Ingredient SpotLight

November marks the start of the holiday entertaining season and that means having lots of ideas for quick appetizers and snacks on hand. And that means making sure you have olives around.

Olives are native to the Middle East -- particularly Iran, Syria and Palestine -- and spread to the rest of the Mediterranean nearly 6,000 years ago. It is one of the oldest cultivated products in the world and has a rich history in both the culinary and religious worlds.

In addition, olives can add flavor to dishes with only about 21 calories per serving (about 4 large olives) and a good dose of monounsaturated fat, which has been shown to raise HDL (or good) and lower LDL (or bad) cholesterol levels.

Of course, this time of the year, most people just want to have a few items on hand to put out when unexpected guests arrive. Olives are perfect for that as well. They keep well and the recipes below take just a few minutes to prepare and can be kept in the refrigerator. Having them there will mean that there’s a party waiting to happen throughout the holiday season. Enjoy!

Simple Olive Spread

This spread is wonderful spread over small slices of bread that have been lightly toasted.
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 c. capers
  • 6 anchovy fillets (in oil)
  • 1 ¾ c. pitted black olives, such as Niçoise or Kalamata
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 T. pepper
  • Olive oil (about ¾ cup)

Peel the garlic cloves and chop them finely. Rinse and dry the capers. Dry the anchovy fillets and chop them finely.

Place all of the ingredients in a food processor and season with the pepper.

Add the olive oil in a steady stream and process until it forms a thick, spreadable paste.

  • Yields: about 2 cups
  • Preparation Time: 10 minutes

These marinated olives can be made a few days before Thanksgiving and used throughout the holiday season. Simply mix them together and store them in the refrigerator. Just make sure you make a big batch -- they'll go fast!

Marinated Olives

Marinated olives have a lot more flavor than typical brined olives and are wonderful when paired with a dish of hummus and fresh vegetables.
  • 1 tsp. whole coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp. whole cumin seeds
  • 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 T. champagne vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red hot pepper flakes
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups pitted olives (I like a combination of black and green)

Toast the coriander and cumin seeds in a small skillet over medium heat, shaking the skillet occasionally, until the seeds are fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes.

In a jar with a tight fitting lid, combine the seeds and the remaining ingredients except the olives. Cover and shake well. Add the olives; cover and shake well to coat the olives with marinade. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 1 month before serving.

  • Yields: 12 servings
  • Preparation Time: 10 minutes, plus chilling time