No Rest for the Indolent
It would be clearly inaccurate to say that I grew up in a household that did not care about food. But one could say, without undue fear of contradiction, that I grew up in a household where the boundaries were not much pushed. This was not, by any means, always a bad thing. String beans that have been grown in one's own garden and canned (where you will understand that "canned" really means "jarred") in one's own kitchen and then reintroduced to the outside world along with respectable quantities of bacon are the sort of thing of which it is difficult to get too much.
Still, doing things they way they have always been done sometimes does little more than perpetuate bad habits and narrows horizons, and I am certain that when I left home for college, I had no idea that ripe olives came in any other form than those hollow black pellets that one finds in the canned foods section of the supermarket. I was literally unable to stomach such olives as a child (Imagine that you're an olive tree, standing on the same sun-drenched hillside that you've inhabited for the past hundred or more years, and every year you've seen your ripe fruits lovingly harvested then marinated with salt and perhaps some herbs and a good wine vinegar, and you've been fine with that because the fruits of your branches have been truly appreciated, only now the farmer says that he's leased you to some conglomerate, and your beloved fruit is going to end up in a can, perhaps on a supermarket shelf, or perhaps in some industrial kitchen where they'll be sliced and set out at the Pizza Hut salad bar, and, well, how would you feel? You eat cheap canned black olives, you hurt a tree. It's that simple, people!), and you might imagine my sense of wonder and delight upon discovering the increasingly diverse universe of olives that is some small compensation for the myriad insults of adulthood.
And now that I can walk into any of several suburban supermarkets and belly up to the olive bar and shovel delicious olives into little plastic containers until the barkeep cuts me off ("I'm sorry sir, but I think you're through here. Move along to the cashier, please. We don't want a scene. Thank you."), you might think that I have taken my enjoyment of olives about as far as it could go. And, indeed, until relatively recently, I would have agreed with you.
But then I was reading a Hungry Tiger post a while back, and I saw some sort of marinated olives, and
It should not surprise you to read that I didn't actually bother to go back and check out her recipe. I'm not even sure that she gave a recipe rather than a process. Marinating olives (note how I smoothly move over to writing about the process as if I've been doing it forever) is more an art than a domestic science, and you can probably put lots of different things in them. I didn't really see the point in doing more to the olives if it wasn't going to involve garlic, but any of the other ingredients are fairly optional. I used what I had around.
A container of good ripe olives
1 clove garlic, pureed
1/4 preserved lemon, the unusable part removed, and the rest chopped fine
2 T. cilantro-lime vinaigrette
2 T. lemon juice
1/4 t. red pepper flakes
Fresh ground pepper
Chopped fresh cilantro and/or parsley
Drain the olives and put them back in the container.
Add the garlic, the preserved lemon, and the vinaigrette. Put the lid back on the container and shake well. Refrigerate overnight.
Take the container out of the refrigerator. Taste. Realize that the vinaigrette is a bit of a distraction when the olive oil is cold. Wonder what to do. Cut open a lemon and squeeze it over the olives. Add the red pepper flakes, the chopped herbs, and the ground pepper, to taste. Put the lid back on and shake well. Drain out most of the liquid.
These really were awfully good, and they were very good even with the cold vinaigrette clinging to them, but they were better with less of it clinging to them. I was worried about the preserved lemon because it's so very salty, but the flavor infused the olives in just the right way. The next time I make these olives, I'll probably skip the vinaigrette and perhaps just reserve some of the brine or add some decent wine vinegar along with the garlic, the preserved lemon, the pepper, and the red pepper flakes. Then I'd let that sit for a few hours (or overnight), drain, add the chopped cilantro and parsley, and serve it that way. But you can put in whatever you like, of course. I suspect that V. would like them made with some chopped anchovies. I'm not especially fond of anchovies, but if I also added some chopped sun-dried tomatoes, then all I'd need would be some penne, some olive oil, and some grated cheese, and I'd have a very nice puttanesca.