I’m popping in today with what might be the most
stupidly easy effortlessly elegant appetizer on my blog. I serve these roasted olives when I want to create an especially relaxed, informal atmosphere with friends, and it occurred to me that it would be a good one to share with you now, while we’re all crazed with too many things to do and too little time to do them in. Don’t let its simplicity fool you, this is a distinctive dish. When you roast olives they get softer and milder; they take on a melting texture that is a little unexpected, and so when a newbie pops a warm one in his or her mouth there’s always a ‘wow’ moment. You can serve them with a spoon so guests can have their own little plates, but frankly we all just pick at the pan and enjoy ourselves. Use toothpicks if you’re fussy.
We had this once or twice at good restaurants before I finally got hip to the idea that I could do it at home. You can make it your own by adjusting the ingredients. I gather the biggest variety of olives I can find, all from the olive bar at my supermarket. I’ll use pitted and un-pitted, and I take a few of each kind for a really good mix. I also like to use the stuffed kind, that just adds more color and texture. Olives from an olive bar taste so much fresher and better than bottled, and more and more stores now offer them. I add cubes of good feta cheese, which also mellows and softens with baking, and a couple of sliced jalapenos for excitement. Fresh herbs are great, and I sometimes use whole spices like fennel and cumin for a punch of flavor, it just depends on my mood. You can use plain or infused olive oils and vinegars for creative results. The key is in the roasting, and even plain olives taste heavenly when they come out of the oven.
There are so many reasons to recommend this appetizer It can be thrown together ahead of time and baked whenever, it’s visually beautiful, it’s something your guests may not have had before, and it’s actually healthy, none of which you can say about cheese and crackers.
- About 3 cups assorted olives, pitted or unpitted (or allow about 1/2 cup per person) Seek out a good, colorful assortment.
- about a cup of good quality feta cheese, cut in small bite sized cubes
- 1 or 2 red or green jalapenos, thinly sliced, seeds and all (optional)
- juice of 1 lemon
- handful of fresh thyme
- salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
- 3 Tbsp good quality olive oil
- 2 Tbsp good quality red wine or sherry vinegar
- Set oven to 400F
- Spread the olives out in a casserole dish or gratin dish. Toss with all the rest of the ingredients and taste the dressing to adjust any of the elements.
- Bake for about 20 minutes until bubbling.
- Replace the roasted thyme with fresh sprigs, and serve hot with crusty bread.
NONE of the amounts are set in stone. This is the kind of thing you put together by eye. Taste the dressing as you go and adjust to your liking. Add minced garlic if you like.
Serve some good fresh crusty bread along with the olives to mop up that great sauce! OK, now you’ve got your appetizer covered, take a deep breath and get back out there and shop!