¡PRACTICA EL ACEITUNING! Before you say “Gesundheit!” to “aceituning,” let me remind you that the Spanish word for “olive” is aceituna. Olivo, a word that comes from the Romans, is an olive tree, but aceituna, from the Arabic, is the fruit of that tree.
Practica el aceituning is the catchy slogan for the grand marketing campaign rolled out this week by the producers of table olives. Spain is the world’s principal producer and exporter of table olives. What is aceituning? “To add original and creative seasonings to commercially bottled olives from Spain.”
Some examples: olives with pesto, cheese and salt cod; black olives with cayenne and orange peel; green olives with goat cheese, honey and hazelnuts; black olives with strawberries, tomato and PX vinegar; olives with soy sauce and ginger. (See more recipes.)
|Brining my olives.|
|Queen-sized Gordal olives.|
The most familiar Spanish table olives are Manzanilla, sometimes marketed as “Seville” olives. Manzanilla is the name of the variety of olive tree. It produces a plump, meaty olive. Manzanillas make up the bulk of Spain’s table olive production, but the fat Gordal olive (also called “queen”) is another favorite commercial table olive.
|Black olives are picked green.|
These are by no means the only olives in Spain. Every olive-producing region has its particular varieties and methods of curing and flavoring olives.
In Andalusia, you might sample aceitunas partidas, green olives (Manzanilla, Hojiblanca or Morisco) that have been cracked to split them open, then brine-cured (no alkaline is used). They may be flavored with thyme, fennel, cloves of garlic, slices of lemon, oregano and strips of red pepper.
|Split and brine-cured.|
You can add flavor to bottled, store-bought olives by draining them, then marinating for two days in salt water with slivered garlic, fresh or dried thyme, sliced lemon and a splash of extra virgin olive oil. Or, practice some extreme aceituning and get a little adventuresome.
Olive Bread with Sardines. Inspiration for this recipe comes from a recipe booklet published by the board of the Denominación de Origen Protegida Aloreña de Málaga. The Aloreña olive is a type of brine-cured Manzanilla. The recipe calls for a sort of focaccia bread made with Aloreña olives and roasted red pepper, topped with grilled sardines, olive “air,” and a smear of strawberry alioli. The bread recipe didn’t work so well for me and the “air” required techniques and ingredients with which I am not familiar. So I topped the bread with canned sardines and stacked some sliced Aloreña olives on top. The strawberry alioli (garlic mayonnaise) was, uh, interesting.
Potato-Olive Salad. I “aceituned” a typical Spanish potato salad, papas aliñadas, by upping the proportion of olives. For 1 cup of diced, cooked potatoes, I used 1 cup of pitted brine-cured olives. (Split olives are easily pitted by pressing them on a board to squeeze out the pits.) Other ingredients are diced tomato, parsley, green onions, chunks of tuna, hard-cooked egg, olive oil and Sherry vinegar.
Olive-Cream Cheese Dip. This is incredibly easy! In a blender or mini processor, blend 1 cup softened cream cheese, 2 cloves garlic, 2 tablespoons chopped onion, ½ teaspoon pimentón de la Vera (smoked paprika), and ½ teaspoon ground cumin. Add 1 cup pitted green Manzanilla olives and process until they are coarsely chopped. Serve with regañás or any crisp crackers for dipping.
Black Olive, Corn and Avocado Salsa. Relish, salsa or salad? Combine equal quantities of pitted black olives, corn kernels and chopped avocado with roasted red pepper, scallions, chile to taste, olive oil, lemon juice and a garnish of cilantro. Because olives are salty, you may not need to add salt.