Sheep’s Milk Cheese with Warm Green Olives

Updated February 23, 2016
This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

Just about any sheep’s-milk cheese would be a compatible partner for these seasoned olives. Aged goat cheeses, such as Dutch goat Gouda or Spanish Garrotxa, would work well too. The olives improve if made a day ahead. Let stand at room temperature, covered, and rewarm gently before serving with cocktails or the evening’s first glass of wine.




Total Timeunder 1 hour

Make Ahead RecipeYes

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Cocktail Party

Recipe Coursehors d'oeuvre, tapas/small plates

Dietary Considerationdiabetic, egg-free, gluten-free, halal, kosher, low carb, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free, vegetarian

Equipmentspice grinder


Taste and Texturecheesy, herby, hot & spicy, salty, savory, sharp, spiced, tangy


  • 1 cup unpitted green olives, such as Picholine
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 bay leaves, coarsely broken
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon fennel seed, coarsely crushed in a mortar or spice grinder
  • 1 dried red chile pepper
  • ½ pound sheep’s-milk cheese such as Idiazábal, P’tit Basque, or Manchego


With the side of a cleaver or large knife, gently smack the green olives to crack them; don’t pound too hard or you will smash them.

Heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the bay leaves, oregano, and fennel seed. Break the chile pepper in half and sprinkle some or all of the seeds into the skillet; add the chile pods to the skillet. Cook the seasonings briefly to release their fragrance, then add the olives. Cook, stirring, until the olives are hot throughout, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and let stand until they are just warm.

Trim the cheese of any rind and cut into thin slices or small cubes. Place the cheese on one end of a serving platter and spoon the olives, with their seasonings, alongside.



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