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Black Olive Vinaigrette

The background, supporting flavor players in this healthy, versatile dressing are the herbs de Provence and the bright, acid hits that come from the lemon, lemon zest and red wine vinegars.

This robust, salad dressing is an homage to those served in Marseille. What grabs your attention about this rustic, French-style dressing is its black color, complex flavor and think, creamy texture. Although it has the “mouth feel” of a rich Thousand Island or creamy Blue Cheese, this clever dressing contains no dairy, egg yolks or mayo at all! Surprisingly, uses only olives, and, a small amount of olive oil to achieve this culinary feat.

The secret of this unusual, black-colored dressing is using two types of olives: brine-cured and oil-cured. It’s crucial that you use a combination of olives since this provides balance in the finished dish, and prevents it from tasting too sharp, watery or salty. Black, brine-cured olives, such as kalamata, nicoise, and Sicilian are made from mature fruit that undergoes a natural fermentation process for several months in a strong salt brine, similar to pickling. During this process, the sugars in the olives convert to lactic acid and acetic acid, which imparts its sour taste. Oil-cured olives (which are actually salt-cured!) are packed in dry salt when ripe, and are allowed cure for several months to dehydrate and soften, resulting in an intensely-flavored earthy, rich, soft-fleshed, almost “meaty” olive with very little sour taste and a slightly bitter edge. You can spot oil-cured olives by their appearance: watery, brine-cured olives have a plump, taunt skin, while oil-cured olives have a wrinkled skin. Oil-cured olives also provide the much needed creamy texture that prevents this dressing from being too one-dimensional. To achieve the complexity of flavor this recipe requires, you’ll need to use two types of brine-cured black olives combined with1 type of oil-cured olives. This showcases the olives’ briny and savory flavors while rounding out their assertiveness.

The background, supporting flavor players in this healthy, versatile dressing are the Herbs de Provence, dijon Mustard and the bright, acid hits that come from the lemon and red wine vinegar. While you can use a pre-made, Herb de Provence blend, you’ll get much better results making your own. Just be sure to use freshly dried herbs and toast the fennel seeds before grinding. Tastes great on a Bistro-style Nicoise Salad!
Image of Black Olive Vinaigrette (Vinaigrette Fouettee Aux Olives Noires)
Black Olive Vinaigrette (Vinaigrette Fouettee Aux Olives Noires)
Makes: 1 ½ cups

¼ cup (about 15) Salt-Cured Black Olives, pitted (might be listed as Moroccan-style olives)
¼ cup pitted Kalamata (Greek) Olives (brine-cured)
¼ cup French Black Olives (brine-cured)
1 Tablespoon Herbs de Provence (see recipe below)
1 teaspoon Good Quality, Red Wine Vinegar
1 teaspoon Lemon Juice
1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
1 teaspoon Capers, rinsed
1 clove Garlic, peeled and smashed
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
Lemon zest of half Lemon
1 1/2 cup Water

Herbs de Provence
1 Tablespoon Dried Rosemary
1 Tablespoon Dried Basil
1 medium Bay Leaf, crumbled into several pieces
1 Tablespoon Dried Thyme
1 teaspoon Fennel Seeds

Place fennel seeds in a nonstick pan on medium heat and toasted till light brown and fragrant.
Image of herbs in blender vase
Add toasted fennel seeds to a blender or spice grinder and add the remainder of the ingredients and pulse until it becomes a homogeneous mixture—about 10 seconds.

Pour spice mixture onto a plate and set aside.
Image of blended ingredients for vinaigrette
Add the remainder of the ingredients to the blender and purée until an emulsion occurs—about 5 seconds.
Image of vinaigrette
Pour black olive dressing in a dish, cover and place in the refrigerator for several hours to allow the flavors to “marry”.

Notes from the Author:
This dressing also tastes great on steamed Yukon Gold or Russian Fingerling Potatoes.
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