Olives are so much better when marinated than when eaten straight from the jar or barrel that most people assume there is some trick to them. But there is not, other than to start with good olives. I do not use red pepper flakes when I marinate olives, but many people like a little bit of heat here - the choice is yours.
Note that these keep, and improve in flavor, for several weeks in the refrigerator. Always bring to room temperature before serving.
1 pound green or black olives, or a mixture, preferably imported from Greece, Italy, or Spain
1 teaspoon wine vinegar, or to taste
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, crushed
Several sprigs fresh thyme, 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
1. Using the side of a broad knife, crush the olives lightly.
2. Mix together all other ingredients, mix in the olives, then pack into a jar or place in a serving bowl; taste, and add more vinegar if necessary. You can serve these immediately, although they are better if they sit, covered and refrigerated, for a day or two. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Marinated Olives with Lemon
Add the minced zest of a lemon (a zester, which produces lovely strands, is the perfect tool for this) to the olives before marinating. Just before serving, toss in a few segments of lemon - cut the lemon in half through its equator and segment as you would a grapefruit.