I have a weakness for foods that seem fancy but aren’t actually complicated to make. They have the benefits of those arduous recipes, eliciting impressed oohs and aahs, but they don’t take much time on task. A prime example: buttery castelvetrano olives warmed in a skillet with lemon zest, garlic, and fresh thyme.
Now, I’m an olive lover through and through. I’ll happily dig into a jar of briny kalamata olives or linger over chewy dry-cured olives… (In fact, I’m such an olive lover that on our honeymoon, I tried one straight off the tree while walking through an olive grove in Assisi, Italy. Word to the wise: Don’t do that. It’s awful.)
David, however, isn’t a big fan of olives. His tune changes, though, when Castelvetrano olives are involved. Castelvetrano are the Adele of olives. They woo even those who typically shy away. They are milder, more rounded in flavor, with less of that tinny quality that is common in a ripe olive.
Castelvetrano olives are easy to recognize by their bright green hue, the color of Kermit. They’re commonly in the line-up on olive bars. Although, after seeing one too many adults sticking their hands into olive bars and chomping away, like some kind of Mediterranean apple bobbing, I stick to the jarred variety.
Whenever I see warmed olives on a restaurant menu, I have to order them. Warmed olives are similar to the marinated olives I’ve made over the years, but with less of a waiting period. (Since I can enjoy olives straight out of the jar, it’s hard for me to want to whip up a marinade and then wait hours or days until I can enjoy them. I’m more likely to scrap it and just dig in with a fork.)
To make this warmed Castelvetrano olive recipe, simply sauté drained olives with lemon zest, chopped garlic, fresh thyme, and extra virgin olive oil. After the garlic is fragrant, turn off the heat, and allow the flavors to develop in the warm skillet until serving time.
One warning: While it usually takes me a while to work through a jar of olives, when they’re warmed and popping with the flavors of garlic and lemon, it’s easy to plow through half a jar in a sitting.
Should you have leftovers, they can be saved for later in the refrigerator, and gently warmed in a skillet again. After some marinating time, the flavors are a little more pronounced, but not to a tremendous degree.
After the olives are eaten, use the remaining flavored oil for dunking bread. Or pull out the sprigs of thyme, add a splash of vinegar, and make a flavorful salad dressing.
These warmed Castelvetrano olives are a wonderful addition to a vegan charcuterie board or nibbly night. On a cold February evening, having a warm dish in addition to the usual spread makes it even more satiating.
Pile it on to a board with any or all of the following: jalapeño cashew cheese or store-bought cashew cheese, hummus, roasted chickpeas, berries, sliced bell peppers, pickles, jalapeño slices, jarred artichoke hearts, dolmas, orange slices, and crackers.
A meal of finger foods feels a little luxurious and a little sexy – perfect for Valentine’s Day or just another Tuesday night.