Olives, A Simple Ingredient With Great Taste

olives, cheese, fruit and wine

Delicious food doesn’t need to be fancy, it doesn’t even have to be a complete meal. Great taste can come from a simple ingredient such as olives, standing alone or when mixed with other ingredients. Of course, each of us has a different idea of a simple ingredient, a dish or even a meal that we would characterize as tasting great.

olives, cheese, fruit and wine
Olives, A Succulent Pear, Aged Parmesan, Crackers And Wine

A dish of briny olives combined with a chunk of aged Parmesan cheese, bread or crackers, a succulent ripe pear along with a glass of crisp white wine, all ingredients that figure prominently in the Mediterranean diet, can create a simple and tasty light meal that has been enjoyed by people for centuries.

I would say that olives and the oil pressed from them, are ingredients that play a prominent role in the foods I prepare to make them taste great. If you are an olive lover like myself, they are probably often used in your kitchen as well. Olives unique flavors, whether black or green, go well with salty foods such cured meats, anchovies, capers, feta and Parmesan cheese. They also go surprisingly well with the sweet fruity flavors of dates and oranges as well as tomatoes, fennel and caramelized onions. I would say olives contribute a lot to making a meal taste great.

Warm olives and almonds are perfect for a tapas party served with a glass of wine.

warm olives and almonds
Warm Olives And Almonds With Greek Meatballs (Keftedes)

 Warm Marinated Olives and Almonds

  • 2 c. mixed olives such as Gaeta, Nicois, Kalamata or Picholine
  • 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove peeled and flattened
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. fennel seedes
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp. rosemary
  • zest of a lemon
  • 1 c. shelled whole almonds

Rinse the olives and drain well. Warm the oil in a small pan and add the garlic, red pepper, herbs and lemon zest. Bring the oil to a simmer over medium low heat. Add the olives and almonds, toss well and continue to simmer for about 5 minutes until warm and fragrant.


An orange and olive salad is a refreshing combination of sweet and salty flavors that makes a nice side to serve with chicken, pork or fresh seafood.

Mediterranean Olive And Orange Salad
Mediterranean Olive And Orange Salad

Mediterranean Olive And Orange Salad

  • 1 pkg. of baby arugula
  • 1 large navel or blood orange, peeled and sectioned, juice retained
  • 1/4 small red onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 c. sliced green olives
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. sherry vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Warm the minced garlic in the olive oil to infuse the flavor and set aside. Peel the orange, making sure to remove all the pith. Section the orange between the membranes over a bowl, saving the juice. Cut the orange segments into bit size pieces.  Add the garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, salt and pepper to the saved orange juice in the bowl and whisk to emulsify. In a large bowl, gently toss the arugula, olives, orange sections, onions, and dressing to combine then serve.


There is nothing better than a preserved lemon tapenade to brighten simple grilled meats such as lamb, pork or chicken.

preserved lemon tapenade
Preserved Lemon Tapenade

Preserved Lemon Tapenade

  • 1/2 c. chopped pitted black and green olives
  • 1/4 of a preserved lemon, rind only, washed and chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tsp.lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. chopped parsley
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • a pinch of red pepper flakes

Combine all ingredients and let sit for a few minutes for the flavor to meld. Optional ingredients such as anchovies, capers, mustard and other herbs can be added to suit your taste. (Any leftover can be refrigerated for a week or two.)


Moroccan lamb shanks are a perfect example of how olives pair with the sweetness of apricots in this extremely flavorful dish served on a bed of couscous.

lamb shanks with olives and apricots
Tender Lamb Shanks With Olives And Apricots

Moroccan Braised Lamb Shanks With Olives And Apricots

Serves 2, adjust the recipe accordingly.

  • 1 – 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 lamb shanks (1 shank a person unless they are very large)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 piece of ginger (about 2 inches), peeled and grated
  • 3 Tbsp. ras el hanout*, a North African spice mix available from ethnic and some grocery stores
  • 2 tsp. harissa, sriracha or other hot pepper sauce
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1  15 oz. can diced fire roasted tomatoes
  • 2 c. chicken stock
  • 8 or more dried apricots, sliced
  • a handful of pitted green olives
  • minced fresh mint or cilantro for garnish
  • cooked couscous as an accompaniment

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the lamb shanks and brown on all sides then remove to a plate. Add onions and carrots and cook about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until vegetables begin to soften. Add the garlic, ginger, the ras el hanout, harissa, cumin, salt and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, for a minute. Add the tomatoes and chicken stock and stir. Add the shanks back in the pot. (The shanks should be submerged in the liquid halfway, if not add some water.) Cover the pot and simmer on the cooktop, turning the lamb about halfway through the cooking, for about 2 to 3 hours (depending on the size of the shanks) or until the meat is tender and sauce is thickened. Skim off any accumulated fat that has risen to the top. Add the apricots and olives and cook for an additional 10 to 15 minutes until the apricots are soft. To serve, place some couscous in a bowl, top with a shank, spoon some sauce on top and garnish with some chopped mint.


