Spain is home to hundreds of different olive varieties, many of which are used to make the best olive oils in the world. But Spain's table olives are equally impressive, and the colorful variety of table olives available in any local Spanish market is stunning.
The most typical way to enjoy table olives in Spain is with a cold beer or glass of wine, as a pre-lunch or pre-dinner snack. Olives will also pop up in salads, and occasionally in a savory cooked dish as well. There are even some recipes for sweet sugared olives, an unlikely (but delicious) combination.
One of my favorite ways to enjoy Spanish olives is in a tapenade, and the best Spanish olive tapenade I've tried comes from the island of Mallorca. The olive trees of the Tramuntana Mountains have been producing delicious olives since Roman times. Farmers choose to pick the olives when they're green, or leave them on the trees until they're overripe and black-- these are the perfect variety for their famous olive tapenade.
I first tried this delicious tapenade at a Mallorcan agroturismo called Cas Xorc, where chef Guillermo Moya shared his perfected version of the island's favorite spread. Sweet and savory, his recipe combines the salty local olives with honey and olive oil for stunning results.
Here's his recipe-- if you don't happen to live in Mallorca you can substitute another black olive variety that isn't too bitter, such as Kalamata olives from Greece.
- 10 1/2 ounces/300 grams of pitted black olives (roughly chopped)
- 6 medium shallots (minced)
- 3 tablespoons good quality honey
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil + 1 tablespoon (for poaching the shallots)
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- Sea salt to taste
- Freshly cracked black pepper to taste
- In a large pan heat one tablespoon of olive oil over a medium heat and add the shallots. Turn down the heat and slowly poach the shallots until they start to caramelize.
- Add the roughly chopped black olives to the pan and stir. Let them cook for about one minute and turn off the heat.
- If you have a meat mincer, pass the mixture through. As an alternative, you can pulse the mixture a couple of times in a food processor.
- Add the honey and balsamic vinegar and then mix together with the remaining two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Add the sea salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste. You can also adjust the honey and vinegar if you wish.
Serve this Mallorcan black olive tapenade on hearty sourdough bread, or with some freshly sliced seasonal vegetables. I also enjoy it as a spread when making a sandwich, or topped on a large green salad as a delicious garnish.