The olive is a culinary gem. The green olive, rich and almost smoky, gets a run for its money from the cured black olive, with its buttery, mild flavor. I love both.
Good olives are a key hors d’oeuvres (also known as a pre-meal snack when there’s not a dinner party to follow), a “discovery” I made during a 2007 trip to Spain, when my sister Kate and I started every meal with a beautiful bowl of green olives. Seven years on, I almost always serve a bowl of olives at parties, with a tiny vessel for pits alongside.
Just because they’re wonderful on their own doesn’t mean you can’t cook with olives. Falling apart in a lamb tagine, olives are irresistible; likewise when slices of black olives deliver needed pungency to a seven-layer dip.
There are simpler preparations too. At Spain’s Great Match event, which I attended earlier this month, I got to try three simple olive preparations, any of which could be a side dish or an appetizer. Created by Cooking Channel host and culinary expert Annie Sibonney, there were: Spanish Green Olives with Oranges & Beets, Green Olives with Fresh Herbs & Vermouth, and Gordal Olives Stuffed with Piquillo Peppers & Marcona Almonds with Blue Cheese. Annie, who’s incredibly charming, says she keeps one or more of these in the fridge when she’s home in Spain, because friends stop by unannounced and she likes to feed them (a vision of hospitality I drool over).
Inspired by Annie’s simple, delicious way with the Mediterranean fruit—and by the fact that 22 percent of world olive production happens in Spain—I picked up some green olives and a good Spanish sausage at Despaña not long after the event (many of the olives you find at antipasti bars and in supermarkets are also from Spain.)
Together, my pair of ingredients could have sat alongside one another, and maybe some Manchego, on a cheese board. But I went one step further, baking my olives with cubes of the sausage, in a move sanctioned by Annie herself. Both sausage and olive grow softer, more melting, and richer somehow. The house smells great, and the dish is fun to present and then eat. It’s a surprising change from the norm, too.
This post is sponsored by Olives from Spain. All opinions—including my love for olives—are my own. See more about Olives from Spain here, and follow along on Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube. Thanks for reading!