, , , , , ,

Spanish olives

This post has been hijacked and hacked by me. Julie had been wondering if an olive has as much nutritional punch and the same, much-touted health benefits as olive oil. She started writing about it:

If olive oil is “good” for you, are olives equally good for you?  Is there a difference between oil-cured Provence olives, Sicilian green olives, and Greek Kalamata olives in terms of nutrition and health?  I always embellish fish, chicken and pasta with black olives, but never beef or lamb. Is it possible to combine such ingredients?  I have made chicken with green olives, but otherwise they only grace my martini glass.

I did some Internet research about olives, but not about recipes.  If anybody has any intriguing novel recipes, send them on please.  Here are some facts about olives:

They grow on trees and are classified in fruit family.
They cannot be eaten raw. They require some prodding after being picked – curing or brining are two options.
They may help prevent bone loss and may temper inflammation.
So, they are good for you, but don’t eat too many because they are fattening!

I had to weigh in, and take over, because I am olive-obsessed. “…don’t eat too many because they are fattening!” is bad advice. I am not an olive expert, just an expert consumer. I eat olives every day – by the spoonful; the cupful. As I’m filling my two or three huge containers at my local olive bar every week, my mouth is watering the whole time. What I do know about olives is that they are ripe in the “good,” monounsaturated fat. And they bear the anti-inflammatory phenolic phytochemical called hydroxytyrosol. It is this anti-inflammatory phenolic phytochemical that boosts the health benefits of olive oil. (There are studies as to the benefits of hydroxytyrosol.) But all the tongue-twisting scientific lingo, and exhaustive studies aside – the bottom line is, olive oil comes from the olive.

cracked olives

We’ve all heard about the benefits of the Mediterranean Diet. And, I agree with Julie that there’s minimal hype around the olive itself. The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) has recently release yet another study about the benefits of a diet rich in grains, fruit, fish, nuts and olive oil, and how it’s better than a low fat diet in preventing cardiovascular disease and strokes. To summarize a part of the new NEJM study: eat all the olive oil that you want (it recommends four tablespoons a day), and as many nuts as you want. I’ve added olives to that. An olive (or a truckload) can serve as a check on the list of the recommended five servings of fruit the experts tell us to eat each day. And get your daily nuts in with almond-stuffed olives.

Julie asks: “I always embellish fish, chicken and pasta with black olives, but never beef or lamb. Is it possible to combine such ingredients?”

Yes. The beauty of the olive when used with any meat is simply in the taste. It’s salty. (Add hot peppers for zing; raisins for sweet.)  And you can cook them with the meat, or add them after. The flavor remains steadfast. I cook with them; top with them. I heat them in the microwave when I’m feeling fancy. They are my go-to snack. And I ask for extra olives when ordering a martini.

Julie also asks: “If anybody has any intriguing novel recipes, send them on please.”

Here’s mine. I eat this at least twice a week for breakfast – it’s tweaked from a sardine recipe I found years ago. It gives a heap of superfoods in one fell swoop:

Spread a frozen slice of good rye bread with avocado and a smidgen of mayonnaise. Cover all the open space with halved olives. Cover with one slice of Swiss cheese, and broil (that’s why you want the bread to be frozen, otherwise it may char) until cheese is melted. Take it out, and cover it with a whole can of sardines packed in olive oil (packed in water is fine too), and sprinkle with pepper, and finely chopped almonds or pine nuts. Place on top of a layer of fresh spinach. You’re good to go. Send us your olive recipes in the comments below, or e-mail, and we’ll print them.

mixed olives

All olives shot by Julie Seyler.