When I was a kid in Queens, New York, my grandmother would serve olives on a fancy crystal dish to impress her Italian boyfriend (she would also swirl them around in her martini glass), and I found them elegant and fascinating. My love affair continued after I met my husband, Gabriele, in Florence and saw his beautiful olive trees with their glistening silver leaves. Every year as a family, we harvest them by hand for hours, and I’ve gotten into roasting them, too. I just love their savory taste and smell, and a little heat brings them to life–making their earthy, salty goodness shine. Oh, and they’re healthy, too. Mangiamo!

  • 6 3-inch thyme sprigs
  • 2 3-ince rosemary sprigs
  • 1/2 tsp. coarsely crushed fennel seeds
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound (about 3 cups) assorted olives
  • 1/2 lemon, sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 1 unpeeled large garlic clove, crushed

    Position a rack in center of oven and preheat to 400°. In a small bowl, crush thyme sprigs and rosemary sprigs; add fennel seeds, crushed red pepper flakes, and extra-virgin olive oil and stir. In a large baking dish, spread olive oil mixture and arrange assorted olives in a single layer and lemon.

    Roast, stirring halfway through, until mixture is very fragrant and sizzling, about 20 minutes. During last 5 minutes, stir in garlic. Cool until warm or at room temperature.

    (Olives can be covered and refrigerated for up to 5 days. Remove from fridge 30 minutes before serving.)

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