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Monday, July 2, 2007

Olives!

Repeat after me: I will never ever buy canned olives again. The more processed the olives are, the less taste they pack per punch. By this rule of thumb, the greatest offender of all are the pre-chopped canned black olives. Avoid these like the plague. They taste like nothing at all. I found myself heaping them into a puttanesca sauce in a stunning blunder of judgment. I wound up using two or three times as many of these overly processed olives—and two to three times the fat and calories—of what it would have taken to use a few good quality olives.

High quality olives are wonderful because they offer a big flavor for a relatively low amount of fat and calories. Many people think of olives as “off limits” for a dieter, but I think the opposite is true. On a diet one key is to reach for a few ingredients that are very flavorful (but don’t blow your bottom line) and then pair them with lighter foods that provide the bulk and nutrition.

Don't confuse quality with cost. While it is true that many high cost items are also high quality, it is also true that many low cost items are high quality, if you know where to look. Our local chain grocery store carries some very expensive jarred 'gourmet' olives. I am sure they are perfectly delightful, and if you can afford them, by all means indulge. But there are alternatives. For those of you with a Whole Foods nearby, their olive bar offers a reasonable bulk alternative, and allows you purchase precisely the amount of olives you will need. But my favorite place to find olives is my local neighborhood grocer, Devon Market (if you are in Chicago, it is just east of the intersection of Devon and Clark St. in Roger's Park). This spectacular locally owned market carries a variety of 'ethnic' products, including delicious olives, sold in bulk for approximately $4 per pound. Often local ethnic grocers have connections in the countries where their products are produced, which results in inexpensive but high quality food for you.

In my kitchen the Kalamata are the king of olives. These large, flavorful olives are wonderful in a greek salad, in classic puttanesca sauce, or even with lemon and dill over fish. If you don't know your own tastes, take a trip to your local olive bar and select one of everything. Nothing is as fun as discovering new tastes!

1 comment:

Joe said...

I recently spent some time in Spain where I ate the best gourmet olives with just about every meal or drink. Those olives packed a punch. Since I have come home I cannot bear to eat the canned generic olives. The good stuff is a bit pricier, but way worth it.

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