Olives no longer come only in a can or jar waiting to be slid onto a child’s fingers or dropped into an awaiting martini. Gourmet olive varieties are widely available and come in an array of flavors.
Here are ten of the more common varieties of olives and a brief description of each.
Green olives with herbs de Provence: This vibrant citrus flavored olive is a good match with fish and in recipes calling for sweet spices. Herbs de Provence is a delightful blend of spices that can be used in every thing from eggs to soufflé.
Nicoises: This earthy rich olive is traditionally used in nicoise salad. It is a small black olive cured in red-wine vinegar.
Mount Athos green with Sicilian herbs: This olive packs a punch, it is flavored with rosemary, garlic, mustard seed, and red pepper flakes. It is an excellent olive for use in bruchetta topping, on salads, and in tapenade.
Mount Athos green stuffed with garlic: This is the classic martini olive stuffed with a clove of garlic. It is pitted then stuffed and perfect for pizzas, snacking, and a modern sophisticated martini.
Mount Athos green olives with sun-dried tomatoes: This rich heavy olive is ideal in salads and for snacking. The intense flavor of the sun-dried tomatoes blends delightfully with the intense flavor of the olive.
Lucques: This olive is ideal for snacking. The pit is still in tact so care must be taken to not swallow the pit. It is a pleasure to chew this meaty light buttery olive.
Kalamatas: This tangy green to black olive is cured in red-wine vinegar and is soft but not mushy. Varieties grown in California are denoted by spelling with a ‘c’ rather than a ‘k’. Kalamatas are wonderful on pizzas, with feta or blended with cream cheese and fresh garlic for a tangy dip.
Alfonsos: This robust winey tasting olive is soft and similar to the kalamata. It is a popular choice in antipasto salads.
Halkidikis: This is a large dried black olive that is mild in flavor and less salty than some of the other varieties. It pairs well with mild sheep’s milk cheeses.
Sun-dried olives: This olive is rich and intense in flavor. It is used in sauces or can be drizzled with extra virgin olive oil for a bold snack.