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Cooking Tips

Microwave-Fried Olives Make the Perfect Crispy Garnish

And all it takes is 5 minutes.
By Published Jan. 5, 2022

With their soft, creamy texture and pop of briny flavor, olives are a delicious candidate to add to almost any dish. But what if they were crunchy instead of creamy? Changing their texture makes them even more versatile.

We’ve developed a microwave-fry method and found it foolproof for capers, shallots, and—you guessed it—olives. With a little oil and a heatproof container, many ingredients can be crisped up in the microwave in less than 10 minutes. Oil-cured olives are even more straightforward: They already come with their own oil and take less than 5 minutes to crisp. The results? A crunchy, salty garnish with concentrated olive flavor.

All olives start out green and contain a powerfully bitter compound called oleuropein. This means they have to be cured before eating. The most common cures are brine, dry salt, and lye. (Read more about our favorite olives here.) Oil-cured olives are not actually cured in oil, but rather added to the oil for preservation after curing. This makes them ideal for a microwave-fry.  

This method was used by Cook’s Illustrated Executive Food Editor Keith Dresser for his Roasted Fennel with Crunchy Oil-Cured Olives recipe. (This recipe is also included in our latest cookbook of Mediterranean recipes, More Mediterranean.) The briny olives plus lemon zest elevate the earthy, nutty flavors of the fennel, but the topping adds salt and crunch to other dishes as well. (A few of our favorites: sprinkled over any roasted vegetable, fish, or pizza or in a salad.)

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Pit (if needed) and coarsely chop 2 tablespoons oil-cured olives.
  2. Line plate with double layer of paper towels.
  3. Spread olives on towels in single layer.
  4. Microwave for 2½ to 3 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds.
  5. Once olives start to dry and no longer clump together, remove from microwave and let cool for 10 minutes (during this time the olives will crisp up). 
  6. Transfer olives to cutting board, sprinkle with lemon zest, and chop fine.

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