This one goes out to olive you who share my affinity for the salty fruit.
We don’t think of olives as fruit, but of course they are. When they are growing on the tree with the sun shining down on them, they look like fresh, beautiful fruit.
Yet you can’t pluck them off the branch and pop them in your mouth with wild abandon. They require restraint. You’d be sorry if you did, anyway, because they contain a compound called oleuropein that makes them so bitter you’ll wish you could turn back time.
Supposedly the bitterness is a defense mechanism to ward off pests. It seems to be working because olive trees have been around for thousands of years. So how did it happen that humans found a way to eat them, and a delicious way at that?
The answer is in the oil.
They are stone fruit, like a peach or plum, and they contain up to 30% oil. I imagine folks thousands of years ago trying to eat these nasty fruits, smooshing them in frustration and realizing they’re oily. Something like 90% of olives grown are used for olive oil, while the remainder is left for me to eat. Er, us.
Olives are green and turn black as they ripen. There are lots of varieties, but they all start out green. Once they’re cured using brine, water, salt or lye, the bitterness is leached out and they are ready to be loved by me. Us.
My mum understands my love for olives as only a mother could, so she makes these awesome marinated olives sometimes. They are maybe my favorite food ever. Top a salad with them, and you need nothing else. Add them to a charcuterie, and you’ll be the fanciest. I love them on their own, and I love them with everything. Olive them.
Today is my birthday. It is my birthday wish that you try these recipes and enjoy them as much as I do. Adapt them. Add herbs you love. Add pickles. Make them yours. My olives are your olives.
- 2 cups mixed olives, drained
- 1 jar marinated artichokes, drained
- 8 ounces mozzarella pearls
- 1/2 jar pepperoncini, drained
- Garlic cloves, to taste
- Fresh herbs of choice: thyme, basil, rosemary, parsley, etc.
- Shelled pistachios
- Zest of one lemon
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/3 cup red or white wine vinegar
Whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, lemon zest, Italian seasoning and herbs. Gently toss olives, garlic, mozzarella, pepperoncini, artichokes and pistachios in mixture until coated. Allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes before serving.
Italian bread salad with tomatoes and olives (panzanella)
- 2 cups cubed Italian or French bread
- 1 pound diced ripe tomatoes or halved cherry tomatoes
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil and/or parsley
- 1 cup pitted black olives
- 1/2 cups thinly sliced red onion
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
Heat a wide nonstick skillet and spray with cooking spray. Add the bread cubes and toast for 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently until golden and crisp. In a large serving bowl, combine the bread cubes with tomatoes, basil, olives and onions.
Combine the olive oil, vinegar and lemon juice in a small bowl and whisk together. Pour over the salad and toss together. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately. Recipe adapted from theveganatlas.com.
Amanda Stone is a food and gardening columnist for The Joplin Globe. Email questions to email@example.com or mail her c/o The Joplin Globe, PO Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802.