[ Currently Eating: Mysterious Breakfast ]
Once upon a time there was a woman who constructed a house made entirely of Olives. Black olives, green olives, kalamata olives, stuffed olives filled with pimientos, cheese and garlic and raw uncured olives (not recommended for eating). The olive house, which covered 1500 square feet and included a peaked roof, was held together with an insane amount of cream cheese and liver pate. Each corner of the house featured a Dirty Martini bar. She wore dresses woven entirely out of olive branches with olives for buttons.
This is not her story.
I’m going to apologize in advance for this post – I’m not an olive expert. I like them well enough, but I’ve never really paid attention to the different types. I know the standard black olives that go on top of wannabe enchiladas and into gooey 7-layer dip. The pic above is your standard whole pitted black olives that I like to slice up and put into pasta salad. And so on.
My parents have had an olive tree on their front lawn ever since I can remember – I guess that would be over 35 years. It’s smack dab in the middle of the lawn and for some reason, it’s outlasted pretty much every other tree on their property. I remember ducking under the overhanging branches laden with fruit whilst mowing the lawn (non-electric mower, OMG, you can’t imagine the horror).
When the olives ripened and dropped, they’d stain the sidewalk and driveway if they were stepped on. I can’t imagine why they didn’t cut the fricken tree down because of the nuisance. I think they had a psychological attachment to the tree. Maybe the whole peace symbol thingy.
I always wondered why these “olives” were so green – at the time my knowledge was limited to black olives out of a can. Several times, I remember my parents getting the bright idea of curing their own olives. They did it the traditional way using a lye solution. As a kid, I never understood how it was that they were cured by putting it into a poisonous solution that would burn you. Actually, it still amazes me that this is the way a lot of olives are cured.
Anyhow, so the question is: are Olives a good candidate for Cheap Eats?
I believe the answer is yes, in most cases.
I like to keep at least a can of black olives and a jar of the green Spanish style olives in the pantry at all times. They last for a long, long time. Even after you open a can of olives, they last a heck of a long time when stored in the fridge properly. I sometimes splurge on the Kalamata olives at TJs or Whole Foods, but for the most part, I stick with whole, pitted black olives in a can.
Olives are just a really versatile food – you can snack on them whole, slice them up for salads, mix them into pasta, cook them in a sauce, use them as a topping for party food (dips are a fave), and serve them as part of an antipasto. I don’t really buy the stuffed olives frequently, but there are millions of different varieties of those should you be in need of some quick appetizers. I had some Habanero cheese stuffed ones the other day – wooo, they were good.
One of my favorite things to do is to chop olives and add them to sandwiches. Once upon a millenium, there used to be a chain store called Fedco. If memory serves me correctly (and it never does), this was my first experience with green olives. They used to have an item called a Sandini Sandwich that had green olives in a mayo spread. I like making a similar poor-boy style sandwich with turkey or ham and olive spread. Just chop up the olives and mix them with mayo. Makes the sandwich taste sort of tangy and refreshing. It’s almost like relish, but it tastes better to me.
For standard canned black olives, I usually buy the whole ones as opposed to the sliced or chopped. The reason is that you can cut up whole olives, but you can’t put sliced ones back together into whole ones. I mean, unless you’re some kind of Wizard (I guess Harry Potter might incant Olivus Reparatus, but then I’m just a Muggle). In addition, I like to slice up olives thicker than the pre-sliced olives from cans.
If you buy whole green Spanish olives with the pits still in them, it can be cheaper than pitted green olives. The issue is getting the pits out. Previously, I’d tried to cut the exterior off which took forever. It was like carving a mini-turkey. A better way to do it, especially if the olives are on the firmer side, is to smack them with the flat blade of a kitchen knife. You do it much like the method for smacking garlic cloves to remove the skin. Smacking the olives should cause the pit and meat to separate pretty easily so that you can just pick out the pit. Hm… did I just say “Smacking Olives”? Geez. Oh yes, smack my olives, baby…
The one issue about olives for me is that depending on what kind you’re looking for, they can be rather pricey. The Kalamata and stuffed olives will set you back quite a bit. But the standard canned black olives aren’t that expensive – a standard six ounce can of whole black olives should set you back anywhere between $.50 and $1.50. When you open a can, store the unused remainder with its liquid in a glass storage container or a jar. It’ll last for quite awhile. I spoon a few out, chop them up, and throw them into whatever recipe I’m making.
And no, despite what you may think, I do not have an olive or olive oil fetish. And yes, those things do exist.