An old food becomes a new fad

Trend: Don't be surprised to see an olive bar at your grocery store in the near future.

July 25, 1999|By Knight Ridder / Tribune

America's interest in the Mediterranean diet in recent years makes olives a hot food trend. Just check out the aisles and deli sections of local supermarkets.

Alongside the old standbys, the black Mission olives and green Manzanilla, more and more varieties are lining grocery shelves. Many stores have even added olive bars to their deli sections.

Olives are available year-round, and with about 10 types of olives in supermarket olive bars, customers can pick and choose varieties to try without having to purchase a whole jar. When possible, taste olives before you buy them. Look for fleshy olives with a pleasing flavor. Depending on the variety, the taste can range from mild to intensely pungent.

Some of the most common olives in supermarkets include:

* Kalamata: Smooth, dark, medium-size purple olive from Greece with a pleasant aftertaste.

* Manzanilla: Traditional green cocktail olive with a crisp flesh and smoky flavor.

* Nicoise: Small, dark brown or purple olives with a sharp and slightly sour flavor.

* Oil-cured: Jet black and wrinkled with a bitter taste.

In terms of adding versatility to meal preparation, olives are convenient and easy to use.

Just a few go a long way in recipes. The intense flavor of olives stands up to the heat of cooking and adds a sophisticated taste to dishes.

Although olives are fairly high in fat, it's monounsaturated fat, which benefits blood cholesterol levels.

While olives pickled in brine or cured with salt are high in sodium, they are a fair source of vitamin A, calcium and iron, and they are low in calories. A medium-size olive contains about five calories if green and nine calories if ripe.

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