There are many different varieties of olives; they can be categorized in terms of colour, flavour, size, texture, location of growth, and many other variables. Olives are grown in France, Morocco, Spain, Greece, Italy, the Middle East, and Chile, in addition to a few other places in the world; they are the defining ingredient of Mediterranean cuisine. Traditionally, nicoise olives are to be found in the French region of Nice, from where their name is derived; however, they can now also be found in Italy and Morocco.
Nicoise olives are usually a dark purple, sometimes even black colour; they are mostly small in size and leave a distinctively sour, deep, nutty, smooth and full flavoured taste in the mouth. This flavour results somewhat from the time that the olive is given to age and soak in the red wine vinegar or brine and olive oil, by which it is cured. All olives are cured in some form of brine, in order to remove their originally bitter taste; however, there are a small number of olives that are enjoyable to eat raw, after being just sun dried. The choice of how the nicoise olives are to be cured will affect the colour they take; sometimes they appear in a reddish brown state.
Olives are not popular with everyone, due to the distinct flavours and presence of an inedible stone or seed in the middle. However, there are a number of health benefits to eating olives, as they are filled with vitamins, essential fats and acids, fiber, calcium, iron, antioxidants, as well as many other key nutrients. In 100 grams of nicoise olives there are approximately 250 calories.
The most common use of nicoise olives is in the popular nicoise salad, which can be found on many a menu, in numerous countries across the world. A nicoise salad is usually composed and constructed of lettuce, tuna, boiled eggs, new potatoes, haricots verts, tomatoes and of course, nicoise olives. Most salads are versatile dishes that can be adapted, which means that occasionally other greens and vegetables are added to the salad nicoise, such as onions and capers, as just two examples.
Another use for these particular olives is in French style sandwiches, with the combination of lettuce, white cheese, onions and tomatoes; this collection of ingredients can also form a side dish in many restaurants, although this does not form a nicoise salad.
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