Appetite for Olives

Did you know that olives are one of the world’s oldest foods known? They are thought to have originated on the Mediterranean island of Crete between 5,000 and 7,000 years ago before spreading to Egypt, Greece, Palestine and Asia Minor.

I’ve always liked olives. It doesn’t matter if they’re stuffed, with or without pits, alone or in other dishes. When we were kids, there always was a fight for the stuffed variety. I remember at family get-togethers, Grandma couldn’t keep the stuffed olive bowl full because most of the grandkids loved them so much. 

Today, I’m still a big olive fan. Oftentimes, I’ll head out to the 32nd Avenue Hugo’s in Grand Forks, where they have a very good selection of olives near the deli. And at work, toner Lori Weber-Menke always seems to have a large jar of olives in the refrigerator in the photo department that I manage to dip into every once in a while.

Olives are pretty nutritious, too. They are concentrated in monounsaturated fats and a good source of vitamin E. The monounsaturated fats have a protective effect on our cells, and combined with antioxidant protection offered by vitamin E, can lower the risk of damage and inflammation. In addition to vitamin E, olives also contain a variety of beneficial active phytonutrient compounds including polyphenols and flavonoids, which also appear to have significant anti-inflammatory properties.

Jann Larson of Reynolds, N.D., got me thinking about olives recently. In an e-mail, she said that if I wanted to try something good that a jalapeno pimento olive from Mable’s Taste of Home in Fargo, a Pride of Dakota favorite, would be just the ticket. Jann says she enjoys just stopping by the fridge and opening the jar for just one olive some days.

By the way, Mable’s, which is available around the select stores (the closest to Grand Forks is the Community Center at the Air Force base with several outlets), has many other products including raspberry jalapeno dipping sauce, sweet mustard, jams and jellies, syrups, jalapeno products, tea and cappuccino, pancake and scone mixes and more.

Here’s a recipe that I came across in my olive research. It looks perfect to try someday when I’ve picked up a pile of olives.

Fried Stuffed Olives
10 green Portuguese olives stuffed with peppers
30 queen manzanilla olives stuffed with pimientos
3 ounces Portuguese or Spanish sardines packed in olive oil
½ cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, lightly beaten with a pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper
¾ cup Japanese (panko) or other toasted bread crumbs
Canola oil for deep-frying
Drain the olives and pat dry. Place the Portuguese olives on a plate.
With a toothpick, extract the bit of pimiento from each queen manzanilla; discard (or chop and mix with the stuffing). With your fingers, take bits of sardine and stuff into each. Place them on the plate.
Place three shallow soup plates on a work surface. From left to right, fill them with the flour, the eggs and the bread crumbs.
Working in batches of 5 olives, roll them in the flour with your left hand, then dip them in the egg with your right hand. Lift them out and roll in the bread crumbs with your left hand, pressing each olive gently to make sure the crumbs adhere evenly. Place on a plate. (The olives may be covered with plastic film and refrigerated for up to a day.)
Heat about 2 inches of oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When it reaches 350 degrees, lower about 5 olives into the hot oil with a slotted spoon. Fry, moving them gently with the spoon until they are golden brown, less than 1 minute. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Repeat with remaining olives. Serve hot.
Yield: 40 olives, about 8 servings.