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Olives: More Than Just A Pizza Topping

Updated on June 29, 2010

I once had a girlfriend who liked martinis with olives, but didn't like the actual olives. We'd go out, she'd drink the drink, I'd eat the olive. It was dating symbiosis. Alas, it wasn't enough to hold the relationship together, but it was close. I'm inordinately fond of olives. Still can't stand martinis, though.

The olive is the fruit of an evergreen tree native to the Middle East. Olives grown for eating (most are grown for oil) are cured to preserve them and to enhance their flavor, and there are more types than you can shake an olive branch at. Some are named for the olive variety (e.g. Salona), some are named for the place in which they're grown (e.g. niçoise), and some are named for the curing method (e.g. Sicilian-style). One of the most commonly available is the flavorful kalamata, from Greece.

Green olives are just unripe versions of black olives. They have a pungent, almost sour taste, and the black kind have a more muted flavor. Use whichever variety you prefer, but whatever type you choose, don't get the ones that come in a can and look like the rubber washers that keep your sink from leaking - a resemblance that extends to their taste.

With their zesty and distinctive flavor, olives can transform a dish. Be careful with quantity, though - too much, and your meal will taste exclusively of olives.

  • Instead of oregano and Parmesan, make a tomato sauce with chopped olives, a few capers, and some feta cheese.
  • Make a simple, flavorful relish for fish or poultry with chopped olives, roasted red peppers, olive oil, parsley, and a little balsamic vinegar.
  • Add finely chopped olives to tuna, chicken, or potato salad - particularly if it has a creamy dressing.
  • Liven up hummus or babaghanoush with finely chopped olives or olive paste.
  • Make a Nicoise pasta sauce with tuna, olives, green beans, and anchovies.
  • Use olives in a chopped salad of tomato, hearts of palm, red pepper, and almost any other vegetable. Dress it with a yogurt-lemon dressing.
  • Top a grilled chicken sandwich with fresh basil, sun-dried tomatoes, and chopped olives.
  • Add olives and sautéed shiitake mushrooms to polenta.

Chicken with Olives

An easy weeknight entrée that's impressive enough for company.

1 tablespoon olive oil
8 large skinless chicken thighs (about 2 1/4 pounds)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 small onions (about 4 ounces each), each cut into 6 wedges
3/4 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup Kalamata olives
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour

1. In nonstick 12-inch skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken; sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook until lightly browned. Remove to plate.

2. In drippings, cook onions until golden, shaking skillet occasionally.

3. Add chicken broth, olives, thyme, and chicken with any juices in plate. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 20 to 25 minutes until juices run clear when chicken is pierced with tip of knife.

4. Remove chicken to warm platter. In cup, mix flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1 tablespoon water until smooth. Pour flour mixture into skillet, whisking constantly. Over medium-high heat, heat to boiling; boil 1 minute until sauce thickens slightly. Pour sauce over chicken.


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    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Hazelton 

      8 years ago from Sunny Florida

      I always put black olives in my salads and sometimes green ones. I will be trying your Chicken with Olives recipe, it sound delicious.


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