Friday Food and Drink Post: Olive Me

 

I don’t really like olives all that much. But I adore the idea of olives. And olive groves. And the Mediterranean. The stories by Peter Mayle and Carol Drinkwater. The presence of olive trees, olive oil, olive wood, and of course “olive branches” in our mythological, literary and cultural traditions. And the history of an ancient industry that has survived, in many cases relatively unchanged, for thousands of years.

The idea of olives is so very different from my own chilly and pedestrian life at the moment. The idea of olives is beautiful, and soft and warm. (Important as I write this because, even on the third day of Spring, the view from my window is dreary, the wind is bitter cold, and nasty, little chippy bits of frozen something are falling from the sky.) So I’m thinking about temperate breezes from warmer climes, and the joys of olive farming.

Sorry about the music, approximately seven minutes:

There are, apparently, over 600 varieties of olives, and each of them is unique both in texture and flavor, and much affected by the soil, climate and altitude in which it grows. Olives are harvested at varying stages of ripeness: green-ripe, all the way through black-ripe. Because olives right from the tree are almost inedible, they must be cured before being eaten, a process which is done by fermenting, soaking, salting or drying, or some combination thereof, and all of which must be done before the olives arrive in jars, or cans, or fresh at the salad bar at your local market. (I think about an gnarly ancient, pulling down the tempting-looking little fruits from the trees and sampling one, spitting it out, and thinking “Ugh. What can I do to make these sour little lumps edible? I know! Lye! I’ll soak them in Lye!” I mean, really. Who thinks that way? Someone must have, I guess. Wonder how many people died before they got it right, though.)

Although I don’t like my olives “neat,” I sometimes like them “in” things, and one of those things is Tapenade, an olive spread that works as a dip, or a spread on crackers or toast:

1 1/2 cups brine cured olives (be very sure all of the pits have been removed)
2 anchovy fillets, squashed with a fork
1 1/2 tablespoons capers
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt and pepper (I usually don’t add any more salt, because between the olives and the anchovies and the capers, there’s enough)
4 tablespoons olive oil

Blitz everything except the olive oil gently (use the “pulse” rather than the “on” function) in a food processor till chopped (you don’t want it like hummus, you want some texture)

Drizzle in the olive oil and pulse a couple more times. 

Refrigerate if you’re not going to eat it right away. But let it warm to room temperature before enjoying.

Do you like olives? What kinds of olives? Stuffed or plain? Brined or in oil? Fresh or dried? How about olive oil? Which, in your opinion, is the nicest or the best, and what region of the world does it come from?

And what, besides the obvious, do you do with olives in your food and drink? Recipes welcome.

There are 37 comments.

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  1. danok1 Member
    danok1
    @danok1

    She: I think about an gnarly ancient, pulling down the tempting-looking little fruits from the trees and sampling one, spitting it out, and thinking “Ugh. What can I do to make these sour little lumps edible? I know! Lye! I’ll soak them in Lye!” I mean, really. Who thinks that way? Someone must have, I guess. Wonder how many people died before they got it right, though.

    I’ve often wondered how the “correct” way to make things edible came about. I mean, some of this is not at all obvious, as with olives. Who figured out that one has to roast coffee berries, and then grind them and steep in water (ditto with tea, but substitute “ferment the leaves” for roasting the berries)?  Lost in time, I guess.

    To your main point, I can take or leave olives. I don’t make an effort to find them or eat them, but I don’t object if they’re in a dish or on a plate.

    I do use them in some recipes, such as goat cheese and olive stuffed chicken breast, or a variation of a puttanesca sauce.

    • #1
  2. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    There is a deli chain called Jason’s which makes a toasted sandwich called a Muffaletta.  The sandwich has an olive spread on each piece of bread, and is simply wonderful.  The olives add a nice sour counterpoint to the the sweetness of the bread and meat.

    https://www.jasonsdeli.com/menu

    • #2
  3. danok1 Member
    danok1
    @danok1

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    There is a deli chain called Jason’s which makes a toasted sandwich called a Muffaletta. The sandwich has an olive spread on each piece of bread, and is simply wonderful. The olives add a nice sour counterpoint to the the sweetness of the bread and meat.

    https://www.jasonsdeli.com/menu

    I do love a muffaletta. I believe it originated in New Orleans (at least that’s what Emeril, Alton Brown, et. al., have led me to believe). Have to wait until Pascha to have one though.

