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.
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.