Wednesday, August 3, 2011

For the Love of Olives: Three Guilt Free Ways to Enjoy This Low-Fat Mediterranean Fruit

Olive Tapenade

We're lucky enough to have friends and family with beautiful second homes. One in the Hamptons, another at the Jersey Shore and another with a mountain retreat in upstate New York. Of course, I don't always relish being the guest and try to contribute in any way I can . . . and nothing says' thank you' like delicious wine and food.

Out in the Hamptons earlier this summer. my sisters, daughter and nieces had a cook-fest. One of the dishes we prepared was an olive appetizer recipe that I'd saved for a while and was anxious to try. I just needed a large crowd of victims (er, people) to try it out on.

Imagine my surprise, when minutes after plating the dish, it was practically gone — that's how tasty this was! The appetizer was actually a spread called Olive Tapenade. According to Wikipedia, a tapenade is a Provençal dish consisting of puréed or finely chopped olives, capers, anchovies and olive oil. Its name comes from the provençal word for capers, tapenas, and is a popular food in the south of France. Well, it was just as popular in Westhampton, Long Island.

The recipe is easy and just takes a few minutes to prepare with the help of a food processor. Don't worry about the anchovies. I dislike them, but in this case, they just added a surreptitious flavor to the tapenade.

A week or two after our Hampton weekend, we found ourselves in the tiny hamlet of Lafayette, New York. There really isn't much of a town there but no matter, our friends luxurious mountain residence had everything we would need: good friends, good wine, good food and a delightful olive entree prepared by our hostess that we all enjoyed immensely. This olive recipe has capers and peppers that add to the piquancy of the olive. Also easy to prepare, the aroma was enough to crumble the resolve of any of us who thought we'd already eaten way too much.

Lastly, I thought I'd throw in an Olive Pesto Recipe. This is untried but it's from Mario Batali....need I say more? I'll give this a go soon, we've been eating pesto all summer long.

Nutritionally, green olives contain around 3 calories and 0.3g of fat, while black olives have about 7 calories and 1g of fat. Olives bottled in olive oil can have another 25 calories each. The good news is that over half the fat in olives is the heart-friendly monounsaturated type.

You'll notice that none of these recipes call for salt. Olives processed with brine can be incredibly salty. If you eat 20 olives you could rack up a little more than half your daily salt maximum. Olives also contain small amounts of vitamin E, which is needed for our skin, and a range of super-nutrients with antioxidant and antibacterial properties.

Olive Tapenade
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 cup pitted kalamata olives
2 anchovy filets
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
Pepper to taste


  • Place the garlic cloves into a blender or food processor; pulse to mince.
  • Add the olives, anchovies, parsley, lemon juice, and olive oil.
  • Blend until everything is finely chopped. 
  • Season to taste with pepper.
The olives, garlic, capers and basil sizzle before adding the peppers.
Peppers With Olives
4-5 large and sweet red, yellow and/or orange peppers
(if unavailable, use 2 large of roasted peppers)
2 jars pitted kalamata olives
1/2 jar capers
4-5 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/2 cup red or white wine added slowly
olive oil
Pepper to taste

  • Slice peppers, discarding seeds and stems and oven roast until skins are blistered. 
  • Remove skins by rubbing under cold water.
  • In frying pan, saute chopped garlic in olive oil until tender.
  • Add basil, capers and olives and saute until tender.
  • Add peppers.
  • Slowly add red wine and let juices reduce slightly.
  • Season to taste and serve warm.
Green Olive Pesto
Recipe Courtesy of Mario Batali
1 1/2 cups large or jumbo green olives, such as ascolane, pitted
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1/4 cups pine nuts
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, approximately

  • In a food processor, combine olives, onion, pine nuts and garlic and blend 1 minute. 
  • With motor running, slowly pour in olive oil until a thick, smooth paste is formed, texturally resembling rough bechamel. 
  • Allow to stand 1/2 hour before using.

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