Olive YOU – Product Review

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So desiring to love and adore olives the way others do, I’ve worked hard to train my taste buds.  For years, I longed for the desire to approach the charcuterie with abandon, diving in to the prosciutto, mortadella, manchego, and olive bliss.  It was the olives that caused me to tred lightly, and shy away from the gourmet spread.

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I longed to love them.  I tried and tried.  Just like bacon and chocolate ~ why was it that everyone else seemed to enjoy these delights, yet my palate had a tendency to turn away?  Then one day…MAGIC!  (By the way, the magic has also happened with bacon and red wine ~ I’m still waiting and training the tastebuds for chocolate ~ it’s a work in progress).

I discovered my now beloved castelvetrano olives.  They are amazing.  Buttery bliss, encapsulating the perfectly salted brine of a juicy bite size orb, they are now a daily delight and a must in my dinner routine.

While I love the idea of stepping out my door and visiting my local market for a fresh dive into the olive bar, I do not yet live in Spain for this dream to fully ensue, and Lucky’s Market will soon be more than just a hop, skip, and a jump from home for me.  I need not fear ~ Jeff’s Naturals has been discovered and has fulfilled my OLIVE needs.

Hooked on my favorite castelvetrano – which for some reason I only truly enjoy WITH the pits (thank goodness Jeff’s meets that criteria), I so desired to branch out and explore the other varieties and offerings.

Thus, the honor of a product review.

Feeling rather spoiled, I was sent a bounty of brined goods:
Whole Castelvetrano Olives, Feta Cheese Stuffed Olives, Jalapeño Stuffed Olives, Kalamata Olives, Sliced Hot Cherry Peppers, and Roasted Bell Pepper Strips.  Heaven on earth, really.

I struggled to devise a truly wonderful recipe to both utilize these goodies and to share.  After a few days of contemplation, brilliance arose.

But first – the products:

1.  Whole Castelvetrano Olives:  Obviously these were my favorite.  They will always hold a place in my heart.  “ALL-LOVE” olives.  Say it out loud.  Do you hear it?
“They have a unique nutty, buttery flavor, mild brine and wonderful natural green color.”
Nutty, buttery, green, and delicious.  They seem to satisfy “olive” my needs.

2.  Feta Cheese Stuffed Olives:  While I love feta, traditional green olives have not been a favorite of mine.  Perhaps the texture is to blame, as they are traditionally pitted and seem to lack the body I desire in my bite.  That said, the mouthfeel of these little guys, filled with the sharp flavor of feta cheese was quite appealing and memorable.  The only downside, I’d say, is the fact that they rest in a mixture involving canola oil***.  In the minds of some – the evil deeds of canola oil can be a complete turn off.  Needless to say, the flavor complexity of these Mediterranean staples create a “dreamy snack” anytime of day.
***I’m delighted to report that Jeff’s has made the change!  The Blue Cheese Stuffed and Feta Cheese Stuffed varieties are now made with a mixture of sunflower oil instead of canola.  Way to go, Jeff’s!

3.  Jalapeño Stuffed Olives: “Colossal-sized olives are hand stuffed with fresh jalapeño rings. Our jalapeños are sourced locally from Central Valley California family farms. These zippy olives have just the right heat and crunch and are the perfect snack to accompany a frosty margarita.”
Need I say more?  The spicy tang of the hot pepper rings is absolutely perrrrrfect.  Slather the salt on the rim of my glass.  I’m ready!

4.  Kalamata Olives:  I had the honor of sampling both the Pitted Whole Greek Kalamata, as well as the sliced variety.  Both were amazing.  With the very distinctive “Greek” flavor we all know so well, these delightful almond shaped orbs carried just the right amount of saltiness, depth, and desired rich flavor for an absolutely satisfying nibble.  So often I’ve run into an entirely too salty bunch of Kalamatas, which leaves me with an utterly disappointing thirst.  Not so with Jeff’s Kalamatas.  Jeff’s ensures us that the freshness of the crop defines the flavor of these olives, and I believe it!  These Kalamatas taste surprisingly similar to the Castelvetrano – thus, the buttery babies now have a run for their money in my cupboard!

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5.  Sliced Hot Cherry Peppers:  I really gave up on the idea of incorporating these into a recipes.  Simply on their own, they were amazing.  Sweet and hot, glistening and bright.  Beautiful.  I loved them.  And, boy do they have a kick!
“This colorful and juicy pepper variety is spicy with a touch of sweetness. Hugely popular in the Northeast, they are famed as the secret ingredient for authentic Philly Cheese Steak sandwiches.”
Perhaps you’re up for a Philly Cheese Steak?

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6.  Roasted Bell Pepper Strips:  I’ve always been a fan of roasted red peppers.  They are simply a colorful addition to nearly any entree, and when prepared correctly, the sweet tang adds just the perfect flavor bounce.  “These red bells are flame roasted, sliced and packed within 24-hours of harvest. The roasting gives the peppers a rich, lightly smoky flavor and creates a smooth yet crisp texture.”   Jeff’s does all the work for you, so you can simply enjoy.
I’ll take that!  Simply sit back, pop off the top, and scatter these red strips over just about anything.
Really, the truth is, the very slight and subdued smoky sweetness was close to the finest jarred bell pepper I’ve ever experienced.  Outstanding.

Clearly, Jeff’s Naturals takes “olive” my heart when it comes to an outside-the-olive bar selection.  Organic and non-GMO to boot, they have a great product line.

AND, with the loot I was provided, I had the opportunity to create this truly amazing flavor experience to savor forever and ever ~

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Lemon Thyme Confit with Kalamatas** 

4 lemons
1/2 c. very fine extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove
Pinch of sea salt

1  c. sliced Kalamata olives
**(Castelvetranos would be a delightful substitute)

1 tsp. fresh thyme

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Using a vegetable peeler, remove peel (yellow part only) from the lemons in long strips.  Squeeze the juice of 2-3 lemons and set aside.  Blanch the peel in a small saucepan of boiling water for 10 seconds.  Drain and repeat two times.  Bring the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, and salt to a simmer in a small saucepan.  Add the lemon peel and allow to simmer over very low heat for 45 minutes, until peel is very soft.  Cool.
Serve with sliced olives and fresh thyme.

After enjoying the amazing citrus kick of the lemon, the savory saltiness of the olives and the fresh thyme, I determined that this would be a truly epic experience coupled with shaved, sharp manchego or asiago, aboard slices of fresh salami (or toasted crusty bread for a super duper special, grained occasion). 

Fabulous!

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