I'm an olive lover. My husband loathes them. I think sometime during his childhood he must have had a tin-flavored pitted olive from a can and his taste buds gave it a thumbs down. I can just picture this little blond boy, dramatically gagging and spitting and making a fuss. He hasn't been willing to nibble an olive since.
Through all the years I've known my husband, I've made it my mission to add olives to the list of foods he wants to eat at least once in a while.
People who choose not to eat olives, one of the oldest foods in the world, may not realize that besides their diversity in size and appearance, the flavor and texture of olives spans a range from rich and buttery to soft and peppery to meaty and sour. Some say it's an acquired taste. I'll admit there are some varieties I prefer over others. But, no matter, I can never eat just one.
Although olives have a very high fat content, most of that fat is monounsaturated, the kind that supports heart health. Olives are also a good source of vitamin E, a strong antioxidant.
Health benefits of olives do not sway the stubborn olive-despising man I live with. I've tried tempting him by stuffing olives with lemon and garlic into a whole chicken before roasting. I've chopped gourmet olives and stirred them into cream cheese and feta spread. I've made tapenade. I've tossed them into pasta. Nothing works to entice him enough to try an olive.
Roasting olives makes a good thing even better. You'll want to use an assortment of sizes and colors of premium olives - black, brown, dark green and light green. This time I added some green olives stuffed with garlic and some stuffed with almonds. Small chunks of roasted red pepper add bright color and delicious smoky flavor.
If you're feeling adventuresome, there are all kinds of ingredients that would be fun to try adding to the olive mixture - bay leaves, fennel seeds, oregano, asparagus tips, capers.
Aromatic Roasted Olives are delicious served warm with chunks of crusty, chewy bread. Put out an extra small bowl to collect olive pits. Store the leftover roasted olive mixture in a jar or glass bowl in the refrigerator. They will keep well for two weeks. The olives will taste best at room temperature, though, so allow time for them to sit out before serving. They're great to have on hand when company comes. Take them to picnics and pack them when you go out on the boat. There are always some olive lovers in the bunch.
On the day I roasted olives, the sweet fragrance of roasting herbs and garlic met my husband as he walked through the door. And on the island in the kitchen was a dish of roasted olives glistening with olive oil, with rosemary and thyme, slivers of garlic and chunks of roasted red pepper interspersed throughout. He poked around the dish with a wooden scoop. Was he actually going to taste an olive?
Not this time. He pulled out the chunks of roasted red peppers, then layered them on a sandwich between fresh spinach leaves and marinated pork. The olives stayed behind.
I know that if he'd just take a little nibble of one of the Aromatic Roasted Olives, he'd be sold. And I could whisper, "Mission accomplished."
Aromatic Roasted Olives
1 pound assorted black and green olives
1 red bell pepper, roasted, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, sliced
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary
Grated zest of 1 large orange
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/3 cup olive oil
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss all of the ingredients together in a large bowl. Transfer the mix to a shallow baking dish or roasting pan. Roast for 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Tips from the cook
--When using tender stems of thyme, the leaves can stay on the stem when you mix them into the olives. If the stems are woody, use only the leaves. I like to pull the rosemary sprigs apart, making smaller sections. I whack the rosemary leaves with the top edge of my knife to release some of the fragrant oil before tossing them with the olives.
--I normally roast a red pepper whole, but this time I cut it up first. Use a sharp knife to slice the sides off the pepper in four sections, removing any white membrane from each piece. Lay the pieces, cut side down, on a small foil-lined baking pan and slide them under the broiler set on high. In 5 to 8 minutes, the skin will be black and bubbled. Watch closely. Transfer the roasted pepper pieces to a glass dish and cover tightly with plastic wrap, allowing them to steam for about 10 minutes. Use your fingers to peel the skin off the peppers. It will slide right off.