And so we return to the world of stuffed olives, with Trader Joe’s Almond Stuffed Meski Olives. The last time we traipsed into these briny grounds was with Trader Joe’s Seriously Stuffed Peppers with Olives, Capers and Garlic which – now that I think about it – one, isn’t technically a stuffed olive but an olive which has been stuffed into something and two, didn’t actually involve brine. Damn, so close.
As the above paragraph may indicate, yes – I am currently drunk. Not just because it’s before noon on a Sunday, but actually and in fact for very important research reasons. You see, when I bought this intriguing sounding olive garnish I though there might be something really interesting going on with it. As it turns out, they are pretty much just olives stuffed with almonds – not too much to add. So to up the ante, as it were, I’ve been making martinis.
Unlike the stuffed peppers, or some of Trader Joe’s other stuffed offerings, I was relieved to find these weren’t packed in oil but just your standard salty, olive brine. Another relief was to discover that the meksi olives themselves are shockingly mild. When I think of green olives, I think of the pimento stuffed cocktail variety found, most frequently, at my grandmother’s house during get togethers. Salty little bastards that kick your butt after about one and a half olives.
In comparison, Trader Joe’s stuffed meski olives are gentle delights – briny, to be sure, but mild enough to munch away on by the handful. Certainly mild enough to be broadly appealing to party goers. Stick some toothpicks in these and I’d you’ll have yourself an intriguing hors d’oeuvre.
Whether this mildness of taste is a property of the stuffed almonds or not, I couldn’t say. In either case, they certainly make a nice accompaniment. The nuts are a touch bland, but they balance out the stronger flavor of the olive while lending it some considerable heft and crunch – something to really chew on, rather than pop in the mouth.
Overall, it’s a little olive revelation – I’d never considered buying olives as a garnish before, but I’d certainly think about picking these up again in the future.
Of course, when it comes to garnishes, there’s one other famous use for olives – the martini. Trader Joe himself suggests tippling it up with these olives right on the label – either as a cocktail garnish, or with the brine for a dirty martini “like no other”. See, it all comes full circle.
While TJ doesn’t go on to substantiate that last claim, I just so happened to have enough gin and vermouth laying around the house to consider putting that claim to the test.
So here I am, sipping on an extremely dirty cocktail, essentially attempting to savor olive brine mixed with a punishing liver toxin. It is only as I lift it to my lips that I remember, oh yeah, martinis are terrible. Or they certainly are the way I prepare them. 6 parts gin to 1 part vemouth, per the standard recipie, with 5 or 6 spoonfuls of olive brine. Simply terrible – like a punch straight to the liver. There actually seems to be more in the glass each time I sip from it. Hundreds of ounces of harsh gin (top shelf, Beefeater – absolutely murderous) with a sassy little olive flip.
If only I could stop drinking it. Of course, Momma didn’t raise no quitters.
At any rate, I subscribe to that school of thought which says, if a lot of people like something, but I personally don’t see any merit in it, I’m probably missing something. Maybe it’s just an acquired taste? and polishing off this glass will clarify my understanding? However at this point, three quarters of the way down, it seems unlikely. I suppose it doesn’t help that I prepared it in a big honking wine glass.
A dirty martini “like no other”? No, I’m afraid I can’t independently verify that. Brine-wise, this seems to be just as good as any other olive brand you might like to pick up. In terms of garnishes, however, I’d have to give it an enthusiastic thumbs up.
Would I Recommend It: Yes – a very gentle and tasty olive.
Would I Buy It Again: I never thought I’d say this about stuffed olives, but yes.
Final Synopsis: These olives are good, and I’m drunk.
Trader Joe’s Seriously Stuffed Peppers struck me as a particularly intriguing novelty when I stumbled on them the other day. Not only do they sound like something your industrious grandmother might prepare for Christmas dinner, but they look exactly like that too. Each jar is tiny and cute, topped with a bit of homely parchment rubber-banded around the lid. Inside the jar a dozen or so cherry peppers are packed to bursting with a whole olive, some garlic, and a caper or two. That seemed like it just might be delicious, so I picked it up.
What I wasn’t ready for was all the oil! Not unlike the dolmas I bought a while back, these tasty, European appetizers are somewhat ruined by the enormous amount of oil they’re packed in.
First the good stuff. These stuffed peppers are pretty dang tasty. Based on the smell alone, I was prepared for an intense blast of pickled flavor, or a blazing hot burst of heat. The reality is nothing of the sort – instead they’re mild, slightly bitter, slightly nutty, with a flavorful, zesty tail.
The bitterness comes from the cherry peppers, which don’t bring any heat, but only a mild taste and toothsome texture, with just a hint of bitterness that suggests they’ve been cooked slightly too long.
Inside of these guys are the capers, olives and garlic. All three perform exactly how you’d expect – the olives and capers bring their salty, pungent taste and the garlic sneaks up behind you the moment you swallow to put a little bit of fire on the tongue. The result is very edible. Overall the stuffed peppers are much more mild than olives or capers are on their own, much more flavorful than garlic, and much more complex and interesting than simple cherry peppers. All together, they make for a nice little antipasta – perfect for throwing on the side of some pasta or lamb.
Almost perfect, I should say.
As nice as they are, I have a serious problem with how oily these peppers are. What I thought was a pickle brine at first glace, turns out to be sunflower oil – thick and viscous, with a slightly nutty taste and a smell that starts fills the room as soon as you open the jar. We are talking about a heavy, heavy oil here, and it coats the peppers in a permanent glaze. Drip, dab or wipe a pepper all you want, and it will still glisten with a fine oily sheen. I’m not kidding – my fingers are slipping all over the keyboard as I write this. My girlfriend as a jar of oil she uses on her air, a mixture of coconut oil, argan oil, and macadamia oil, that is less oily than the oil in this jar.
Evidence of the oil’s impact is visible in the nutrition facts – each 4 pepper serving contains only 60 calories, but 40 of those calories are from fat. That’s a huge amount of fat to cram into what are, otherwise, nothing but vegetables. The sunflower oil also imparts its own flavor on the peppers – imbuing the whole thing with a nuttiness that doesn’t fit in with the rest of the flavor profile.
I do like these stuffed peppers, and I’d love to snack down on them, but there really doesn’t seem to be a good way to do that. It’s tricky to fish the peppers out of the jar without them falling apart – trying to get the oil off of them without ruining their delicate construction is even harder. Leaving the oil on is always, an option, but the result is a big pool of oil on your plate or running down your finger. That’s not the end of the world, obviously, but it does limit how you eat and serve them.
Between the very pretty packaging and the beautifully stuffed peppers, this is dish looks wonderful in the jar sitting on your self. Unless you have a pressing need for antipasta, however, I’d recommend leaving them there.
Would I Recommend It: Not really – it’s okay, but not worth the hassle.
Woudl I Buy It Again: No, it’s much too oily for me.
Final Synopsis: Very nice as décor – not as good as food.