What Can I Make with Kalamata Olives?

Dan Harkins

Before they make it to market, many deep-purple kalamata olives of Greece are selected for use in the country's prized extra virgin olive oil. Those sold whole, pitted or not, typically come in two styles: soaked in red wine vinegar or olive oil. Once in a chef's hands, they are useful in a range of culinary delights, from hummus, tapenade and spinach pie to pastas, pizzas and dressings.

Kalamata olives.
Kalamata olives.

Kalamata olives are credited with being one of the cornerstones of the health-bestowing Mediterranean diet. Used in both cooking oils and various recipes, this cured fruit is native to Greece, with the rest of the Mediterranean region producing most other varieties. In concert, these oils are credited with helping to reduce instances of heart disease, cancer and other degenerative ailments. Most major regions of not only Greece and Italy, but also Spain, Israel and Morocco have their own local olive oil.

An olive grove.
An olive grove.

Perhaps the most storied use of kalamata olives is to make Greece's extra virgin olive oil. Since it is typically produced with high-pressure extraction technology that can sift away water and plant matter, fresh olive oil is rarely squeezed at home. Nevertheless, ancient-style or counter-top olive presses are available in 2011 for those with the greatest means and technical knowledge.

Red wine vinegar, which can be used to make a kalamata olive vinaigrette.
Red wine vinegar, which can be used to make a kalamata olive vinaigrette.

Several popular Greek dishes feature kalamata olives prominently. Kalamata tapenade is a finely chopped blend of the olives and its oil, along with key ingredients like capers, tomato, garlic, lemon, oregano and thyme — all topping toast or pita. Though not necessary, kalamata olives also are a regular addition to hummus, either as a chopped garnish, whole or incorporated within the puree of chickpeas and sesame paste.

Kalamata olives made into tapenade and served with a slice of bread.
Kalamata olives made into tapenade and served with a slice of bread.

A pasta dish, salad or pizza can quickly take on a Greek bent with the addition of ingredients like kalamata olives, a squeeze or two of lemon juice, crumblings of feta cheese, and fresh spinach. One recipe purees the olives in a food processor to form the base of an olive vinaigrette. Some red wine vinegar, olive oil, dijon, shallots and thyme are also part of this mixture.

Many recipes benefit from a blend of kalamata and other types of olives, such as those of the green variety. The almost-maroon kalamatas are often fruity and a little sweet, even more so after a red wine vinegar bath. This flavor profile benefits when paired with another type of olive — like the tangy, French Nicoise or the salty, herbal Sicilian or Spanish varieties.

Kalamata olives are used to make extra virgin olive oil.
Kalamata olives are used to make extra virgin olive oil.

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Discussion Comments

Rundocuri

Kalamata black olive oil is also great on pasta and used as a dipping oil for Italian bread, Heavanet. I simply mix a little bit of Italian spices in it for an instant sauce or topping.

Heavanet

Extra virgin olive oil made from organic kalamata olives is the best available on the market in my opinion. I started using it several years ago when I was looking for a rich-tasting olive oil. It is the only olive oil I use now, and I love it in recipes and on salads.

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