    • #3
  4. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Pitted. I don’t much like dealing with the pits, and even then olives were nothing to get excited about.

    Until I had one stuffed with a garlic clove. Now that was good.

    • #4
  5. danok1 Member
    danok1
    @danok1

    I have to also state that I require olives in my martini. 3 is the ideal number, otherwise the martini begins to resemble a salad,

    • #5
  6. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    danok1 (View Comment):

    She: I think about an gnarly ancient, pulling down the tempting-looking little fruits from the trees and sampling one, spitting it out, and thinking “Ugh. What can I do to make these sour little lumps edible? I know! Lye! I’ll soak them in Lye!” I mean, really. Who thinks that way? Someone must have, I guess. Wonder how many people died before they got it right, though.

    I’ve often wondered how the “correct” way to make things edible came about. I mean, some of this is not at all obvious, as with olives. Who figured out that one has to roast coffee berries, and then grind them and steep in water (ditto with tea, but substitute “ferment the leaves” for roasting the berries)? Lost in time, I guess.

    Yes, that sort of thing fascinates me.  As with early attempts at concocting better clothing than, say, taking hides wholesale from slaughtered animals, gouging out holes for arms and neck with a sharpened stone, and putting them on.  Who thought about pulling the bits of snagged wool from thorn bushes where sheep had passed by, and taking said wool and extending and twisting it into a yarn, and then taking said yarn and doing something like knitting or weaving with it to form a cloth?  I’ve mentioned this book before here, and it’s one of my favorites: Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years-Women, Cloth and Society in Early Times.   This talks about some of it.

    The other thing that’s so interesting is how so many of these “solutions” appeared in similar forms, worldwide at approximately the same time.  Migration can’t possibly account for all of it.  There must be something “born this way” (to use a phrase that’s been the subject of a few other posts lately) about the human condition, whether it’s curiosity, or an ingrained and logical approach to solving a problem, that manifests itself in similar ways wherever we are, and whoever we’re with.

    • #6
  7. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    danok1 (View Comment):

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    There is a deli chain called Jason’s which makes a toasted sandwich called a Muffaletta. The sandwich has an olive spread on each piece of bread, and is simply wonderful. The olives add a nice sour counterpoint to the the sweetness of the bread and meat.

    https://www.jasonsdeli.com/menu

    I do love a muffaletta. I believe it originated in New Orleans (at least that’s what Emeril, Alton Brown, et. al., have led me to believe). Have to wait until Pascha to have one though.

    Yeah.  I’m waiting too.

    • #7
  8. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Percival (View Comment):

    Pitted. I don’t much like dealing with the pits, and even then olives were nothing to get excited about.

    Until I had one stuffed with a garlic clove. Now that was good.

    Raw, or roasted?  (The garlic clove.)  I love roasted garlic on almost anything.

    • #8
  9. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    danok1 (View Comment):

    I have to also state that I require olives in my martini. 3 is the ideal number, otherwise the martini begins to resemble a salad,

    Shaken, or stirred?

    • #9
  10. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    danok1 (View Comment):

    I have to also state that I require olives in my martini. 3 is the ideal number, otherwise the martini begins to resemble a salad,

    Your comment reminded me of a cocktail from my youth, Pimms No. 1 Cup.  Very much beloved of British Colonials, who would have it served to them by natives, on the veranda at the hill station, or at the officer’s club in Kaduna or Sokoto (my own experiences, observing as a child).

    It was known, colloquially, as a “fruit salad for drunks.”

    Last time I enjoyed one, I was well below the legal drinking age.  Probably just as well. Some things simply cannot be recaptured and are best left to history.

