Olive, Almond, and Goat Cheese Tapas/ Tapas de aceitunas, almendras y queso de cabra

When eaten 15 minutes before a meal, olives and almonds have been proven to slow digestion and help the body to absorb more nutrients in the upcoming meal. When you add goat cheese into the mix, this appetizer becomes a healthful Mediterranean meal in itself! The almonds and olives can be made a week in advance, and the cheese can be made up to 3 days in advance. Serve with toothpicks or cocktail sticks for spearing the cheese and olives.

For the Almonds:
1 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika
½ teaspoon unrefined sea salt or salt
½ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ cup (60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1¾ cups (252 g) blanched almonds
For the Marinated Olives:
1 tablespoon (15 ml) extra-virgin
olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh oregano
1 teaspoon fresh parsley
2 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black
Pinch crushed red chili flakes
¼ pound (115 g) cured black olives
¼ pound (115 g) cured green olives
For the Marinated Goat Cheese:
5 ounces (140 g) Queso de Murcia,
Spanish goat cheese, or
any goat cheese
1 ⁄ 3 cup (80 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
½ teaspoon black peppercorns
1 clove garlic, minced
Handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley
5 sprigs fresh tarragon
Yield: 6 to 8 servings

To make the almonds: Mix together the paprika, salt, cumin, and cayenne
in a small bowl.
Heat the olive oil in a large, wide skillet over medium-high heat. Add
the almonds and sauté, stirring constantly, until the almonds begin to turn
color and release their aroma, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in
salt mixture and allow to cool. Store in a jar or airtight container for up
to 1 week.
To make the marinated olives: Whisk together the olive oil, oregano,
parsley, garlic, black pepper, and red chili flakes.
Place the olives in a medium glass bowl or a plastic storage container.
Pour the olive oil mixture over the top, mix well to coat, and cover. Store in
the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
To make the marinated goat cheese: Shape the cheese into small bite-
size balls. Mix together the olive oil, lemon juice and zest, peppercorns,
garlic, parsley, and tarragon and pour over the cheese in a medium-size
glass bowl or a plastic storage container. Cover and chill for up to 3 days.

Mediterranean Tradition
Hospitality is paramount in all areas of the Mediterranean region,
as are impromptu visits. Whenever people are invited into someone
else’s home as guests, they are immediately given something to eat
and drink. Even if guests say that they aren’t interested, the items will
be brought out and placed in front of them in case they change their
mind. Not providing food or drink to guests speaks poorly of the host.
To avoid being considered rude, poor, or cheap, people purposely keep
special types of appetizers, nibbles, biscuits, and sweets on hand for
whomever might drop by. This appetizer trio fits the bill perfectly.

Appetizer & Meze