No matter the occasion, be it holiday or a weekend dinner with friends, I plan my entertaining menu from the bottom up. First, I decide on dessert (in other words, what form will the chocolate take -- cake, brownies, ice cream, cookies?), then the main course. Appetizers I leave for last, even though they come first in the meal and set the tone for the evening. Often I serve the apps right on the kitchen counter where I'm finishing cooking or plating the rest of the meal. Everyone congregates there, and I set out several appetizers to nibble before we sit down to dinner. These marinated olives can -- in fact, they should -- be made in advance; the longer they languish in the marinade, the more flavorful they become. Use your favorite green olives, with the pits in (I found Castelverano in the deli section at my regular grocery store), and be sure to rinse off the brine so it doesn't overwhelm the fresh Provencal seasonings. Serve alongside cheese, hummus, and crackers.
Marinated olives with garlic, pepper, orange and mint
Makes 2 cups.
2/3 lb green olives (I like Castelverano)
1 whole dried red pepper
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 whole garlic cloves, peeled
1/4 tsp mild red pepper flakes
1/4 dried mint
1/4 tsp black (or mixed) peppercorns
1 2-inch piece of orange peel
Wash the olives under cold water; rinse and drain. Place them in a quart-size jar, along with the whole pepper.
In a small sauce pan, combine the olive oil, garlic, red pepper, mint and peppercorns over low heat. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until you see tiny bubbles coming from the garlic. Don't let the garlic begin to brown.
Carefully pour the hot oil over the olives. Gently stir to distribute the spices throughout the jar. Add the orange peel. Cover, and set aside to cool.
When the jar is cool, refrigerate for at least 24 hours, and up to one month. The oil will congeal, so let sit at room temperature for an hour before serving.
More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Moroccan cucumber salad with herbs and olives
Whole wheat orzo with cucumber, mint, feta, olives and zahtar vinaigrette
Chicken with preserved lemon tagine
Other recipes that use these pantry ingredients:
Fresh roasted pepper and olive bruschetta, from Sass & Veracity
Crockpot beef stew with olives, garlic, capers, and tomatoes, from Kalyn's Kitchen
Quinoa salad with chickpeas, kalamata olives and mint, from Cookin' Canuck
Roasted mahi mahi with fennel, olives and oranges, from The Kitchn
Beet and orange salad with feta and mint, from From Kirsten's Kitchen to Yours
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