Our Favorite Olives (and How We Eat Them)

November 16, 2020  |  By Liz SanFilippo Hall
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Black olives ready for a cooking class in France.Olives typically come in two colors — green and black (although there is an occasional purple) — but the flavors of olives are endless. That’s because, from North America to Asia, Africa, and the Mediterranean, there are thousands of varieties. The flavors of the stone fruits are largely dependent not only on where they grow, but also when they’re harvested, as well as how they’re cured or brined. At The International Kitchen, we all love olives, both by themselves as well as an ingredient in a larger dish (and yes, even pitted olives that have been stuffed with, say, bleu cheese).

Check out our Cooking in Andalusian Olive Country tour. 

Olives in a Moroccan marketOne of Richard’s favorites are the most popular of Greek olives: kalamatas. He enjoys them both by themselves, and in a hearty Italian puttanesca pasta dish. While they do appear black in color, they’re actually a very deep purple, and to give them their salty but fruity flavor, they’re often preserved using olive oil, or even red wine.

Try a recipe for Provencal tapenade. 

Adrian’s olive of choice hails from Puglia: cerignola, a favorite of many for their mild flavor. These green olives are larger in size, making them particularly well suited to stuffings, like cheese and garlic. As such, they make a great appetizer. Or really, just an all around great snack.

Olive trees in PugliaAs for Peg, her olive dish of choice comes from Italy, too. The stuffed olives go by the name olive all’Ascolana, which has roots in the Le Marche region. The dish starts with a mild green olive (traditionally Ascolana olives), and then the olives are stuffed with a mixture of veal and sausage. Once stuffed, the olives are coated in flour and fried, making them a delicious appetizer to serve at parties.

Learn about pairing olives and wine.

A bin of green olives at the market in France.For me, I love just about every olive I’ve tried, but I’m particularly partial to olives that are great for snacking (and, admittedly, eating by the handful). But if I had to choose just one olive (and not a Sicilian olive salad, which always somehow ends up in my cart when I go to an Italian grocery store), it’d be Castelvetrano olives. There’s a bit of sweetness, but there’s a mild meaty flavor too that is just right.

What’s your favorite olive and olive dish?

By Liz Hall

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