Here’s another of my double-duty holiday recipe strategies: black olives that we’ve doctored up with fragrant homemade rosemary oil. I serve them as an instant hors d’oeuvre with chilled wine or cocktails AND pack them into glass jars to give as gifts.
The method is simple:Nicoise olives, or other black olives, are marinated in flavorful rosemary oil with masses of rosemary leaves, a simple technique that imparts a wonderful flavor to the olives and seems to intensify their own. The rosemary is cooked in the oil, so it keeps its green color for several weeks. Packed into French canning jars, these olives look like they were homemade in Provence. (Check out our compendium of glass gift jar sources.)
Because it is difficult to make the rosemary oil in small quantity, this recipe yields more than you will need to flavor the olives. It is an extremely versatile oil that can be used in salad dressings, on vegetables, ripe tomatoes and roasted peppers, pasta, mashed or baked potatoes, to fry eggs, to drizzle on foccaccia and grilled bread, and in soups and vegetable stews.
Recipe/Method: Nicoise and Other Black Olives with Fragrant Rosemary Oil
Nicoise olives and other black olives are available in bulk and jars in the gourmet section of supermarkets (we recommend buying UNpitted olives as they have more flavor and a better texture than pitted.) The olives will keep about 3 weeks and the oil indefinitely under refrigeration.
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup fresh rosemary leaves (stripped from the branches)
1 pound Nicoise olives, drained and rinsed
Freshly ground black pepper
In a small heavy saucepan, heat the oil over moderate heat until hot. Add the rosemary and cook about 2 minutes until the oil is very fragrant; tiny bubbles should barely dance around the leaves. Remove the pan from the heat and let the oil steep at least 10 minutes before using.
Strain the oil into a small bowl, pressing the rosemary sprigs with the back of a spoon to extract any oil.
Place the olives in a medium bowl. Add the rosemary and 1 tablespoon or two of the rosemary oil to the olives and toss to coat. Add fresh pepper to taste and pack the olives in clean, dry jars.