In New Orleans, when we think olives, we think muffulettas and martinis. However, the bite-size fruit was much more to the ancient Greeks and Romans than a filling for overstuffed sandwiches or a tangy garnish for swanky cocktails. Historians have concluded that olives may have been a source of wealth in the Minoan civilization, and there are countless references to olives throughout mythology and the Bible. Olives also regularly appear throughout the pages of another genre of books — cookbooks. You don’t have to be a scholar to appreciate their relevance or a top chef to prepare them. For easy appetizers, try these recipes that will impress your guests and keep the gods smiling.

Citrus Marinated Olives
1 pound large green olives
   with pits
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
1/4 teaspoon curry powder

Drain the olives of any brine, and rinse them thoroughly with cool water. Cover them with cool water, and allow them to soak for at least 5 minutes and up to 5 hours. 

In a 1- to 1 1/2-quart container, combine the garlic, olive oil, vinegar, lemon zest and juice, red pepper flakes, tarragon and curry powder. Add the olives, and stir or shake to combine. Make sure the olives are submerged in the marinade.

Allow the olives to sit in a cool, dry place for 24 hours, then place them in the refrigerator for another day or two before serving. Recipe courtesy of Alton Brown

Italian Fried Olives
1 ounce Gorgonzola, at
   room temperature
1/4 cup ricotta, at room
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
20 pitted green olives, rinsed
   and dried thoroughly
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
Vegetable oil, for frying

In a small bowl, combine the cheeses, thyme and lemon zest. Pipe the cheese mixture into each olive.

Place the flour, egg and bread crumbs in each of three small bowls. Coat the olives in flour, then egg and then bread crumbs.

In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, pour in enough oil to fill the pan about one-third of the way. Heat over medium heat until a deep-frying thermometer inserted in the oil reaches 350 degrees. Fry the olives until golden brown, and drain them on paper towels. Cool for 5 minutes. Recipe courtesy of Giada de Laurentiis