Olives as Ingredient

Olive tree

In the US, olives are often thought of as a snack food, to be eaten on their own. Of course, by most, olives in the US are thought to be either green with red centers or black, coming out of a can or a jar, mostly flavorless, and never having seen a pit. But even setting those aside, it's rare to see olives outside of a few dishes: a couple types of pasta sauce, the occasional bread, or a tapenade.

On Twitter, I recently said that, "Olives, good olives, should be a much more common component in cooking." Because every time I run across an olive in a dish, I'm always pleasantly surprised, and it doesn't happen all that often. There's a place a few blocks from me that makes really good empanadas, and the La Traditional has olives. Even with all the use of extra-virigin olive oil for cooking, people don't think, "Hey, let's just add some olives in for even more of that great flavor."

So, here are some guidelines:

  • Only good olives;
  • Don't overuse kalamata; they are very salty;
  • It works really well with meat. You can work it into any sort of ground meat preparation such as hamburgers, meatloaf, meatballs, sausage, whatever;
  • Olives give a huge savory boost. It is loaded with umami;
  • Pastas work well with olives; Puttanesca and Puttanesca Bianca are the prime examples;
  • Speaking of, Puttanesca Bianca is amazing. Try that some time;
  • Stews;
  • Mixing the 'stews' and 'meat' recommendation, I think olives judiciously applied to a Chili would be very, very good
  • Savory pies.

And so on. I will work to incorporate olives into more of my cooking.