When eaten 15 minutes before a meal, olives and almonds have been proven to slow digestion and help the body to absorb more nutrients in the upcoming meal. When you add goat cheese into the mix, this appetizer becomes a healthful Mediterranean meal in itself! The almonds and olives can be made a week in advance, and the cheese can be made up to 3 days in advance. Serve with toothpicks or cocktail sticks for spearing the cheese and olives.
For the Almonds
1 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika
½ teaspoon unrefined sea salt or salt
½ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ cup (60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
13/4 cups (252 g) blanched almonds
For the Marinated Olives
1 tablespoon (15 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh oregano
1 teaspoon fresh parsley
2 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch crushed red chili flakes
¼ pound (115 g) cured black olives
¼ pound (115 g) cured green olives
For the Marinated Goat Cheese
5 ounces (140 g) Queso de Murcia, Spanish goat cheese, or any goat cheese
1/3 cup (78 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
½ teaspoon black peppercorns
1 clove garlic, minced
Handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley
5 sprigs fresh tarragon
To make the almonds, mix together the paprika, salt, cumin, and cayenne in a small bowl.
Heat the olive oil in a large, wide skillet over medium-high heat. Add the almonds and sauté, stirring constantly, until the almonds begin to turn color and release their aroma, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in salt mixture and allow to cool. Store in a jar or airtight container for up to 1 week.
To make the marinated olives, whisk together the olive oil, oregano, parsley, garlic, black pepper, and red chili flakes.
Place the olives in a medium glass bowl or a plastic storage container. Pour the olive oil mixture over the top, mix well to coat, and cover. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
To make the marinated goat cheese, shape the cheese into small bite-size balls. Mix together the olive oil, lemon juice and zest, peppercorns, garlic, parsley, and tarragon and pour over the cheese in a medium-size glass bowl, or a plastic storage container. Cover and chill for up to 3 days.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
Hospitality is paramount in all areas of the Mediterranean region, as are impromptu visits. Whenever someone is invited into someone else’s home as a guest, they are immediately given something to eat and drink. Even if the guest says that they aren’t interested, the items will be brought out and placed in front of them in case they change their mind. Not providing food or drink to a guest speaks poorly of the host. To avoid being considered rude, poor, or cheap, people purposely keep special types of appetizers, nibbles, biscuits, and sweets on hand for whomever might drop by. This appetizer trio fits the bill perfectly.