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Fried Green Olives

The perfect accompaniment to a glass of sparkling wine, fried olives are also a great addition to an Israeli-style breakfast.

Sometimes the best dishes on a restaurant’s menu are the simplest ones. I love , the modern-Israeli eatery in New York run by chef Einat Admony. Admony’s cooking is inspiring across the board, from her crispy cauliflower with pine nuts and currants to the delicate branzino she serves with tzatziki and grilled lemons. But for me, the standout dish at Balaboosta is an unassuming plate of fried olives.

My husband and I first tried these fried olives on the enthusiastic recommendation of a friend. Piled on top of a downy bed of labneh with an electric red moat of harissa oil encircling the dish, they were crunchy, briny and utterly addictive. We seriously considered ordering a second bowl. Better judgment prevailed (there was a lot of food still coming to our table), but I loved them so much, I decided to include an homage recipe for fried green olives in my book “Modern Jewish Cooking.”

Turns out, they are a more-than-the-sum-of-their-parts kind of dish. Dip a few dozen pitted green olives in smoked paprika-spiced flour and a little egg wash, then coat them with a crust of bread crumbs. After a minute or two spent sizzling in a bath of hot oil, they come out browned and ready for snacking.

Perhaps the most endearing quality of fried olives (an inherently endearing dish to begin with) is their versatility. They are delicious on their own — in fact, I tend to make more than I need for any given meal or party because I always end up nibbling as I fry. They are even better served with labneh and harissa, as Admony does it. They would make the perfect accompaniment to a glass of sparkling wine, and speared on a swizzle stick, fried olives would handsomely garnish a Hanukkah-inspired martini, Bloody Mary or other dry and savory cocktail.

Personally, I love serving them as part of an Israeli-style breakfast. Their satisfying texture and hit of brightness and salt pairs deliciously with chopped vegetable salads, shakshuka and za’atar-dusted pita.

With Hanukkah’s fry fest approaching, take a moment to make sure that your kitchen is stocked with olives, vegetable oil and panko. Because no one ever said that latkes and sufganiot were the only fried foods to serve at the holiday. Your tastebuds will thank you for this fresh take on tradition.

Fried Green Olives

Serves 6 as an appetizer

¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 large egg, beaten
40 pitted green olives, drained and patted dry
Vegetable oil for frying

1) Stir together flour and paprika in a small bowl. Add egg to a second small bowl, and breadcrumbs to a third small bowl. Dredge olives in flour, shake off excess and dip in the egg wash, then dredge in the breadcrumbs.

2) Fill a medium saucepan with ¼ inch of vegetable oil; heat oil over medium heat until shimmering. Fry olives until crisp and golden brown, turning once, 2–3 minutes total. Adjust heat if olives are browning too quickly. Use a slotted spoon to transfer olives to a plate lined with paper towels and let drain. Serve immediately.

Recipe reprinted with permission from “Modern Jewish Cooking: Recipes & Customs for Today’s Kitchen” by Leah Koening. Koenig is a contributing editor at the Forward.

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