Having people over for dinner often leads to the perplexing question of what to serve beforehand as an hors d'oeuvre. Taking the time to make what can seem like an entire additional course is difficult when you're already trying to get dinner on the table! I'm catering a large dinner party next week and have been pondering this very question- what can I set out for people to nibble on that I can prepare ahead of time, and won't keep me away from the hot dinner on the stovetop.
Marinated olives are a staple at Chez Panisse, offering diners a little flavorful snack that wets the appetite without being too filling. They are simple yet delicious, and are one of the many inspirations I took with me from my time working there. I have developed my own citrus and herb marinated olive recipe that is great served warm or cold, and can be easily made in advance and stored in the refrigerator.
It is also the dish that keeps on giving, as the leftover herb-infused olive oil is amazing drizzled on pretty much anything, or turned into a simple vinaigrette when combined with lemon juice. As for the remaining garlic cloves- I have been known to devour them all. Cooked in the oil, they become so mild you can pop them in your mouth whole!
CITRUS MARINATED OLIVES
- 1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
- 15 garlic cloves, larger cloves halved
- 2 cups mixed olives (Lucques, Picholine, Castelvetrano, and Kalamata)
- 4 freshly peeled strips of lemon rind
- 4 freshly peeled strips of orange rind
- 1/4 cup capers
- 3 dried chili peppers, whole
- 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns, coarsely crushed
- 3 dried bay leaves
- 2 branches fresh rosemary
- 5 branches fresh thyme
Heat the olive oil over medium low in a saucepan. Add the garlic cloves and cook until lightly golden. Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool for a few minutes. Turn the heat to low, add remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Allow the ingredients to warm. Remove from the heat and let marinate for a couple of hours. Reheat before serving if desired.