How to Dress up Olives for a Tapas Treat

Salami And Black Olives With Cheese On Granite Stone
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Green and black olives are always in the Spanish pantry. Stone in, stuffed with anchovies, garlic, almonds or pimentos, they are enjoyed in every conceivable way in Spain. They are served in salads, or as a salad themselves with oil and vinegar, and/or spices like paprika and onions.

All of the olive tapas combinations below are simple to make. Most can be prepared at the last minute, although some of them are best when allowed to marinate. Ingredient amounts are not always included and should be adjusted to each person's taste, or in Spanish, cada uno a su gusto. We recommend that you use extra virgin olive oil in all cases because it will add deep, rich flavor to the mixture. Use plain pitted green or black olives, without spices.


The ideal presentation for spiced olives is in a clear glass bowl with a serving spoon. This will allow the colorful ingredients, as well as their aromas, to be seen and appreciated.  Be sure to use glass or ceramic bowls, not metal, to prevent a reaction to any acid in the marinade. Prepare several different marinades for variety. Set out small cards alongside each bowl, listing the ingredients, or ask your guests to guess what is in each one.

Olives for a Wine Tasting

The following are attractive and aromatic combinations that are best with wine and look great served in large brandy snifters.

  • Black Olives with Manchego Cheese, Fresh Thyme, and Olive Oil
    Place a cup of black pitted olives into a bowl. Cut 2 to 3 ounces of Manchego cheese (cured) in strips. Add cheese strips and a sprig of fresh thyme. Drizzle with olive oil.
  • Green Olives with Almonds, Raisins, Red Grapes, Oil and Vinegar
    Place a cup of green pitted olives in a bowl and add a handful of peeled, blanched whole almonds, a few tablespoons of fresh red seedless grapes and raisins. Dress with olive oil and vinegar to taste.
  • Green Olives with Ground Cumin and Oregano with Garlic
    Place green pitted olives in a bowl and marinate with a mixture of freshly crushed oregano sprig, a pinch of ground cumin, a teaspoon of Spanish paprika, finely minced garlic and vinegar.
  • Black Olives with Grated Carrots, Ginger, Honey, and Pepper
    Grate a carrot. Peel and finely chop a tablespoon of fresh ginger. Place a cup of black pitted olives (drained), grated carrot and ginger into a small bowl and mix. Ground a bit of pepper over the top. Drizzle a tablespoon honey on top and mix.

    Olives with Wine, Cocktails or Beer

    The following can be served with red or white wine, cocktails or a cold beer. Although aromatic, they are not as colorful as the olives above, so serve in an open bowl or shallow dish (glass or ceramic) to allow the scent to diffuse throughout the room.

    • Green Olive with Cilantro, Sugar, Lemon and Hot Peppers
      Remove stems from 3 to 4 sprigs of cilantro and finely chop. Place cilantro in a bowl with a cup of green pitted olives. Add a teaspoon brown sugar (or honey). Chop 1 to 2 dried pequin peppers and sprinkle on top. Cut a long slice of lemon peel (about 1/4 lemon) into strips and stir into the olives. Drizzle with olive oil and serve.
    • Black Olives with Canned Cockles, Vinegar, Capers and Sun-dried Tomatoes with Oil
      Drain the cockles and capers and place in a bowl with the black pitted olives. Chop the tomatoes and mix in. Add olive oil and vinegar to taste.
    • Green Olives with Anchovies, Onion and Orange Slices
      This olive marinade is best served on a plate with toothpicks or a spoon and fork for serving. Drain anchovies (can of 5 oz). Cut a quarter of an onion into long, thin strips (julienne). Place a cup of green pitted olives, anchovies, and onion in a bowl and mix with 2 tablespoons of orange juice. Add a few segments of mandarin oranges. Chill. Arrange on a plate to serve.