Marinated Olives with Lemon and Oregano

Two good friends came over on Tuesday for dinner and to check out the new house.  I do love visitors and entertaining, and coming up with a palatable menu is one of my favorite things to do.  Most people know that I eat anything that is put in front of me, so cooking to please me is never much of a challenge.  Keeping that in mind, when I’m cooking for others I tend to model what I make after the types of food that they’ve served me in the past because then I know it’s something that they’re likely to enjoy.  This couple is famous for always putting out platters with a variety of delectables such as smoked salmon, cured meats, wheels of Brie with a freshly baked baguette, collections of olives and all sorts of other miscellanea like an Eastern European red pepper dip that I love.  Bearing that in mind, I felt that a mini-antipasto starter bar was probably a good way to go to tease our appetites into getting ready for dinner.

I love making antipasto, and some of my favourites are salty charred artichoke hearts, balsamic onions, marinated mushrooms, and eggplant salad.  However, the day before they were coming I was running errands after work and that day I knew that they would be arriving only about a half hour after me.  I had to do some prep work and my focus was clear:  flavorful and fast.

The mini-antipasto starter bar had;

  1. Lemon Oregano Olives
  2. Kalamata Olives
  3. Marinated Bocconcini
  4. Fireball Cherry Peppers 
  5. Thinly sliced mild Salami
  6. Thickly sliced baguette
  7. Wedges of fresh, vine ripened tomato

It is rare to find fresh, untampered with olives at the grocery store.  99.9% of the olives you come across have been ‘cured’ through brining, oil, water, lye or salt.  Raw olives are quite firm and bitter, so the curing is very much a necessity before they can be enjoyed, and it also preserves them to last for significantly longer than a fresh olive would fare.  You can get plain, brined olives that just taste like…well, like olives.  You can also get marinated olives which are generally in a flavoured brine or a herbed oil.  I like to get the plainest olives that I can find, and make my own marinade which varies according to my mood.  This one, however, is one of my favourites that I make the most.  The olives are bright and fresh with loads of sunny citrus and the pungency of fresh garlic.  YUM!

Lemon Oregano Olives

  • 500 ml/2 cups/1 med. sized olive bar tub of large green olives with pits *
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried marjoram
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

* Try Manzanilla, Naphlion, Sevillano, or whatever other green olive you prefer.  Look for one that is brined and not oil cured, with a firm, smooth flesh.  You do not want olives that have been marinated already, so look for a clear brine.  Finally, I said ‘with pits’ for a reason.  For the love of god, please DO NOT even contemplate the option of using a jar of pimento stuffed Manzanillas.  Trying to do so would result in being immediately smote down from the Food Gods.

In a medium or large bowl, or a small rather flat dish with high sides like I have, get the zest of half a lemon.

Press, grate, or mince into a paste 1 medium size clove of garlic.  You’re seeing the bottom half of the one below.

Squeeze in the juice of your lemon, pour in your generous tablespoon of olive oil, and measure out the oregano, marjoram, and hot pepper flakes.  There is only 1/4 tsp of pepper flakes because really, we want these more for colour than anything else.  If you like it spicy then feel free to add more, but I think this suits our needs just splendidly.  You do not need to add salt, as brined olives tend to be quite salty enough on their own.

Use a fork or a small whisk to mix it all up.

Toss your olives around in their new home and tuck them in the fridge over night to take on all that flavour.  If you absolutely don’t have time then you can serve these right away, but then that’s not really marinated olives – more like ‘olives in a lemon-oregano vinagrette’. 

Transfer these to your serving bowl and that’s done!

Oh, mini-antipasto bar.  You are, truly, a good friend to me.

I’m at a loss as to what a song to go with marinading would be, but at the time I think I was listening to Elvis Costello’s remake of Christina Aguilera’s Beautiful.