As you can see, olives as well as olive oil contribute significantly to the flavors of many dishes. From a snack served with cocktails, a refreshing salad, a topping to bring out the flavor of simply grilled meats or to create a sweet and savory sauce for Moroccan lamb, the simple olive and its flavorful, healthy oil can have you thinking “that meal was great”.




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I travel the back roads of the world, sharing great food and interesting places and enjoyable pastimes.

32 thoughts on “Olives, A Simple Ingredient With Great Taste

  1. I’d never thought of pairing olives with fruit such as oranges before!

    Anyway, I do like olives and now you mention them feel inclined to get some very soon 😊

  2. Olives have such deep flavor. Love how briny they are — we often use them in appetizers because they’re so good at stimulating the appetite. And they’re terrific in main dishes because they’re so good at satisfying the appetite. 🙂

  3. Oh Karen, we would get along very well in the olive department! As a child I would get olives in my Christmas stocking and Easter basket and I still do.. This year Rick gave me a jar of Kalamata olives that must have weighed five pounds. It’s enormous — and we are half through it, using them as appetizers, in pasta sauce, on pizza, in salads, you name it. The warm olives and almonds sound delish but then all the recipes do and I’ll be bookmarking this one!

  4. That’s an excellent reminder for the preserved lemon tapenade. I’ve got all the ingredients and might make it tonight!
    I always use the olive oil that olives have been stored in for cooking and occasionally a touch of olive brine (from good olives) for a little umami kick.

  5. Like all your varied recipes showing to the uninitiated the wide variety in which this delightful product can be used. Especially do like the tajine recipe, a little different from the one I usually use , , , in Australia, at this stage, ras el hanout would be available, probably from a nunber of suppliers, from even ordinary country supermarkets , , ,

  6. We love olives so of course all of your recipes sound fabulous. However, we have our sites on your delicious Moroccan Braised Lamb Shanks With Olives And Apricots. That looks rocking good!

  7. The orange and olive salad has me very curious as how this combo will taste. On my list! And the warm olive and almond recipe, I have all of the ingredients. Thanks again, Karen, for inspiring me. I’ll let you know how everything turns out!

    Jane x

  8. Great treats with olives for sure. Love that tapenade especially. We love olives about any way, any variety! Thanks for sharing!

  9. Olives are such a treat , thank you for all those great recipes. I think I make the preserved lemon tapenade.

  10. I love the idea of different olives depending on the recipe…thanks Karen for all of the recipe…they look fabulous…
    I hope you are enjoying your week!

  11. I absolutely love olives! I used to shy away from them, but several years ago I developed a taste, and now I love them. In fact, you’ve got me craving olives right now…and it’s only 8:15am here. Haha! That idea of warm marinated olives sounds like a really fun idea. I’m putting the ingredients on the list for the next time I go out!

  12. I have to try some of your recipes. I love olives as well and they grow everywhere around here.

  13. We adore olives too. I often forget how a simple dish like olives can make a perfect tapa, thank you for the reminder. Spain is famous for their wonderful olives, there is a bluish green variety that we love, unfortunately I was too close to my allowable weight to bring back a jar. I do hope we will be able to travel again soon.

  14. These recipes look wonderful. I’ve just recently discovered preserved lemons and have enjoyed using them in a few recipes. I may have to try the Preserved Lemon Tapenade.

  15. Wow – a quadruple header! I think I will go for teh tapenade first, although the warmed almond and olives would be great for Zoomtails. Actually, both of them would be perfect for that! Take care –

  16. We can’t keep enough olives in this house. My husband eats them as a snack with cheese, apples, crackers, dried fruits, bread and just nothing at all. And then I put them in lots of stuff. I love all of the recipes you highlighted but I’m especially drawn to the preserved lemon tapenade. I’ve got some preserved lemons in the fridge and a dish in which this would be perfect for. Thanks for the inspiration Karen!

  17. I love olives as an addition to so many dishes. And I am saddened that all those help-yourself olive bars in grocery stores are now verboten because of the pandemic. But at least the wide variety of olives is still available already packed up in containers to grab and bring home — one consolidation in this time of COVID. Sigh.

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