Citrus + Garlic Marinated Olives are my perfect appetizer, and they are ideal for any special occasion. While this hasn’t been the year of large gatherings, I am still turning to recipes that feel special and dinner-party-worthy, especially for holidays. That’s where this recipe comes in. This is one of those starters that hits the sweet spot of: looks gorgeous, tastes great, simple to throw together. What’s not to love? To make, you’ll quickly cook crushed Castelvetrano olives in extra virgin olive oil with citrus peels and smashed garlic. When done, serve with crusty bread, crackers, or even on a cheeseboard. This appetizer is also fabulous spooned over some crumbled feta, as I have pictured here. Once you’ve enjoyed all of the olives in the bowl, save the leftover infused oil! The oil alone makes this recipe worth it. It’s briny, garlicky, citrusy, and delicious with a baguette.
You’ll notice I call for pitted and slightly crushed olives here. Using pitted olives makes it simpler to serve this appetizer with bread so people can easily enjoy everything in one bite. I also like to gently crush the olives before adding them to the oil, which serves two purposes. One: it kind of flattens the olives, which prevents them from rolling all over the place when serving on bread. Two: gently crushing the olives creates more nooks and crannies for all of that infused oil. As far as citrus goes, I love using the peel from one navel orange and one Meyer lemon, but all orange peel or all lemon peel would be delicious. Be sure to check out the section beneath the recipe for tons of ways you can riff on this recipe.
- 1 Cup extra virgin olive oil
- 4 Garlic cloves
- 1 Orange
- 1 Lemon (Meyer lemon if you can find them!)
- 1½ Cups drained and pitted Castelvetrano or other mild green olives, (about 6.5 oz drained if you are going by weight at the store)
- Optional: ¾ teaspoons crushed red chili flakes, Aleppo, or Marash Chili
- Optional: 6 Ounces crumbled feta from the brine, goat cheese, or Manchego cheese
- Baguette slices for serving
- Smash four garlic cloves on cutting board until peels come off and each clove breaks into smaller pieces.
- Using a vegetable peeler, remove the peel from one orange and one lemon into large strips, being mindful not to peel off too much of the white pith. Save the peels for this recipe, and also save the whole citrus, as you may want to brighten the dish up at the end with fresh citrus juice.
- Gently crush olives with knife or back of hand on cutting board, and set aside.
- Gently heat olive oil in small skillet or saucepan over medium-low heat, and add crushed garlic. Stir occasionally. Add crushed chili flakes if using. Once garlic has started to sizzle and some of the edges turn golden brown, about 5 minutes.
- Reduce heat to low, add crushed olives and citrus peels to the skillet, and let simmer for about 5 more minutes. Turn off heat and let mixture sit for anywhere between 10 minutes to an hour before serving.
- If serving over cheese, break up feta, goat, or Manchego cheese into serving bowl. Transfer entire marinated olive mixture over crumbled cheese (or straight into serving bowl if making without cheese).
- Finish with fresh citrus juice if desired, and serve with baguette.
A FEW NOTES ON RIFFS:
- The Citrus: I love the combination of orange and Meyer lemon here. The peels from two oranges, two lemons, or even two grapefruits would work well here, too! I wouldn’t use limes in this particular recipe, but any other citrus is fair game.
- The Olives: If you have a friend that’s on the fence about olives, this recipe will change their mind. Castelvetrano olives are mild and many chefs joke that they are the “gateway olive”, and I couldn’t agree more! Castelvetranos are just briny enough to make this exciting without being overpowering. Any other mild green olive will do the trick. I also prefer to buy olives in a brine from the deli section of the grocery store, as I find they have better briny flavor than something in a jar. I have tried this with jarred olives and it works well, so don’t worry if that’s what you have! If you go that route, maybe up the spice factor for a bolder flavor. More on that below!
- The Spice: Have a specialty spice blend you love? Throw in a few pinches into the olive oil with the garlic. This will help bloom the spices and bring out their flavor. I’ve tried this recipe with the Bombay Orange blend from Oak Town Spice and it was pretty out-of-this-world delicious. If you can’t get your hands on this exact blend, it has: Orange Zest, Aleppo Chile, Minced Green Onion, Coriander and Fennel – any of these spices on their own would be a great addition!
- The Cheese: Serving this dish over crumbled cheese is optional! If you are vegan or dairy-free, simply omit this step. I love feta that comes in a block in the brine, goat cheese, or even Manchego.
- The Herbs: Okay I didn’t mention this in the recipe, but you COULD add a sprig of fresh herbs while the oil is still hot. I did try this with rosemary sprigs a few times, but I found that there was too much variability between different varieties of rosemary to 100% recommend this. Some versions came out perfectly infused with an herby flavor, while other varieties of rosemary quickly became acrid and bitter. I do think a soft sprig of fresh oregano would be amazing!
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