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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Greece’s Power-House Olives


                                 
I’m wild about olives, but one of my faves is the big, meaty one from Greece called Kalamata.  Increasingly popular in the US, these flavor-bombs can perk up even the most benign tasting dishes.  Kalamatas are so special that they are protected by Greek law…only olives grown near the village of Kalamata in southern Greece can be given this name.
To ensure quality, Greece has several additional laws related to Kalamata olives.  For example, they cannot be picked green like so many other olives.  Instead, they must be picked at their exact peak of ripeness.  They also must be hand-harvested (versus machine) to avoid bruising. 

While mostly used as an eating olive because of their incredible flavor, oil can also be made from Kalamatas.   As an eating olive, they are split before they are brined or pickled which helps further flavor the olive on its interior, as well as exterior.  Many are packed in olive oil after being brined, further adding to the olive’s complexity.
If you’re one of the lucky 12 persons who has secured a spot on the private yacht charter to the Greek Islands this September, I’ve already seen the chef’s nightly dinner menu and Kalamatas appear in everything from appetizers to salads, and from main dishes to their accompanying vegetables.   If you’re coming to our home for the Bastille Day party weekend in July (those coming going on the harvest tour to France in September), you can bet that there will be some Kalamatas in the tampenade that I’m making.

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