Sunday, May 5, 2013

Cocktail Party Olives

Your own quick-marinated olives will have a freshness no deli or salad bar offering can match.  This combination of citrus peel, fennel seed and a little heat can be customized for your menu by selecting fresh herbs that match the rest of the meal or made to stand out with an extra dash of red chili flakes.  Both green and black olives take to this treatment well.  I usually use olives packed only in brine but if I have a few remaining olives in a flavored jar, they can join the party too.   By heating the olives, you speed up the flavor process.  Alternately, you can marinate the olives overnight to get a subtler effect. 

Cocktail Party Olives
Makes 3 cups

2 14-oz cans olives packed in brine
1-2 strips lemon or orange peel*
½ teaspoon fennel seed
¼-½ teaspoon red chili flakes
1 large spring of fresh herbs like thyme, marjoram, dill or rosemary
1 tablespoon high quality olive oil

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F.  
  2. Create a roasting envelope by lining a small roasting pan with a long sheet of foil with extra foil hanging over two sides.  Allow enough extra foil to close and seal packet over olives.   
  3. Drain the olives and place in foil-lined pan.  
  4. Add reaming ingredients and toss lightly.  Fold foil over olives and seal tightly.  
  5. Place olive sin oven and bake 15-20 minutes.  
  6. Remove and open foil.  Allow olives to cool to room temperature before serving.  
  7. If not serving right away, store in the refrigerator, covered.   Olives keep for 4-5 days. 

Elegant Life Leftovers: Tapenade
The yield for this recipe is three cups.  That might sound like a lot but they will go quickly.  You can cut the recipe in half for a small group or make tapenade with the leftovers.  To make tapenade, chop the olives finely by hand or in a mini food processor and add capers, anchovies and a bit of olive oil.  The proportions should be roughly 3 parts olive to 1 part each of caper and anchovy, but go with your own tastes. Add olive oil to get the consistency you like.  Thick and spreadable is nice.  You can also add a dash of sherry wine vinegar if it needs more acid but the capers should manage that area well.  Tapenades are another cocktail party guest—usually spread on bruschetta.  Or use it as a spread on sandwiches in place of mayonnaise or mustard.  This is really good on an Italian hero,  a roasted veggie pannini or a simple tomato open-faced sandwich.  Dot a reheated slice of pizza with tapenade to wake up the flavors.

* For a primer on how to get a perfect peel of lemon or orange, check out the post on this blog, "Bring Back the Twist" (4/25/2011).