The Life and Times of the Olive
1. The History of the Olive
2. From Tree to Table
3. Olives of the World
4. Olives Health and Beauty
5. Olives in Your Own Backyard
The Tastes and Pleasures of the Olive
6. The Art of Olive Making
7. Cooking With Olives and Olive Oil
Metric Conversion Tables
Since you are holding this book in your hand, chances are that you’re a lover of olives. If so, congratulations! You are exhibiting superb taste. Like the appreciation of fine wine, the love of olives is a sophisticated one that is cultivated over time. This book is going to introduce you to the finest olives in the world, and perhaps refine your palate even further. And if you are not yet an olive aficionado, perhaps these pages will be the beginning of a new culinary adventure—an adventure that will enhance the foods you already enjoy, and add an array of wonderful new delicacies to your life.
The Sophisticated Olive has been designed as a tour of the world of olives. There’s so much to learn about the olive in all its guises—not just the fruit and the oil, but also the leaves and the bark. The olive itself is both food and medicine; the leaves and the bark are natural medicinals; and the expressed oil is used for preserving foods and cooking gastronomical delights. You’re going to discover many secrets in this book—secrets that will amaze you, delight you, and even amuse you.
Part One, “The Life and Times of the Olive,” opens with a fascinating look at the history of the olive. According to various myths, olives were a gift from the gods, but different cultures give the credit to different deities. After exploring the most famous of these legends, Chapter 1 walks you through the olive’s historical beginnings, starting with mankind’s earliest experiences with this amazing fruit and ending with the tree’s introduction to the New World. The olive has had many adventures on its travels from the shores of the Mediterranean to your table today. I think you’ll enjoy the journey.
Chapter 2 is where you’ll learn all about Olea europaea, the extraordinary plant that is the subject of this book. Here, you’ll find out how the olive tree grows, and you’ll discover how its wonderful fruit is harvested and either made into tantalizing table olives or turned into golden olive oil. Included in this chapter is a clear explanation of the various forms of olive oil, from pure extra virgin oil to specialty oils that have been infused with the flavor and aroma of fresh herbs.
Chapter 3 will take you on a country-by-country tour of the world of olives. What makes the flavor and color of Greece’s Kalamata olives so special? Which country’s “ripe” olives are not really ripe at all? Chapter 3 tells all, and also includes a handy guide to the most delectable olives available.
For many people, Chapter 4, “Olives, Health, and Beauty,” will be the most eye-opening chapter of all. You probably already know that in addition to boasting a wonderfully fruity taste, olive oil is thought to be the most heart-healthy fat on the planet. But perhaps you’re not aware that this lovely oil is also a remarkable cosmetic that has been relied on by legendary beauties for centuries. Even the olive leaf has been found to have extraordinary properties.
Chapter 5 is an introduction to growing an olive tree in your own backyard. Is it possible to produce your own olives even if you live in the northern climes of the United States rather than the shores of the Mediterranean? The answer is “yes”—provided that your tree is container-grown and brought indoors during harsh winter weather. This chapter will guide you through the process, from the selection and planting of the tree to the first miraculous harvest.
Whether you grow your own olive tree or, like most of us, you buy both your olives and your oil in a store, you’ll want to spend some time browsing through Part Two, “The Tastes and Pleasures of the Olive.” First, Chapter 6 will introduce you to the art of olive making. Just as you can grow your own olives, you can home-cure them, too. In this chapter, you’ll learn how to make several different types, from Spanish-Style Green Olives to Hot and Spicy Sicilian-Style Olives.
Once your olives have been cured—or you’ve simply stocked your pantry with high-quality olives and olive oil—you’re ready to start cooking. In Chapter 7, you’ll find a tantalizing collection of recipes from around the world that rely on the olive and olive oil for luscious flavor. If you always wanted to make the perfect martini (or dirty martini), you’ll find out just how it’s done. This chapter also offers recipes for everything from marinades to salad dressings, from unusual salads to entrées. You’ll even find some olive-kissed desserts. (Really!) Every recipe is hand-selected, kitchen-tested, and guaranteed to please.
As I said earlier, the love of olives is one that’s acquired over time. I hope that this book will help you further cultivate your appreciation of this miraculous fruit, and guide you in enhancing each and every day with the charms of the sophisticated olive.