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By Suzanne Lehrer | June 13, 2011

Photo: Suzanne Lehrer

Olives: you either love them or you hate them. Either way, you can’t deny that there is a certain mystique to one of the oldest foods known to man, thought to have originated in Crete as far back as seven thousand years ago. Olive cultivation spread throughout Egypt, Greece, and Asia Minor, and are referenced in ancient Egyptian art, the Bible, and all other manners of awesome old stuff. Long known and used as a symbol of peace, olive branches were even found in Tutankhamen’s tomb.

Photo: Suzanne Lehrer

In the 4th century, the Greek botanist Theophrastus recorded that olive trees lived for up to 200 years-which is nothing when you consider that radiocarbon dating has found trees in both Crete and Portugal to be about 2,000 years old. Late to the game as always, olives weren’t brought over to the U.S. until Spanish and Portuguese explorers introduced them in the 15th and 16th centuries.

Just how seriously do olive-lovers take olives? Consider the International Olive Council, based in Madrid, comprised of 23 member nations (the U.S. is not one of them). The IOC is devoted to promoting olive oil around the world and has developed their own quality standards-the highest of which is extra-virgin olive oil, which contains no more 0.8% acidity, and came from only physical means in the very first press of the olives.

Olive oil, which has been used since 3000 BCE, was considered sacred in Ancient Greece where it was used to anoint kings and athletes, and was used to light the original “eternal” Olympic flame. Its health benefits are no ancient myth, however. Olive oil has been proven as an anti-inflammatory (most effective in extra-virgin), and is actively being research for its part in decreased heart disease risk and cancer prevention.

Scrambled Eggs with Olives and Ricotta Salata on Grilled Bread Recipe

Let’s face it: eggs are meant to be prepared salty-and I mean salty, which is why we’re always adding cheese, bacon, ketchup, or, well, salt. Without adding any table salt, the kalamata olives and the ricotta salata (if you don’t eat it all before putting it in the pan) add a luscious saltiness to the eggs, and create a nice balance of olive, basil, and cheesy eggs. While I love eggs for any meal, I’ve been getting tired of the same old rotation of cheeses and fillings, and this was an easy and delicious alternative that also gives your typical scrambled eggs some serious flair.

The grilled bread is a whole other story. This was my first use of my new grill pan, and it proved to be one of the best purchases I’ve made thus far in the kitchen. It created the perfect base for my eggs with a crunchy char on the outside, but warm and still soft on the inside. Consider yourself warned: once you go grilled bread, you’ll never go back to plain toast.

Tools: grill pan

Photo: Suzanne Lehrer

Green Olive Tapenade Recipe

While “tapenade” might sound fancy, it’s really just a word for ‘mixed altogether in a food processor.’ All the more reason to throw some simple ingredients into your own food processor to churn out a great alternate for pesto, or a simple spread to shmear on crostini or fresh tomatoes. Tangy and bright, tapenade is a great way to use a little bit of olive to go a long way.

Photo: Suzanne Lehrer

From Bon Appetit

Scrambled Eggs with Olives and Ricotta Salata on Grilled Bread
  • 1 thick slice of Italian "rustico" bread, or similar Italian bread without too many holes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/8 cup sliced kalamata olives
  • 1/8 cup shaved Ricotta salata
  • 4-5 leaves fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
Olive Tapenade
  • 1 1/4 cups pitted manzanilla olivesor other green Spanish olives, rinsed, drained well
  • 1 tbsp drained capers
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil(preferably extra-virgin)
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro


To Make Scrambled Eggs with Olives and Ricotta Salata on Grilled Bread:

For eggs:
Melt butter in a nonstick pan and saute the olives for 1-2 minutes. Beat the eggs with a fork first in a separate bowl, then pour over the olives. Nudge the eggs lightly with a wooden spoon or spatula, and when the eggs start to solidify, sprinkle the salata shavings. Keep nudging the eggs to scramble them, making sure to cook the other side half way through, adding the basil right before the flip. Let sit until eggs are cooked through and cheese is slightly melted, a total cooking time of about 5 minutes at low-medium heat.

For bread:
Heat the grill pan on medium heat until it's very hot. Brush the slice of bread with the olive oil on the pan. After about a minute, check the bottom for dark grill marks. Once the bottom side is light brown with dark grill marks, flip onto other side, and let grill for about 1-2 minutes. Spoon eggs on top of the bread and serve.

To Make Olive Tapenade:

Combine olives, capers and garlic in processor and chop finely. With motor running, gradually add lemon juice and oil and process until blended. Transfer tapenade to bowl. Stir in cilantro. Season to taste with pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

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