The worldly European … olive

The worldly European … olive

European olives literally travel well. In fact, they are essential to countless classic dishes from one end of the globe to the other.

In North America, we’d find it hard to picture a frosty martini without one or two fat pimento-filled green olives, or a fresh pizza without an alluring sprinkling of sliced olives sinking into hot, melty cheese. Those associations are so tight, it’s easy to overlook how well-travelled olives are. European olives have worked their way into cuisines all over the world, in dishes with all kinds of flavour profiles.

Naturally, European olives play starring roles in many continental classics. Each nation seems to have its own set of long-loved olive-centric dishes. The French have their salade niçoise, a fresh vegetable salad with black olives, boiled eggs and tuna or anchovies, and the Italians have their pasta alla puttanesca, with its mouth-watering tomato sauce made with black olives and fresh herbs.

Even when one popular dish is shared beyond national boundaries, it will take on a local character and flavour. Southern France, Italy and Spain each have their own versions of Tapenade — an olive spread that makes an excellent appetizer or sandwich boost. This Spanish tapenade with Hojiblanca olives, for example, is made with fresh thyme and gets a little kick with brown mustard.

But olives also show up in culinary specialities all over the world, far beyond the European continent. In India, olives are pickled with a spice blend that combines mustard, fenugreek and cumin seeds with chilli powder. Pan con jamon, a sweet, soft bread roll with ham, raisins and pimento stuffed olives inside is served in Venezuela at Christmas. And in Russia, Solyanka, a hearty soup made with several kinds of meat and vegetables and black olives goes back to the 16th century — and is said to be a great hangover cure!

Whenever you need a break from the same-old-same-old, remember there’s always something new to try when your kitchen is stocked with a variety of European olives. All it takes is a spirit of culinary curiosity and a few tried and true recipes to expand your home cooking to new horizons.

Enjoy! It’s from Europe!