Olives, A Love/Hate Story
Growing up, I had a conflicted relationship with olives. On one hand, the bitter meatiness of the jarred black olive offended my childish palate. On the other hand (literally and figuratively) the black spheres were the only food that I was given license to play with. Putting a black olive on each fingertip and eating one by one was a way to keep both child and adult entertained in the pre-dinner hour. So I suffered through the olive, if nothing else because I wanted to play with my food.
Flash forward some twenty years to my little stint of living in Italy, and my lifelong prejudice against olives quickly dissolved. The medley of green, purple, and shriveled black delights stripped away my assumptions that all olives were created equally and mono-flavored. Some were hearty and meaty, some were squishy with a bit of sweetness. Some were enhanced with herbs and aromatics. I was hooked.
But back stateside, I was faced with a dilemma. The olives that I love the most - the herb-y aromatic kind, are expensive. One of my true happy places is the Whole Foods olive bar, where the tiny fruits are dressed and coiffed in flavorful, herbaceous concoctions. I am giddy with delight as I scoop the olives into a takeout container, only to be riddled with guilt and regret when I hit the checkout stand. Spending $15 on something that might actually be gone before I get home seems fiscally irresponsible.
This journey through my struggle is all to let you in on a little, cost effective secret a friend recently shared with me. Not only is it easy to cure olives tailored precisely to your tastebuds’ desire, but that is exactly what the Greeks and other olive-loving cultures do. That watery solution in the jar? It’s just for transport. The real olive lovers of the world dump the liquid, and create their own oily marinade. The olives are just the canvas - not the finished product.
So now I’ve also started concocting my own olive marinades. The recipe that I have been experimenting with is a riff on my favorite herby, garlic-y version Whole Foods, but here is one that my friend gave me. They’re easy, affordable, and totally customizable. Enjoy!
Olives, Bespoke Style
- 1 1/2 cups Olive Oil
- 1 head** Garlic
- 2 Tbsp Rosemary
- 1/2 tsp chile flakes
- 1 tsp Oregano
- 1 tsp Mustard seed
- 1 Quart Olives - pick your favorite variety
1. Strain the olives and place in a large bowl.
2. Over low heat, warm the olive oil and herbs/spices/aromatics in the a saucepan. Heat for about 5 minutes, but if you're using garlic, make sure you don't fry it.
3. Pour the now delightfully infused olive oil over the olives. MIx and let cool. Enjoy!
**I REALLY like garlic. I may even go a bit overboard when it comes to the stuff. A more balanced approach is probably about 3-5 cloves, depending on their size.