It’s not that often that I come across an ingredient that is entirely new to me but that’s exactly what happened last Wednesday at the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market. DeSantis Farm of Fresno, which may be best known for its enormous array of familiar and unusual citrus, had something they called Italian Frying Olives, fresh olives that do not need to be cured in salt, water or lye to extract their bitterness.

Angela DeSantis told me that her father has enjoyed them for as long as she remembers. He fries them in olive oil for about five minutes, she said, and seasons them with salt and pepper. How could I resist?

I bought a generous handful or two, a mix of completely ripe–you can tell because they are dark purple, nearly black–and half-ripe-half-green. I fried them in a little olive oil and they plumped up, just as Angela said they would. After frying the olives, I squeezed a little fresh lemon juice over them and sprinkled them with Maldon salt and several turns of good black pepper and then poured them over a big spoonful of burrata. As the olives cooled, they released a little ruby colored juicethat mingled with the warm olive oil and the fresh cool cheese. Absolutely delicious. And the olives had no bitterness whatsoever.

Although most fresh olives are much too bitter to eat, certain Italian varieties can be enjoyed without traditional curing. DeSantis Farm currently has the last of year's harvest.

I was both delighted and surprised, especially since the memory of some truly awful fried olives (cured olives, not fresh) has lingered in my mind since I tasted one at a local restaurant about a decade ago. It remains the single worst appetizer I’ve ever come across.But these, what a revelation!

You don’t have long this year to give these olives a try. When the first rains come, the season will be over. This Wednesday (November 2) may be your last opportunity until next fall.

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