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Archive for June 20, 2011

TIP OF THE DAY: Mellow & Magnificent Castelvetrano Olives

Castelvetrano Olives

Castelvetrano Olives In Bowl

[1] Castelvetrano olives served with drinks at Maiden Lane | NYC. [2] We could eat the whole bowl (photo courtesy Musco Food).


Olive connoisseurs love Castelvetrano olives (pronounced kah-stell-veh-TRAH-no). And more than a few people decide that they like olives after tasting the delicious, bright green fruit, named for a town* in the center of their growing region, the province of Trapani on the western side of Sicily.

*The cultivar is actually Noccellara del Belice, named for the valley formed by the Belice River, which flows across the sunny, verdant island.

The olives are so good that in a land of many olives, they’re Italy’s number one snack olive—selling three to one over any other type of olive. These bright green gems are often referred to as “dolce” olives, the word for “sweet” in Italian.

The flavour is mild, subtly salty and delightfully sweet, lacking the bitterness found in most green olives. And the texture is a wonderfully robust combination of meaty, velvety and crisp.

The olives are hand-harvested young (early in the season) and are cured in lightly salted brine, which accounts for their bright green color, firm, meaty texture and mellow, buttery flavor. Those who don’t like olives because they’ve only had stronger, brinier varieties may have found their olive.

Some people say that Castelvetrano olives taste a bit like fine olive oil. That’s not surprising: Some of the finest olive oil comes from Castelvetrano olives (the oil is often called Noccellara—see footnote above).

Castelvetranos debuted in the U.S. only in the last five years, starting in the olive bars of specialty food stores. They quickly became top-sellers. Mezzetta, one of our favorite brands (and the leading producer of glass-packed olives, peppers and specialty foods in the United States), was the first to offer them in jars in the U.S.

Once tasted, they become a favorite; and due to their relatively small production quantities, they can be hard to find.

If Castelvetrano olives are pricier than other olives, it’s because the trees have only a fair yield. But you get what you pay for: Mild and seductive, they’re olive bliss.

We buy them by the case from Mezzetta’s online store. We go through a jar a week.


Drinks, Appetizers & Cheese

  • Pitted and added to a Martini
  • In an antipasto, with cheeses and salame
  • In a plated cheese course, with Manchego or mozzarella di bufala cheese and Marcona almonds
  • To garnish any cheese plate

  • In green salads—with crisper lettuces such as romaine, endive and radicchio
  • In citrus salads, with red onion and fresh, flat-leaf parsley
  • With mixed baby greens, orange sections, shaved fennel and a light lemon vinaigrette (1 part lemon juice, three parts olive oil)
  • Chopped and added to vinaigrettes

  • In couscous, with lemon juice, olive oil, sliced green onions, chopped flat-leaf parsley, salt and pepper
  • In a cold broccoli or Brussels sprouts salad with a lemon garlic vinaigrette

  • In braised dishes: beef, chicken and lamb (first pit the olives)
  • With roasted dishes: fish, meats and poultry
  • In a red pasta sauce or a pesto: whole and pitted or sliced

  • As a snack with beer, wine and cocktails (while delicious plain, you can add some fresh rosemary and cracked pepper to the dish)
  • As a quick bite straight from the jar
    Remove the olive pits with a cherry pitter.

    If you don’t have a pitter, crush the olives with the side of a chef’s knife and poke out the pits with a chopstick. Return the pitted olives back to the jar of olive juice to maintain their bright color. When exposed to air for a long period of time, their brilliant color will begin to turn brownish.

    You can buy Castelvetrano olives online at Use the search box to get to the two options: a single jar (16 ounces, $6.00) or a case (6 jars, $27.00—a 25% discount).

    Olives are a very healthy fruit. Some people avoid them because of their “high fat content.” But that’s the same incredibly heart-healthy, monounsaturated fat that we’re encouraged to consume via olive oil.†

    †Monounsaturated fats have been found to reduce the risk of atherosclerosis and increase HDL (good) cholesterol.

    Olives have a trifecta of healthy components that work in synergy. In addition to the monounsaturated fats, olives are rich in the powerful antioxidant vitamin E–which neutralizes damaging free radicals–along with polyphenols and flavonoids, which have anti-inflammatory properties.

    As a bonus, olives are also rich in copper and iron, and are an excellent source of fiber.

    Snack on!

  • Discover more types of olives in our Olive & Olive Oil Glossary.

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    JULY 4TH FOOD: Red, White & Blue Sorbet Float

    What happens the day after Father’s Day?

    We start planning our Independence Day menu.

    Tee up this Red, White & Blue Sorbet Float for July 4th or any hot summer day. The recipe is courtesy Van Gogh Vodka and uses Van Gogh Açai-Blueberry Vodka. But if you have another blueberry-flavored vodka at home (or a raspberry-flavored vodka), you can use it before buying more.



  • 2 ounces blueberry vodka
  • 1 scoop raspberry sorbet
  • 1 teaspoon coconut cream
  • 3 ounces milk (whole, lowfat or soy milk)
  • Fresh blueberries for garnish
  • Flaked coconut for garnish
    1. Add ingredients to blender and blend.
    2. Pour into a hurricane glass or other tall glass.
    3. Garnish with coconut flakes and fresh blueberries or other seasonal berries.

    More July 4th recipes are on their way!

  • Find more of our favorite sorbets and sorbet recipes in our Gourmet Ice Cream Section.

    Add a blueberry garnish to make a red, white
    and blue July 4th treat. Photo courtesy
    Van Gogh Vodka.



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