chopped parsley for garnish

In a saucepan add quinoa and vegetable stock. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil stirring occasionally. Let boil for 5 minutes and then shut off the heat and cover for ½ hour. Meanwhile in another saucepan place the lentils and cover with water. Cook over medium-high heat until tender about 30 minutes.

Mean while in a sauté pan heat the olive oil until just smoking then add the onions and garlic until browned and tender and then add the peppers, and olives and cook another 5 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. In a serving bowl mix the quinoa with the olive mixture. Drain the lentils and toss them in mixing thoroughly. Sprinkle with parsley. Serves 4-6

Halibut in Herb Sauce with Kalamata Olives

1/4-cup fresh lemon juice

1/4-cup olive oil

6 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

6 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

6 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

½ cup black or Kalamata olives, chopped

Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

6 6-ounce halibut fillets

Olive oil for brushing

Puree first 5 ingredients in processor. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. In a small bowl mix in the chopped olives.
Preheat broiler. Brush fish with oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Broil until just opaque in center, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer fish to plates. Spoon sauce over and serve.

Braised Chicken with Saffron, Olives and Fennel

1 large roasting chicken

1-tablespoon olive oil

1 red onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 large fennel bulb, trim flush with bulb, halved lengthwise and thinly slice crosswise

1 1/2 cups chicken stock

Juice of 2 lemons

1-cup kalamata olives. pitted and broken

1/4 teaspoon crumbled saffron

2 tablespoons Wondra Flour

In a large skillet heat the olive oil. Sautee onions and garlic until golden about 3 minutes. Add the fennel and cook until soften about 5 minutes. Place chicken, stock, olives lemon, saffron and fennel mixture in a large roasting pan. Season with salt and pepper. Roast in a preheated 350 oven for 25 minutes per pound and the juices run clear. Baste several times. A meat thermometer should read 185. Remove from oven and let rest. Transfer 1/4 cup of cooking liquid to small saucepan and whisk with flour until smooth. Add the remaining liquid and simmer, stirring until the sauce has thickened. Place the olive mixture on a platter. Place the chicken on top and serve passing the sauce.

Salmon with Olives and Cherries

2 pounds spinach leaves, washed

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

4 6-ounce salmon fillets with skin

1 cup chopped shallot

1 cup halved pitted Kalamata olives

1 cup dried Bing cherries

6 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2-tablespoon maple syrup

Pour a few tablespoons water into heavy large nonstick skillet. Place over medium-high heat. Add 1/3 of the spinach. Using 2 wooden spoons, turn and toss spinach until most of leaves are wilted, about 2 minutes. Add remaining spinach leaves in 2 batches. Turn and toss spinach until just wilted but still bright green. Transfer cooked spinach to strainer set over bowl. Wipe skillet dry and add 2 tablespoons oil and heat over medium-high heat. Sprinkle salmon with salt and pepper. Place in skillet, skin side up. Sear until brown, about 3 minutes; turn fish. Cook until just opaque in center, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to plate and wipe skillet clean. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to same skillet. Add chopped shallot, halved olives, and golden raisins. Stir 1 minute. Add spinach; toss until heated through, about 1 minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mound spinach mixture on plates. Top with salmon. Add balsamic vinegar and maple syrup to skillet. Boil until reduced to glaze, about 30 seconds. Spoon glaze over salmon and spinach and serve. Serves 4.

Olive Focaccia

1 package active dry yeast

1/4-tablespoon sugar

1-cup lukewarm water

3 1/2 cups flour

1/2-teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons olive oil

Minced fresh rosemary

1-cup olives, sliced

½ cup Parmesan cheeIn small bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in water. Set aside for 5 minutes. Mound flour on work surface. Make a well in center and pour yeast mixture, salt and 1-tablespoon oil into it. With your fingers, gradually incorporate flour into liquid until dough forms. If mixture is too dry to hold together, sprinkle a little additional water over dough and mix well. Knead dough until smooth, about 5 minutes. Place dough in oiled large bowl, turning to coat. Cover with kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Spray cookie sheet with Bakers Joy. Punch dough down. Place dough in center of prepared pan and spread out evenly to cover pan, using your fingers to “dimple” surface. Brush remaining 3 tablespoons oil over dough. Sprinkle with olives, rosemary and cheese. Let rise in a warm place, uncovered, 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400°F. Bake until top is a light golden brown, about 15 minutes. Cut into 18 squares. Serves 6-8

Olive and Pistachio Muffins

2 eggs, yolks and whites separated

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2-cup sour cream

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Zest of one large orange

1 cup roasted pistachio nuts, lightly chopped

1 cup black olives, lightly chopped

1 1/4 cups flour

Gwen Kenneally is the owner of Back to the Kitchen, Full Service Catering and Party Planning. She is the co-founder and master baker at Magpie Gourmet Mini Pies.  Check out her websites and  Her Sweet and Savory Cookbook is available through AMAZON 


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About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.

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