Just a few days ago, it was seventy degrees. This weekend it snowed. All weekend. Fortunately, we had some of these very summery olives to remind us of warm weather. They are based on a recipe from Quick Pickles by Chris Schlesinger, John Willoughby, and Dan George. This is a very appealing book with enticing recipes and, what's almost as important to me, good notes on each and every one of them.
I like to know what a cookbook author thinks about a recipe -- where it came from, why it is the way it is, what's negotiable, what's not. This book is excellent in this regard, and though I have only tried this one recipe so far, it gives me a lot of confidence in the others, too. S. was immediately attracted to these olives, so I made up a batch, more or less, incorporating a few ideas from the Paula Wolfert books I've been reading obsessively of late. She suggests that green olives should be boiled, drained, and rinsed (up to three times) before marinating, to remove excessive bitterness. I find that this is true, and what's more, a slightly warm olive seems more receptive to its marinade. Here's what I did:
1. Take about 2 cups large green olives. Get the kind with the pits still in them, because they taste a lot better. If they are not already cracked, lay them on the counter and whack them lightly with a frying pan. Put them in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, then drain and rinse. Repeat if you like.
2. Put the following in a food processor: 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, 1/2 teaspoon cracked black peppercorns, 2 crumbled bay leaves, the chopped zest of 2 lemons, about 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, and 4 cloves of garlic. Pulse until you have a rough powder/paste.
3. Add 1/4 cup lemon juice and blend some more.
4. Mix this paste and the olives in a bowl. Cover the bowl and let it sit for at least an hour. In the meantime, cut up about 1 cup of thin slices some combination of bell pepper (any color), celery, fennel, or red onion. Also cut 1 lemon into very thin slices and remove the seeds.
5. After at least 1 hour has passed, add the lemon and vegetables to the olives, along with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Toss, cover, and refrigerate. These olives will keep quite a while and are better at room temperature than they are cold, so take them out of the fridge at least half an hour or so before you want to eat them.