    • #10
  11. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    I’m sitting here trying not to salivate all over the place. I love any kind of olive! And I love a good tapenade; if they serve it at an Italian restaurant, they have to wrench it out of my greedy little hands if they want any. Recently I saw something that says that most of the olive oil we get is not pure olive oil. I’m not sure what that means, but I happen to love a good Caesar salad with olive oil. We’re having one tonight with our dinner!

    • #11
  12. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    I’m sitting here trying not to salivate all over the place. I love any kind of olive! And I love a good tapenade; if they serve it at an Italian restaurant, they have to wrench it out of my greedy little hands if they want any. Recently I saw something that says that most of the olive oil we get is not pure olive oil. I’m not sure what that means, but I happen to love a good Caesar salad with olive oil. We’re having one tonight with our dinner!

    Yes, I’ve seen that “takedown” about the olive oil also.  I think you just have to be careful.  I have “regular” olive oil (from Sams Club) which may or may not be adulterated or “extra virgin,” and which I use for regular cooking.  Then I have my “special” olive oils I love (I do love a good olive oil.  My less-than-wholehearted endorsement of the fruit is suspended in terms of the oil.)

    Hands down, the best olive oil I’ve ever sampled was from Israel (the area of the world where, I believe, the first olive groves have been traced).  It was this one:  Halutza Olive Oil.  I can’t get it any more at my local supermarket, not sure why.  I don’t think it’s fallout from “BDS” as the market carries other Israeli products.  Perhaps this post will impel me to check and see if I can get some more.  But I used to drink it by the tablespoon.  Not a tinge of bitterness, sweet and delicious.  And on a salad, sublime.

    • #12
  13. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    The morning paper, meaning, Richochet, wasn’t cheering me up.  It was like wanting a piece of refreshing chewing gum and finding only a wad that was saved yesterday when someone brought a beer over so one had to spit the gum out but it still had a little flavor in it.  You know what I’m talking about.

    This article “set me right up”, as Dr. Maturin (if you love all the Jane Austen novels, but think they could have used a few more gory battle scenes and less clop-clopping of horse-drawn carriages, read the Aubrey/Maturin series by Patrick O’Bryan)  would say.  I expected it would after reading just the title and byline.  I haven’t even watched the whole video* or tried the recipe yet.

    *I’m going to get the IT girl, aka wife, to try to put it on Apple TV.  I don’t ever try to do that, because it usually doesn’t work, like, there’s video but no audio, or nothing happens, or some different “unexpected” failure occurs, and I am a pessimist: I assume it won’t work next time because it didn’t work last time. (When I was a kid, before MSDOS, electronic things were expected to just work when you turned them on, which only required pressing one button or turning one knob, and when something didn’t work I knew how to fix it, or could read the manuals and drag out the oscilloscope, look at a trace, or open the interactive debugging window, depending on which geological Epoch I was in at the time, and figure it out.)

    Brown-Eyed Beauty is an optimist, partly because she is a very relational person, being a girl, rather than very engineering/scientific like me, also yeah some girls now too, I know, I know.  Also because in her chosen career, concurrent simultaneous problem-solving for other, perfectly-to-relatively helpless creatures was  a 24/7 365 day responsibility, whereas in mine, it was sun to sun and done, and a few years ago my lifelong employer informed me that my responsibilities had been completed, meaning like, I was done for good.

    So when BEB clicks all the little remotes in sequence, and Apple TV doesn’t do what it is supposed to do, she says, ‘Huh!  There’s no sound! It’s not working,’ while I mutter, ‘Right: it never works.’, and she says ‘We’ll have to fix it. Honey, can you turn off the electrical power to our subdivision, wait 60 seconds, and then turn it back on, so we can re-boot everything?’  and I say “Sure.”

    • #13
  14. danok1 Member
    danok1
    @danok1

    She (View Comment):

    danok1 (View Comment):

    I have to also state that I require olives in my martini. 3 is the ideal number, otherwise the martini begins to resemble a salad,

    Shaken, or stirred?

