VIDEO: Cooking with Olives

Find Sibonney’s recipes for the dishes she mentions below:



This salad is a gorgeous combination of Moorish influence, typical of recipes from Granada, Andalusia. I grew up eating a version of this salad that my mother would prepare at least once a week. I think it really showcases the versatility of Olives from Spain. You wouldn’t think to pair savoury, salty black ripe olives with sweet, juicy Valencia oranges but the combination is astonishingly good. The play on savory and sweet is taken a step further by the addition of crisp, pungent red onions and a sprinkling of jewel like pomegranate seeds.

For the salad:
4 Valencia oranges
1/2 cup sliced black ripe Olives from Spain
1/2 a small red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
10-15 mint leaves, left whole or sliced fine

For the dressing:
2 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1 tablespoon orange juice, freshly squeezed
3 tablespoons quality extra-virgin Spanish olive oil
pinch hot Spanish paprika or cayenne (optional)
a pinch of flaked sea salt

Slice off the top and bottom of the oranges. You want to cut off just enough that the internal flesh is barely exposed. On a cutting board, lay the orange down on one of its cut surfaces, then insert the knife blade into the space between the flesh and the skin at an angle that matches the contour of the fruit. Work your knife around with a gentle sawing motion, following the contour of the fruit and removing just enough skin to expose the flesh underneath. Use your knife to trim off any extra bits of remaining white pith as it is bitter.

Slice the oranges into cross-wise slices 1/4 of an inch thick, to make beautiful round slices. Lay slices overlapping slightly in your serving dish. Tumble on the black ripe olives, pomegranate seeds, sliced red onion and mint leaves.

Make the dressing by combing the lemon juice, orange juice, olive oil, hot paprika or cayenne if using, and sea salt in a bowl. Spoon the dressing liberally over the salad and serve at room temperature.


A traditional olive spread made with black ripe olives, similar to tapenade, but better. Olivada has an endless variety of uses and applications. It’s decadent spread liberally on grilled bread and topped with goat cheese, i.e. Garrotxa cheese from Spain. Olivada is also wonderful spooned over grilled vegetables and turns any mundane sandwich into something exciting. Mix this olivada into mayonnaise to create a quick alioli and spread on grilled or toasted bread to accompany soup or serve with rice dishes. Add this olivada to liven up a tuna or chicken salad, brush onto chicken, lamb or steak while grilling or serve on the side. Toss into pasta, or with pan seared squid and cherry tomatoes. It’s also delicious enough to eat straight from the bowl with a spoon!

2 cups ripe black Olives from Spain, pitted
3-5 good quality canned Spanish anchovies, packed in oil
2 tablespoons capers in brine, drained
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup quality extra-virgin Spanish olive oil
1 1/2 – 2 teaspoons good quality Sherry vinegar (vinagre de Jerez)
1 tablespoon of finely grated lemon zest

Combine all ingredients except olive oil and sherry vinegar in a food processor and pulse until everything is coarsely but evenly chopped. Add the olive oil and continue to pulse until you achieve a spreadable but rustic consistency that is not too smooth or pureed. Empty olivada into a bowl and stir in 1 1/2 – 2 teaspoons of Sherry vinegar, to taste. This olivada is best when allowed to rest a minimum of 2 hours in the refrigerator in order to allow the flavors to fully develop. Bring the olivada back to room temperature before serving.

marinated olives

Olives from Spain are delicious eaten exactly as they are, but they can also be turned into creative tapas or plates by dressing them in endless combinations of flavours. This recipe uses a mix of both green and black olives, Queen Olives and Pimiento-Stuffed Green Olives. This marinade is so simple to prepare, yet it’s bursting with flavour. The colors and aromas are also spectacular and the final dish is just as beautiful as it tastes. It’s very typical in Spain to drink red, sweet Spanish vermouth with olives and I am crazy about this combination. I decided to merry my two loves and add some Spanish vermouth to this marinade.

1 cup Pimiento-Stuffed Green Olives from Spain
1 cup Green Olives from Spain
1 cup Black ripe Olives from Spain
1 cup Queen Olives from Spain
4-5 cloves garlic
1 lemon
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves, fresh or dry
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons Spanish Marcona almonds
1 cup quality extra-virgin Spanish olive oil
1/2 cup sweet or red vermouth, preferably Spanish
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns (optional)
1 pinch flaked sea salt, or to taste

Lightly smash the cloves of garlic placing them under the bottom of glass or any other flat surface and press gently to release their juice and aroma.
Using a sharp vegetable peeler, remove long strips of zest from the lemon, being careful to not remove any of the white pith underneath, as it is very bitter.

