Pork and Mushroom Sliders

There was a time when olives and olive oil got a bad rap for the amount of fat they contained. It got to the point where olive lovers (myself included) felt guilty about eating them.

But in recent years, research studies have shown that the high monounsaturated fat content of olives (and olive oil) has been associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and a decrease in blood pressure. And in terms of their phytonutrient content, olives are nothing short of astounding. Few high-fat foods offer such a diverse range of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients, some of which are unique to olives themselves.

Of course, when I was growing up, there were only two kinds of olives at the grocery store: green olives stuffed with pimentos and pitted black or “ripe” olives that you could wear on the tips of your fingers until your Mom made you stop playing with your food. And a lot of people never even heard of using olive oil in their cooking.

Times have changed. Now most grocery stores have entire olive bars, with all kinds of exotic varietals — everything from the tiny brown Nicoise to the giant, bright-green Cerignola, to the shriveled black Morrocans. And olive oil has been proven to be one of the healthiest oils you can choose.

Here’s a recipe for Pork and Mushroom Sliders from the International Olive Council that contains both olives and olive oil and is sure to be a hit with anyone who loves them.

Pork and Mushroom Sliders
¼ cup sour cream
2 tablespoons coarse ground mustard
1 pound pork tenderloin, trimmed
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, divided and minced
1½ teaspoons dried thyme leaves
4 cups finely chopped shiitake mushrooms
½ cup chopped ripe olives
¼ cup finely chopped shallots
12 small rolls, split (warmed, if desired)
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Blend sour cream and mustard in small bowl; cover and refrigerate. Combine 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 clove garlic and 1 teaspoon thyme leaves in mini chopper or finely chop garlic and blend mixture in bowl with fork, mashing garlic. Rub pork with garlic mixture; place in shallow baking pan and roast 25 minutes or until internal temperature is 160 degrees. Remove from oven; let stand at least 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 clove garlic; cook and stir 30 seconds or until fragrant but not browned. Add mushrooms, olives, shallots and remaining ½ teaspoon thyme leaves. Cook and stir 5 minutes or until mushrooms are tender. Remove from heat; set aside.
Thinly slice tenderloin diagonally across grain. Spread each cut side of rolls with mustard mixture. Spoon half of mushroom mixture (about 2 tablespoons) on bottom of each roll. Top rolls evenly with sliced pork and remaining mushroom mixture. Cover with top halves of rolls. Serve on coated sandwich wraps or bakery sheets if desired.
Yield: 12 sandwiches.
Tip: Meat can be roasted several hours in advance, then refrigerated and sliced before assembling sandwiches.

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.