Marinated olives make a simple and especially flavorful snack. Olives are delicious on their own, but they are even better when mingled with citrus zest, herbs and spices. Marinating olives is easy, and it adds some unique flavors to the olives, making them ideal to nibble on with cheese, wine, or a crusty baguette. Once you make the basic recipe, play with the taste by adding your own favorite herbs and spices. It’s also a healthy snack, and convenient to have on hand for last minute gatherings.
Start with a mixture of both green and black olives. Good choices are Picholine, Gaeta, Taggiasca, Castelvestrano, Nicoise, or Sicilian green, but any type, except canned black olives, will work well. This is a good opportunity to try some new varieties of olives, especially those available only seasonally. Add orange or lemon zest, fennel seeds, and your favorite herbs, and allow the flavors to come together. Make a large batch; they will keep, refrigerated, for a month. When you are ready to serve them, spoon into a dish and let the mixture come to room temperature. A spoonful of the olives and their marinade, along with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar also makes a great salad dressing.
Many grocery stores now have an olive bar, and Trader Joes, Wegmans, and Whole Foods are also good resources. Often, you can find unusual varieties in the gourmet food section at TJMaxx.
Citrus & Herb Marinated Olives
- 4 cups assorted olives, (with pits)
- Zest of ½ lemon
- Zest of ½ orange
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
- 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
- ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- pepper to taste
- Good quality extra virgin olive oil, to cover olives
Using a mortar and pestle or a food processor, combine zest, garlic, thyme, rosemary, fennel, and red pepper flakes with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add pepper to taste.
Toss olives with the marinade and place in a glass container. Add additional extra virgin olive oil to cover. Store in the refrigerator.
To serve, spoon olives and marinade into a dish and bring to room temperature. Add a large piece of lemon peel or thin slice of fennel as garnish.
You can also serve the olives warm. Place olives and marinade in a small baking dish and heat in a 350° oven for 5-7 minutes. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar before serving.
~ Adjust the herbs and flavors to your liking; try cumin or coriander seeds, grated fresh ginger, cilantro, or a bay leaf.