Black olives (Recipe: goat cheese and olive stuffed peppers)
My friend Bob, tagine-maker extraordinaire and photography guru, has many good qualities, and one flaw.
He doesn't eat olives.
On a scale of one to ten, where not eating chocolate would be a ten, this ranks as a seven or eight.
My son-in-law Nick doesn't eat canned black olives, but eats all other olives -- a four or five on my scale.
I've never met an olive I didn't want to take home, but canned black olives have a permanent place in my pantry.
Native to the Mediterranean region, olive trees can grow to an old age, with trunks up to 30 feet in diameter. More than 300 cultivars of olives grow in Italy. Spanish missionaries brought olive trees to California in the 18th Century, and today California -- along with Spain, Italy, Greece, and Turkey -- is the largest olive-producing region in the United States.
One of the world's healthiest foods, olives aren't low-calorie, but they are high in monounsaturated fat (the "good" fat), iron and Vitamin E.
The mild flavor of ripe black olives doesn't overwhelm my favorite summer salad: crispy green lettuce, tomato, nectarine, cucumber, and blue cheese (sounds weird, I know, but try it), sometimes with chunks of grilled chicken added. It's also good in Mediterranean olive hummus, black olive cake, taco salad, white bean and black olive soup, and talerine beef casserole.
Store cans of olives in your cupboard forever, but after you open a can, pour the leftover olives along with the liquid into a non-metal container with a tight-fitting cover, and store in the refrigerator. If the olives are not kept in liquid, they will shrivel up within a couple of days.
Goat cheese and olive stuffed peppers
This filling works with any small peppers; peppadews are often available in the salad bar at your local supermarket. Piquillos are now available at Trader Joe's, or at specialty markets. You can use this filling with cherry tomatoes, too. Serves 8.
12-16 canned piquillo peppers or 36 peppadews
1/3 cup pitted black olives, finely chopped
7-8 oz log of fresh soft goat cheese, softened*
1 garlic clove, minced
1 Tbsp capers (optional), roughly chopped
1-2 Tbsp flat-leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper, to taste
Fresh parsley sprigs, to garnish
*Remove the cheese from the refrigerator and let soften at room temperature for 1-2 hours.
Lift the peppers from the can (save the oil), and blot the outside of the peppers with a paper towel to remove excess oil. Combine next six ingredients with 1 Tbsp of the reserved piquillo oil (or 1 Tbsp olive oil). Mix well and adjust seasonings if necessary. Fill the peppers and refrigerate for 2 hours. Garnish with parsley sprigs, and serve.