    As long as it has gin and dry vermouth, I’m agnostic on how it’s mixed/cooled/diluted. But three olives, if you please.

    • #14
  15. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    She (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Pitted. I don’t much like dealing with the pits, and even then olives were nothing to get excited about.

    Until I had one stuffed with a garlic clove. Now that was good.

    Raw, or roasted? (The garlic clove.) I love roasted garlic on almost anything.

    Raw, I think. I assume that they would have made more out of being roasted if it was.

    • #15
  16. danok1 Member
    danok1
    @danok1

    She (View Comment):

    danok1 (View Comment):

    I have to also state that I require olives in my martini. 3 is the ideal number, otherwise the martini begins to resemble a salad,

    Your comment reminded me of a cocktail from my youth, Pimms No. 1 Cup. Very much beloved of British Colonials, who would have it served to them by natives, on the veranda at the hill station, or at the officer’s club in Kaduna or Sokoto (my own experiences, observing as a child).

    It was known, colloquially, as a “fruit salad for drunks.”

    Last time I enjoyed one, I was well below the legal drinking age. Probably just as well. Some things simply cannot be recaptured and are best left to history.

    I can’t get my mind around this…

    • #16
  17. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    You could check out Halutza olive oil here:  http://halutza.co.il/?lang=en

    Edit: oops, didn’t realize a link was in your comment, @she.

    • #17
  18. danok1 Member
    danok1
    @danok1

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    You could check out Halutza olive oil here: http://halutza.co.il/?lang=en

    Edit: oops, didn’t realize a link was in your comment, @she.

    We usually use Greek olive oils, I’m going to have to look for this one!

     

    • #18
  19. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    You could check out Halutza olive oil here: http://halutza.co.il/?lang=en

    Edit: oops, didn’t realize a link was in your comment, @she.

    Thanks, Susan.  I haven’t thought about this for some time, but this post has prompted me to.

    • #19
  20. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    danok1 (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    You could check out Halutza olive oil here: http://halutza.co.il/?lang=en

    Edit: oops, didn’t realize a link was in your comment, @she.

    We usually use Greek olive oils, I’m going to have to look for this one!

    It’s super delicious.  The only other one that compares was an olive oil we used to get from friends of ours who ran a little Greek restaurant in town.  They’ve since retired, and are no longer importing the olive oil, but it came from their family’s groves in Crete.

    • #20
  21. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    I love olives – all kinds – any kind – and olive oil and have been know to sneak green olives out of the olive jar during the day for snacks – I think I was born in the wrong country. I love the Peter Mayle books and the Francis Mayes books – Under The Tuscan Sun is way better than the movie and perfect cold weather reading. Her memoir Under Magnolia great too – totally different.

    I bought a cookbook (I’m a cookbook collector) called French Country Cooking by Mimi Thorisson – the pictures alone are worth the price of the book. I also like Gaida DeLaurentis books and Mediterranean dishes – currently I’m a flavored olive oil fanatic, thanks to a couple gifts of orange and lemon flavored oils, and just bought a garlic infused from our local farmer’s market Italian olive oil guru, Mr. Galli.

    I will say it’s the hardest thing in the world to get an olive oil stain out of clothing –

    • #21
  22. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    She:

    Sorry about the music, approximately seven minutes:

    “I am one who delights in all manifestations of the Terpsichorean muse!”

     

    • #22
  23. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    TBA (View Comment):

    She:

    Sorry about the music, approximately seven minutes:

    “I am one who delights in all manifestations of the Terpsichorean muse!”

     

    The cheese post was weeks ago.

    • #23
  24. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    TBA (View Comment):

    She:

    Sorry about the music, approximately seven minutes:

    “I am one who delights in all manifestations of the Terpsichorean muse!”

     

    The cheese post was weeks ago.

    And we’re fresh out the Limburger, sir.

