The juice of the olive, otherwise known as olive oil, is a delicious source of powerful antioxidants. The oil from the olive is monounsaturated and has a positive effect on cholesterol levels in the blood stream.
Monounsaturated fats are not considered an "essential" nutrient, but they should be an important part of our diets because they help keep cholesterol from sticking to our artery walls.
In addition, olives will help control blood sugar, a big plus in a controlled carbohydrate diet. After all, when the blood sugar is under control, so is the insulin. And, insulin is a huge factor in our bodies' storing food as fat.
Types of Olives
Of the many olives available to us, here are four distinct types along with a guide to their appeal.
One of the more popular varieties, these Greek black olives are plump and juicy with a powerful flavor, bright acidity and high salt content. They are delicious with soy products like tofu and tempeh, and work wonders with leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and cauliflower, tempering bitterness with acidity.
These black olives have a wrinkled, leathery surface, the result of a dry-salt curing process; later, a long, luxurious olive oil bath softens and enriches them. Because they retain more of their natural bitterness, oil-cured olives are best when cooked. These little olives marry particularly well with tangy tomatoes, celery, eggplant, citrus and sweet root vegetables.
A slender, full-flavored green olive from the south of France, the picholine is mildly bitter, faintly sweet and tart with a nice, crunchy texture. Olive's al a Picholine are steeped in a solution of lime and wood ashes before marinating in salty brine.
Nicoise are small, tart, red-brown olives with a light salty taste. They are interchangeable with Italian gaeta olives. Gaetas are plump, brine-cured olives that are packed in oil.
Following are a couple of suggested recipes using olives - we hope you enjoy!
Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms with Olives and Caramelized Onions
Bake the mushroom on a rack over a pan to catch bread crumbs that may fall. Serve with a green salad for a complete meal.
Four 4-inch portobello mushroom caps
2 teaspoons olive oil
4 cups finely chopped Vidalia or other sweet onion
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme, divided
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 cup chopped pitted kalamata olives
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 1-ounce slices of white bread
1/3 cup (about 1-1/2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Preheat oven to 350-degrees.
Remove stem and brown gills from undersides of mushrooms using a spoon; discard gills. Place mushrooms, stem side down, on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350-degrees for ten minutes; cool mushrooms on a wire rack.
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute 12 minutes. Stir in wine, vinegar, 1-teaspoon thyme, and salt; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 25 minutes. Uncover and increase heat to medium-high; cook five minutes or until liquid evaporates. Stir in olives, rind and pepper.
Place the bread in a food processor; pulse ten times or until coarse crumbs measure 1-1/2 cups. Combine 1-teaspoon thyme, crumbs, cheese and parsley. Spoon 1/2 cup olive mixture into each mushroom; top with about 3/4-cup cheese mixture. Bake at 350-degrees for 25 minutes or until golden brown.
Recipe makes four servings; one stuffed mushroom each.
Nutrition information per serving: Calories: 246; Fat: 8.1g; Saturated fat: 2.2g; Protein: 7.6g; Carbohydrates: 27.6g; Fiber: 4.4g; Cholesterol: 7mg; Sodium: 700mg
Pasta and Greens with Olives and Feta
Radicchio is a bitter green, so it holds its own with the briny olives. Substitute Swiss chard or broccoli rabe in its place, if desired.
1 slice of white bread
3 cups uncooked fusilli or cavatappi (about 8-ounces)
1 teaspoon olive oil
4 cups torn radicchio
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3 garlic cloves, chopped
10 cups chopped spinach
3/4 cup picholine olives, pitted and chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh or 1-teaspoon dried oregano
2/3 cup (about 2-1/2 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
4 lemon wedges
Preheat oven to 350-degrees.
Place bread in a food processor and pulse five times or until coarse crumbs measure 1/2 cup. Place crumbs on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for seven minutes or until golden. Set aside.
Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water.
Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add radicchio, red pepper and garlic; saute one minute. Add spinach, olives and oregano; toss two minutes or until spinach wilts. Add pasta and reserved pasta water; cook one minute. Remove from heat; stir in cheese, salt and black pepper. Sprinkle each serving with 2-tablespoons bread crumbs. Serve with lemon wedges if desired.
Recipe makes 4 servings, serving size 2-cups.
Nutrition information per serving: Calories: 394; Fat: 13.1g; Saturated fat: 3.9g; Protein: 16.2g; Carbohydrates: 59.8g; Fiber: 8.8g; Cholesterol: 16mg; Sodium: 868mg
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