marinated olives

Mikey and I had a standing date night on Thursdays. The last few weeks he was alive, work was pretty busy for him and we had to miss those dates. I try to not feel cheated about it, but I’m human, and I miss him. I wish we had that time back now, more than ever.

After he died, I decided to keep Thursdays for myself. Much as I cherish dinnertime with the girls, the reality of dining regularly with a 3 and 8 year old is sometimes…interesting. It’s hard not to laugh when Virginia sticks her big toe in Isabella’s face and begs “smell my feet”. I’m often tempted to put a drop of crazy glue on Isabella’s seat since she wiggles in it more than a worm burrowing its way through an apple. Thursday is my night to savor a hot meal, and let someone else worry about the clean up.

I sometimes choose to go out alone, and bring my journal to write in as I watch the scenes playout of diners around me. There is so much to be learned about the human condition from eavesdropping on people’s dinner conversations. Some weeks I meet a friend, and my latest haunt has been a lovely little wine bar in the East Village, called In Vino. Mikey’s best friend lives close by, and he introduced me to the place.

A few weeks ago, I decided to mix things up and went with my friend Rosemary to Lavagna, another Italian restaurant around the corner from In Vino. Yeah, I’m a creature of habit and didn’t stray far from my fellow countrymen’s cooking. Personally, I like the vibe at In Vino much better. It’s easy to blend in there as a single gal. The few minutes I waited for Rosemary to arrive at Lavagna, I felt like there was a neon flashing sign on my head. As for the menu, the food was good, but didn’t leave me with a hankering, like the meatballs or Roman-style artichokes do at In Vino. What did make me stop in my tracks was the olive bowl set out with the bread.

I know, how is it a little bowl of olives—five or six at most, left the biggest impression. It wasn’t the olives so much as the oil they were bathed in. It was thick and creamy, with a hint of herbs and faint spicy flavor. There were thin shards of lightly browned garlic. Imagine the insanity of falling hard for an olive-infused olive oil. I couldn’t stop dipping chunks of bread into it, and thankfully Rosemary doesn’t like olives, so that meant more for me.

I went home with them on my mind, and for the first time ever I had the incentive to want to make marinated olives. Normally I just like snacking on them as-is, but now the oil is all I crave to dab bits of bread into at dinnertime. The next day I picked up olives from the Italian market, and have since consumed more olive oil soaked bread than I should probably admit. One taste, and you’ll understad my new addiction. Unless you’re like Rosemary, and don’t like olives. In that case, I will gladly eat them all for you.


Marinated Olives

makes 1 1/2 pints

I love making these with a mix of kalamata, nicoise, green Sicilian and picholine olives. I also prefer using olives with the pits—chewing the meat off them is half the fun in my book. Feel free to use your favorite mix of olives, and of course, the pits are totally optional.

3/4 cup (187 ml) extra virgin olive oil, plus more as needed

3 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced

1/8 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes

4 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves reserved & stems discarded

1 pound (16 ounces)  assorted olives

Divide the olives between two clean, sterilized glass jars.

Heat the oil in a medium-sized skillet over medium-high heat, until it is shimmering. Add the garlic and chili flakes. Swirl the pan, and cook until the garlic is lightly golden, about 1 minute. Remove the pot from the heat and add the thyme leaves.

Pour an even amount of oil in each jar of olives. Screw the tops on tightly, and store the olives at room temperature for up to two weeks. As you use the olives, add more oil, as needed, to keep the olives completely covered.


  • Flavia

    I adore marinated olives. My husband hates olives, so whenever we go to a restaurant that serves them, I get the entire bowl to myself. I’m glad I’m not the only one who relishes the pleasure of chewing the meat off the olive pit-it’s such a satisfying feeling. Thank you for sharing such a lovely post and recipe, Jennie.

  • Ness [Six One and Then Some]

    I can pinpoint the day that I stopped hating olives. I was sitting in quite a fancy restaurant in North Adelaide, and none of us at the table had touched the olives. Before taking them away, the waitress pursuaded us to give them a try – they were, after all, organically grown in the Barossa valley! They were amazing. They were plump and smooth, and the olive oil and garlic in which they bathed pushed them right over the top. Incredible. I still avoid those heavily-salted kalamata olives you buy from the supermarket, but give me a marinated olive any day!

  • CL

    Ooh! I have to try this recipe. I, too, went to an Italian restaurant that had so-so food but the BEST marinated olives! They were served with some crumbled blue cheese on the side as well. Yummy. Thanks for posting this 🙂

  • Rose D., Frenchtown, NJ

    Marinated olives bring back beautiful memories of my childhood. My parents taught my siblings and I at a very young age how to marinate olives as well as every other vegetable we grew in our garden. I’ve since kept the tradition in my own home and am teaching my littles the same thing!! Thank you for a simple yet touching post this morning! ~rose

  • Devon Cretella

    They serve something almost identical at Michael Symon’s Lolita restaurant in Cleveland. Only real difference is they warm them up prior to serving. Wow…they are amazing.

  • Tracey

    Good Morning Jennie!
    The olives look great.
    I am glad you are getting out. It doesn’t matter what you do, just doing it is good.
    I like the feet in the face thing. I was a only child, my mom had 19 miscarriages and I was her miracle baby. I would have liked a sister to taunt..or be the one who was taunted.
    Thank you for the fun recipe and the great read. I hope your day is filled with more olives than pits. (even when your life is the pits..) Wishing you lots of sunshine.

  • Kathleen Richardson

    I’ve never dipped bread in olive oil, but I hear that really good olive oil can even be drunk (in small amts.) out of a glass. This recipe sounds so good. Love that you are so good to yourself, continuing your special nights.

  • Kim in MD

    I am so glad that you are taking some time for yourself, Jennie.
    I love, love, love olives! I can’t wait to try this recipe. Thanks for sharing!

  • Laura

    Wow. First off, someone desperately needs to visit Kathleen Richardson up there ^ and introduce her (and her waistline!) to bread and olive oil! She is missing out!!!
    Secondly, although I don’t *do* olives (except on chain-store pizza), these sound like a great idea for snacks at our wedding. I just need to price the olives! I think it would be fitting, because it seems that you were an amazing wife (and ARE an amazing woman), and a little of that on my wedding day would get us off to a great start 🙂
    Thanks again!

  • Jenna | The Paleo Project

    the way you write about food is so perfect. It’s no wonder why you’re such a fabulous recipe creator, it’s in you! I try to make recipes and I often write about them, but not with this depth. You’re so inspiring Jennie. Thank you.

  • Preeya

    you help me appreciate the important things in life – with your strength, motivation, love and creativity.thank you for this!

  • Marilyn

    I got to thinking that this would be good birthday and Christmas presents, along with a loaf of crusty bread.
    I’m not a cook by any stretch of the imagination, so my question is: did you buy all the olives in jars or at an “olive bar,” as I call them (as in Whole Foods).
    Thanks for the info!

  • Deetledee

    Only thing missing is some mozzarella and red wine…I love crusty bread dipped in olive oil with herbs! The olives totally complete it.