This post is sponsored by California Ripe Olives. Although I was compensated to write this post, all opinions are my own.
Last month I had the good fortune to visit Napa Valley and spend some time with some CA Ripe Olive growers. I’ve always been an olive lover but, truth be told, didn’t know much about them. I love cooking with olives, snacking on a few or adding them to a cheese tray, but hadn’t given much thought to how they’re grown and harvested.
Not to mention, wine in Napa Valley AND olives?? Yes. YES. Definitely.
We traveled to Napa because California produces more than 95% of the olives grown in the United States, of which there are two main varieties produced: Manzanillo and Sevillano. Our time there was spent at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), where we not only tasted olives but also created dishes with them!
Our first evening at the CIA we were treated to a lovely dinner, where each dish was prepared using CA Ripe Olives with a wine pairing for each course. Our host for the evening was Elise from Simply Recipes; she personally created each recipe for our meal. (Side note: she couldn’t be a more interesting, kind or talented person.)
If, for some reason, you think that an entire meal of made with olives seems like a bit much, I can tell you that I was absolutely blown away by each dish. I would proudly serve this entire meal to guests in my own home! We started with a Radicchio Salad with Olives, Chickpeas & Parmesan, which was a large portion and I cleaned my plate. My favorite, however, was the Pork Tenderloin with Figs & Olives, served over couscous. The combination of figs and olives combined with the marinade is outstanding. I’ve already made it twice at home! Everyone has loved it.
The most surprising dish of the evening was our dessert. I couldn’t imagine how Elise could possibly make a delicious dessert using olives, but she succeeded brilliantly. She made a Lemon Olive Cornmeal Muffin that had just enough sweetness; the olives were a wonderful complement.
The next day we participated in a fun event where we divided up into teams of four, then prepared our own dishes using CA Ripe Olives. My team made a Potato Gratin with Smoked Olives! We also made a salad with CA Ripe Olives in the dressing with some parmesan crisps and dried olives for a tasty garnish. It was incredibly fun and my teammates were all so talented!
When I arrived home, I couldn’t wait to cook up a few dishes of my own using CA Ripe Olives. I first tried smoking some; we learned how to smoke them while there and they were absolutely delicious! We’d also tasted some candied black olives – also fantastic – but I haven’t tried them at home. I will though, as I think they’d make a fun addition to a cheese tray or just for a snack. Then I remembered an Easy Olive Bread that my mom used to make when I was a kid! I did my best to recreate it and I think I did a darn tasty job.
This Easy Olive Bread comes together quickly and would be a great starter at any gathering. My 10-year-old ate six slices herself! It’s creamy, cheesy with a good amount of olives. I like to slice my CA Ripe Olives for a bigger olive punch but you can chop yours more finely if you prefer.
I’ll be posting a how-to for smoking olives at home next month. I have a smoker which is an easy way to do it but I’ll explain an easy way to achieve the same results at home. Like the candied olives, the smoked olives would be fantastic on a cheese tray. Smoked olives would also be delicious in this Easy Olive Bread! In any case, I suggest using only the green CA Ripe Olives, as they’re always delicious!
- 1 loaf French bread, sliced in half lengthwise
- 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
- 10 oz. green CA Ripe Olives, chopped
- 2 green onions, chopped
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Mix together cream cheese, butter and mayonnaise until thoroughly combined. Add
- garlic; stir well to distribute. Add cheddar, chopped green olives and green onions; stir
- to combine.
- Spread mixture onto the cut sides of bread. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until cheese is hot
- and bubbly and starting to brown.