Among the many food-based celebrations Italy marks in June is National Olive Day. This might sound like a stretch for something so small to garner so much attention. However, when one considers that Italy produces nearly 470 thousand tons of olive oil a year, is second only to Spain in terms of leading the way in olive oil products, and brings forth over 3 million metric tons of olives annually, the need for a special day for this tasty morsel makes more sense.
In honor of the national holiday in Italy, and in honor of upcoming warm weather gatherings with family and friends stateside, T’s Italy offers you an easy, delicious, and nutritious olive recipe. I call it “Rosie’s Famous Olive Salad.” It’s a recipe handed onto me from my Italian Mom, Rosie, who received it from another wonderful Italian Mama, my father’s mother Paolina. And as far as the fame is concerned, it really was famous, at least in our family, especially at summertime gatherings. No party under the summer sun was complete without this wonderful mixture of Italian olives and crisp vegetables, coated in a simple but well-seasoned dressing.
This salad offers so many dinner options. It can be used as a side-dish or a first course for a sit-down meal. It can also be turned into a heartier salad, even a main dish, by adding some chunks of Italian cheese such as an Asiago, or a Provolone. If cured meats are your thing, throw in some diced salami as well. And you can make this salad as large or as small as you like. Whether you are serving five people, fifteen, or even 50, just adjust all the ingredients accordingly. My Mom would always make this in a large and deep salad bowl, with enough to feed at least 20 people using about three or more pounds of green and black olives. I am using her calculations for this recipe. It may seem like a lot, but remember this would allow for all the friends and relatives at the backyard barbecue to have a nice spoonful or two, with leftovers for you.
This will keep for several days in the refrigerator and I would highly recommend putting it together a few hours before serving so the flavors blend well. I also recommend using pitted olives in their own brine rather than olives soaked in heavy oil. This will keep the salad on the lighter side. Mangiare!
Rosie’s Famous Olive Salad
- Two to four pounds of pitted Italian olives in brine partially drained (I recommend different colors for a more attractive dish.)
- Three to four celery stalks with leaves, chopped
- ½ of a red or Spanish onion diced
- Olive Oil and Wine Vinegar to taste: (Mom always eye balled this but at least three tablespoons of olive oil. The vinegar depends on how much brine. Less wine vinegar if you are using the brine.)
- Pinch or two of black pepper or red pepper flakes
- Two cloves of crushed garlic, or a sprinkle or two of garlic powder
- One large red pepper or two marinated red peppers diced
- Sliced vinegar peppers for an extra kick. About a cup for the large recipe, smaller recipes should be to taste
Mix all ingredients in large salad bowl. Cover and store at least two hours before serving to allow flavors to blend.
Add diced cheese and/meets if desired upon serving.
Serve with crusty Italian bread. Left over salad can also be chopped and served as a flavorful appetizer on top of crostini.