Lynda Balslev: An ode to olives
When the weather is hot, and it’s too stifling to cook or move, this salty, briny olive concoction will hit the spot. It’s called olivada. Similar to tapenade, minus the anchovies, the star ingredient is, you guessed it, olives — three kinds of olives, in fact. While using just one type of olive would be acceptable, a combination provides more complexity, yielding a balance of intensity, salt, bitterness and fruit. The simple list of ingredients rounds out with toasted pine nuts, garlic and lemon, winding up with a salty, sharp and addictive condiment that’s surprisingly versatile. Simply spread olivada on baguette slices or crostini, or sprinkle it over salads, pasta and pizzas. It’s also a delicious accompaniment or topping to grilled fish and vegetables.
The three types of olives in this recipe are my tried-and-true combination. If you know your olives, you might want to experiment with mixing different kinds, but I think you’ll like the recipe with the following olives.
Yes, you need these. You’ve likely seen them — the inky, shriveled, prune-like olives, sometimes dusted with dried herbs and dry-packed. These wizened black olives are dry-cured in salt and then soaked in oil, which concentrates their flavor to a salty, bitter intensity. They add an essential concentrated olive flavor that anchors this recipe.
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At the other end of the olive spectrum is the Castelvetrano. If you are on the fence about eating olives, then this is the olive for you. These plump green olives are delightfully fruity, mildly salty and tame in flavor. They smooth out the intensity of the oil-cured olives and punctuate the olivada with speckles of bright green.
These medium-sized, purple-black, brine-cured olives are everyone’s darling — pleasantly salty, meaty and fruity at once, yet never overpowering. They are delicious eaten on their own, strewn in salads, or folded into recipes requiring the subtle salty kick of olives. Kalamatas strike the middle ground in this recipe, binding the strength of the oil-cured olive to the sweet and mild Castelvetrano.
Active Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Yield: Makes about 1 3/4 cups
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 cup oil-cured olives, about 5 ounces, pitted
1 cup pitted Kalamata olives, about 4 ounces
1 cup pitted Castelvetrano olives, about 4 ounces
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Dry toast the pine nuts in a small skillet until golden brown. Transfer to a plate to cool.
Combine the pine nuts and all of the remaining ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to finely chop, without making a paste.
Transfer the olivada to a glass jar or container and refrigerate for at least one hour to let the flavors develop. Serve at room temperature. Store the olivada in the refrigerator for up to 5 days (the flavors will mellow over time).
Lynda Balslev is a cookbook author, food and travel writer, and recipe developer based in the San Francisco Bay area.
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