Combine the olives, herbs, garlic, lemon zest and half the almonds in a large bowl. Add the olive oil, vermouth, juice of half a lemon and black peppercorns, if using. Mix well to completely coat the olives. Cover and let stand in the refrigerator for 6-8 hours. This can also be done overnight. Before serving, bring the olives back to room temperature and add the remaining Marcona almonds. Add a final pinch of flaked sea salt which adds a delicate crunch and heightens all the flavors.


Gordal is a large green olive from Spain that has a beautiful rich flavor and is perfect for stuffing because of it’s size. Stuffed olives are so simple to prepare, yet impressive and can make any weeknight or get together with family and friends extra special.

24 Gordal Olives from Spain
3 Spanish Piquillo peppers from a jar, drained and cut lengthwise into about 8 thin strips
24 salted roasted whole Marcona almonds
3 tablespoons quality extra-virgin Spanish olive oil
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar (vinagre de Jerez)
1/4 teaspoon of honey
1 whole sprig thyme, left intact
1/4- 1/2 loosely packed cup of crumbled Spanish blue cheese like Cabrales, or your favorite blue cheese.

In a bowl, combine the olive oil, Sherry vinegar, thyme, and honey. Give it a stir and gently press on the thyme sprig with the back of the spoon to release the oils. Set aside until ready to use.

If olives are not pitted, remove pits by using the side of a large knife and apply gentle pressure, to loosen the flesh from the pit. Make a length-wise slit and very gently remove the pit. The olives should remain intact. Place the olives on a flat surface like a wooden cutting board with the length-wise slit facing up. Stuff 1 whole almond, followed by a Piquillo pepper strip which should lay flush with the slit that was made on each olive. Trim the edges of the Piquillo pepper so they match the length of each olive. Place the stuffed olives on a plate and gently spoon the marinade over each olive. Let the olives stand in their marinade at room temperature for 30 minutes. Serve by placing the olives on a platter and top with crumbled pieces of Cabrales or your favorite blue cheese.


This recipe is inspired from my mother’s meatball stew with green olives, that I grew up eating. My mother is a wonderful cook. Her dishes are always simple, using the freshest ingredients and cooked over a low, slow flame. The combination of the rich, briny green olives cooked with slow simmered beef, tomatoes and aromatic spices is true comfort to me.

For the saffron water:
1 pinch Spanish saffron threads, lightly crushed in the palm of your hand
1/4 cup hot water

For the meatballs:
1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef or lamb
1 small potato, peeled and roughly chopped
1 small onion, roughly chopped
1/4 red bell pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
4 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the sauce:
3 tomatoes, seeded and grated
1 small red onion, grated
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons good quality extra virgin Spanish olive oil
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
2 to 3 pinches hot Spanish paprika (or substitute ground cayenne pepper)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1 cup flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup saffron water (recipe follows)
1 1/2 cups green Olives from Spain, rinsed and drained
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Prepare the saffron water:
Toast the saffron strands in a warm skillet over low heat for 1 minute. Crumble the toasted saffron strands into the 1/4 cup hot water and set aside.

Prepare the meatballs:
Combine the potato, onion, red bell pepper, parsley in a food processor and process until very finely chopped, but not yet a paste. In a separate bowl, combine the vegetable mixture with the ground beef or lamb, cumin, egg, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate the meat mixture for at least 30 minutes or until ready to cook. Shape the meat mixture into meatballs, approximately 2 inches in diameter and set aside. The mixture should yield 12-16 meatballs.

Prepare the sauce:
Place an 12-inch deep skillet (with lid) or dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the grated onion, garlic, olive oil, saffron water, paprika, salt, 3/4 cup of the parsley and hot water. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer gently for about 7-10 minutes. Add the meatballs one by one, to poach in the sauce and continue to cook, covered, for 15 mins, gently shaking the pan to ensure even cooking. Add the green olives and continue cooking, covered, for 20-30 minutes longer until all the flavors are deep and melded together.

Add the lemon juice and adjust the seasoning with salt and black pepper. Garnish with the remaining 1/4 cup parsley and serve piping hot straight from the pan. This recipe is wonderful spooned over rice or accompanied by rustic, crusty bread to soak up the sauce.