Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Better Marinated Olives

 I love olives.  Black olives, green olives, olives with pits, olives stuffed with garlic, olives whole or chopped or ground into tapenade.  Last year I marinated the best olives I could find (filled out with the only olives I could find in the grocery) using a recipe from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food.  They were wonderful, and beautiful too, although drenched in olive oil, most of which was leftover when the olives were long gone.

2011's diet allowed me "MUFA"s in abundance:  mono-unsaturated fats (the "good fats"), to be consumed with every meal in appropriate portions.  Hello, olives!  Our refrigerator has collected a nice collection of tapenades (green olive, black olive, even roasted red pepper with olive).  Some bought, some home-made.  Olives now can be found in the grocery in single-serving packs, perfect for lunch boxes and picnic baskets.  Olive oil is also a MUFA.  So are nuts:  almonds, peanuts, sunflower seeds, all those wonderfully crunchy delights.  This girl LOVED this diet!

Marinated olives were at the top of my easy-and-lovely Christmas Eve smorgasbord menu.  I found another recipe online which was much simpler, but still called for SO MUCH olive oil.  Three cups for one jar of olives.  THREE CUPS of olive oil.  That would dress 3 c * 16 T/c = 48 salads.  The green, diet salads, where 1 T. is a serving.  The marinade was good, the olives poor (the local grocery only had canned black olives available).  It was quick, it was easy, and we had olives.  I preferred last year's recipe, not just because the olives were better.

Then, by courtesy of the internet, I stumbled upon today's recipe.  Warm Marinated Olives with only 1/2 c. olive oil.  NOW we're talking.  This recipe is similar to Martha's with substantially less oil.  It does require some waiting - you know, marinating - for several days as the flavors meld (we refer to this step as "get happy").  MARINATE.  A little patience, great results, and a little bonus:  I added that bottle of cocktail onions I'd been worried about using, an open bottle of good green olives, and the rest of the olives from Christmas Eve.  That's THREE empty containers.  Delicious!

Warm Marinated Olives
Based on this recipe:
Yields 2 cups.
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

4 medium cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
Grated zest of 1 lemon (the original recipe called for orange and lemon zests, but we're out of oranges, so lemon zest it is)
3 branches fresh rosemary leaves
1 large or 2 small dried Turkish bay leaves (see note about these)
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
Generous pinch of ground allspice
2 cups olives  (green picholine and black Kalamata recommended)
1 jar (3 oz. less a few martinis) cocktail onions (remember, we're using things up here)

Heat the oil and garlic in a 2-quart saucepan over medium-low heat until the garlic turns golden, about 3 minutes. Add the zest, rosemary, bay leaves, red pepper flakes, and allspice and sizzle for 2 minutes more, stirring occasionally. Add the olives and onions and toss to coat. Transfer to a bowl to cool, then cover and refrigerate, stirring occasionally, for at least 2 days and up to 1 week.

Just before serving, gently reheat the olive mixture in a small saucepan over low heat until warmed through, 2 to 3 minutes. Scoop the olives and aromatics into a serving bowl and pour a bit of the oil on top. Serve warm.

A note about my zester:  I had a zester.  It's location and fate is still unknown.  Enter a Superior Substitution. 

While shopping at a nearby TJ Maxx (the source of much great cooking gear at reasonable prices, if you want what they have), I found this Microplane grater needing a good home.  It's "for chocolate".  I couldn't pass that up.  There may be better graters out there, but I haven't found them.  Microplane is a gold-grater-standard.

It's really for shaving anything you'd dream of - hard cheese, chocolate, and (YES!) it works fantastically for shaving lemon skin to make zest.  I'd tried using my first-born Microplane for zest, but it's a fine grater - the yield was too high, more oily and fluffy, not substantial enough to be considered "zest".  Perfect for fine-grated Parmesan cheese, but not so good for lemons.  This younger, bolder sister, is my new zester.  Hmm... zester/sister.  Much in common.

Oh, and about the Turkish bay leaves.  They are superior because they're softer and lend a better flavor faster in a saute or infusion like this marinade.  With a week's notice, I can order them from Penzey's.  If I think about it, I'll pick up some next time I'm in Richmond. 

Today, though, I have standard dried bay leaves on hand.  They're tough as leather (or magnolia leaves, for any of you, like me, who've dealt with a magnolia tree near the house) and release fanastic flavor when stewed or steeped.  I threw a couple into this mix, then IMMEDIATELY thought I should have substituted a few fresh sage leaves from the plant still thriving in my kitchen garden.  Perhaps I should have added the bay leaves when I added the garlic, giving it the maximum exposure to heat and liquid.  Maybe the Food Muse will grace me and this two-day-to-one-week marinating time will allow the bay leaves to give up their earthy flavor.

We'll see.  Taste testing begins with Friday Night Tapas.  I'm confident.

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