Warm Mediterranean marinated olives are the ultimate appetizer or mezze. Thyme, oregano, fennel, and citrus zest are warmed with olives to create a fragrant hors d’oeuvre. If you have ever traveled through the Mediterranean, you have probably passed hundreds of miles of gnarled and ancient olive trees clinging onto rolling gentle hillsides. These abundant trees provide the fruit of the olive as well as the bounty of the oil.
In France and Italy, the noble olive is added to many cooked dishes. You may have had tapenade, a black or green olive paste, or chicken and fish with olives in the sauce. Greek salad with salty kalamata olives and feta is the perfect summer salad. Salade Nicoise uses smaller french “Nicoise olives” to create a composed green salad with tuna, eggs, and haricots verts.
In Greece and Turkey, the olive is eaten marinated or cured.
These warm marinated Mediterranean olives are transformed by the addition of a few herbs, thyme, oregano, and toasted fennel seeds. Red pepper flakes are added for a little spice. You may choose to use either lemon zest or orange zest. I would use either one but not both.
Use your favorite olives, preferably an olive that is from the Mediterranean area. My favorite olive is the Italian castelvetrano green olive. I like to combine these with Greek kalamata olives. This olive which is from Sicily is mild and sublime and even a little crisp.
The kalamata olive is a large, meaty, dark purple olive from Greece.
This simple recipe combines all of the olives and herbs and spices and zest in a large bowl. Then add a good extra virgin olive oil and stir everything well to combine.
Pour the olive mixture and the olive oil into a large skillet and place it over medium heat. Something magical happens when you warm the olives. The herbs and spices become fragrant and begin to penetrate the olives and season the oil.
Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring gently. Pour the olives into an earthenware bowl. Garnish with a sprig of fresh oregano or thyme if you have it and serve immediately.
Olives are the ultimate Mediterranean food. They can be served as an appetizer or in other entrees or in salads.