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Green Olives with Raw Almonds

Olives are a staple of Moroccan cuisine. At his award-winning San Francisco restaurant, Aziza, Moroccan-born chef Mourad Lahlou serves this marinated olive mix as a cocktail nibble. He likes to include a variety of green olives with different textures, sizes and degrees of intensity; he uses olives with pits because pitted ones lose too much flavor and get mushy when marinated. The blanched almonds are a fun twist—they drink up the infused oil and become crunchy-soft, tasting more like olives than almonds.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups extra-virgin olive oil
  • 20 garlic cloves
  • 4 chilies de árbol
  • 1 large orange
  • 1 blood orange
  • 1 Meyer lemon
  • 1 lime
  • 10 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 2 fresh rosemary sprigs, each 6 inches long
  • 1 1/2 cups blanched whole almonds
  • 2 lb. mixed green olives, such as Castelvetrano, Picholine,
      Lucques and/or Hojiblanca
  • Crusty bread for serving

Directions:

Put the olive oil in a large saucepan and add the garlic cloves and chilies.

Using a vegetable peeler, peel the zest from the oranges, lemon and lime in strips. Lay the strips skin side down on a cutting board and use a sharp paring knife to remove any white pith. Stacking a few strips at a time, cut them into fine julienne. Add the zest, thyme and rosemary to the saucepan, set over medium-low heat and bring the oil to a simmer. Remove the pan from the heat and let stand at room temperature for at least 1 hour to allow the flavors to infuse.

Meanwhile, put the almonds in a bowl. Boil enough water to cover the almonds and pour it over them. Let stand at room temperature to allow the almonds to soften, about 1 hour. Drain and dry the almonds on paper towels.

Pour the contents of the saucepan into a large bowl and toss with the almonds and olives. Refrigerate in a covered container for at least 1 week before serving, or up to 2 months.

To serve, remove the olives from the refrigerator and bring to room temperature. If you want to serve the mix warm, spoon it into a small sauté pan with some of the olive oil and warm it over the lowest-possible heat. Serve in a small bowl with a few pieces of crusty bread to dip into the oil. Makes about 6 cups.

Adapted from Mourad: New Moroccan, by Mourad Lahlou (Artisan, 2011).