    • #24
  25. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    danok1 (View Comment):

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    There is a deli chain called Jason’s which makes a toasted sandwich called a Muffaletta. The sandwich has an olive spread on each piece of bread, and is simply wonderful. The olives add a nice sour counterpoint to the the sweetness of the bread and meat.

    https://www.jasonsdeli.com/menu

    I do love a muffaletta. I believe it originated in New Orleans (at least that’s what Emeril, Alton Brown, et. al., have led me to believe). Have to wait until Pascha to have one though.

    Yeah. I’m waiting too.

    I made a muffaletta once and was underwhelmed. I should probably try one prepared by a professional. 

    • #25
  26. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    She:

    There are, apparently, over 600 varieties of olives, and each of them is unique both in texture and flavor, and much affected by the soil, climate and altitude in which it grows.

    And yet in my youth there were two kinds of olive; green and black.

    Green ones would appear in lots of places, their impudent pimento tongues lolling except when chopped for potato salad or slice thin after they had somehow wormed their way into the aptly named olive loaf.

    Black ones showed up reliably at Thanksgiving and every now and again just because. 

    And then one day: Kalamatas. Such zing, such verve! An olive that actually had fruit-like qualities. Dumped in a salad with feta cheese and red onions they really took off for me. 

    (I think about an gnarly ancient, pulling down the tempting-looking little fruits from the trees and sampling one, spitting it out, and thinking “Ugh. What can I do to make these sour little lumps edible? I know! Lye! I’ll soak them in Lye!” I mean, really. Who thinks that way? Someone must have, I guess. Wonder how many people died before they got it right, though.)

    I’m not saying it was aliens….

     

     

    • #26
  27. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    She (View Comment):

    [SNIP]

    Who thought about pulling the bits of snagged wool from thorn bushes where sheep had passed by, and taking said wool and extending and twisting it into a yarn, and then taking said yarn and doing something like knitting or weaving with it to form a cloth? I’ve mentioned this book before here, and it’s one of my favorites: Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years-Women, Cloth and Society in Early Times. This talks about some of it.

    Appropos of your book above, have you read the fabric book written by Kassia St. Claire? 

    I love how these tiny industries (I read once that in the middle ages nearly all women worked wool when there was light and nothing more pressing to attend to) enter into language from wool-gathering to tale-spinning. 

    There are doubtless a lot of other examples and you likely know scores of them. 

     

    • #27
  28. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    TBA (View Comment):

    She:

    Sorry about the music, approximately seven minutes:

    “I am one who delights in all manifestations of the Terpsichorean muse!”

    I think one of the loveliest manifestations of the Terpsichorean muse on the silver screen, ever, was this one:

    although this one might be more appropriate for this post:

    • #28
  29. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    TBA (View Comment):

    She (View Comment):

    [SNIP]

    Who thought about pulling the bits of snagged wool from thorn bushes where sheep had passed by, and taking said wool and extending and twisting it into a yarn, and then taking said yarn and doing something like knitting or weaving with it to form a cloth? I’ve mentioned this book before here, and it’s one of my favorites: Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years-Women, Cloth and Society in Early Times. This talks about some of it.

    Appropos of your book above, have you read the fabric book written by Kassia St. Claire?

    No, but I’m going to!  Thanks.

    I love how these tiny industries (I read once that in the middle ages nearly all women worked wool when there was light and nothing more pressing to attend to) enter into language from wool-gathering to tale-spinning.

    Yes, I think that’s true.

    There are doubtless a lot of other examples and you likely know scores of them.

    There are some fascinating stories out there.  I know only a tiny fraction.  Extraordinarily beautiful things made out of such primitive instruments, and by “uneducated” people.

     

    • #29
  30. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    She (View Comment):

    TBA (View Comment):

    She:

    Sorry about the music, approximately seven minutes:

    “I am one who delights in all manifestations of the Terpsichorean muse!”

    I think one of the loveliest manifestations of the Terpsichoean muse on the silver screen, ever, was this one:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GB_74i-aHRk

    This is an odd thing, but it’s strangely compelling https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qs1bG6BIYlo

     

     

    • #30

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