I’m a firm believer in cooking by intuition and instinct. Every cook should allow himself the freedom to experiment and to follow his personal tastes into new culinary territory. (As long as nobody is harmed in the process, of course, which is why we stick to the plants.) Sometimes that territory is a little “out there” – even in the vegan world. I’m alluding to my favorite secret ingredient: the dark tangy liquid that black olives are kept in. See? It doesn’t even have a real name! It’s a byproduct! I’m going to call it “olive juice” from now on.
*Note: Olives tend to be canned in water with some added salt, and since the liquid is just there to keep the olives juicy, I do not know the nutritional content of the ‘juice.’ I’m guessing it contains a decent amount of sodium and of course, fat from the olives.
When I was young, sipping some of the juice from the can of black olives was equal parts secret pleasure and secret shame. Not until years later would I think to save the liquid and add it to dishes as I cooked. Oddly enough, even the olive-haters I’ve known have raved about meals I’ve made with olive juice as a secret ingredient. It just adds a little something.
- taco fillings (rice, beans, or “meat”)
- pasta salad
Liquids function as soup bases, marinades, sauce thinners, salad dressings, and are absorbed by the vegetables and other foods which soak up their flavors when simmered in them. Replace water or vegetable broth with olive juice, or just ask yourself, “Would a little hint of olive go well with this?”
To get you started, here’s a salad dressing/ marinade I made the other day for a pasta salad. I was fooling around in the kitchen, trying to recreate Kraft’s “Zesty Italian” dressing without the artificial junk, and I was quite pleased with the result. I’ll warn you though: it’s a medley of strange things I happened to have in on hand, so you’re getting a peek at my experimentation process. I don’t yet know how it will turn out with more basic ingredients.
Killer Italian Dressing:
- 1 cup olive juice
- 1/2 cup oil (I used roasted red pepper infused oil, which I highly recommend)
- 1/4 cup white vinegar
- 1/4 cup red wine (I used Shiraz)
- 1 tsp lemon juice (if I hadn’t run out, I would have used about 1 Tbsp)
- 2 Tbsp water (I used the starchy water leftover from boiling pasta)
- 1 Tbsp minced sun-dried tomatoes
- 2 tsp raw sugar
- 2 tsp Italian-flavored minced, canned garlic (if I hadn’t had this, I would have added Italian spices and fresh garlic.)
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion salt
Whisk together, then pour into a jar or bottle with a secure lid. Shake to blend before using.
Whether you try out this salad dressing or sneak your leftover olive juice into something I’ve never thought of, have fun experimenting!