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Spicy Marinated Olives with Pickled Vegetables and Garlic

Spicy Marinated Olives with Pickled Vegetables and Garlic
This bar-top snack is commonly served in Barcelona with a midday aperitif. A memorable version is offered at the Bar Mendizábal in Carrer Hospital, a small kiosk decorated in bright 1970s colors, with a miniature terrace. In Spain, these spicy olives with pickled vegetables, known as variantes, are normally bought already mixed at market stalls specializing in olives and pickles, but they can easily be made at home. Briefly boiling the garlic cloves takes away some of their strong flavor while giving them a sweet crunchiness. Any olive variety will do, although Spanish olives would be more authentic.

Serve with a strongly flavored aperitif, such as vermouth or Campari and soda.

Ingredients:

  • 12 garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 1 carrot, peeled and cut diagonally into slices
     1⁄4 inch thick
  • 24 mixed brine-cured green and black olives,
     drained
  • 12 cocktail onions in vinegar, drained
  • 12 baby gherkins in vinegar, drained
  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • Pinch of hot chili powder
  • 1⁄2 tsp. pimentón or sweet paprika
  • Generous pinch of fresh thyme leaves

Directions:

Bring a small saucepan three-fourths full of water to a boil over high heat. Add the garlic, return to a boil and cook for 3 minutes. Add the carrot, return to a boil and cook for 1 minute more. Drain, then plunge the garlic and carrot slices into cold water. Drain again and peel the garlic (the skins will come off easily).

Transfer the garlic and carrot slices to a glass bowl. Add the olives, onions and gherkins and mix well. Add the olive oil, vinegar, salt, chili powder, pimentón and thyme and stir gently to coat all the ingredients evenly. Cover and refrigerate the olive and vegetable mixture until well chilled, at least 2 hours or up to 6 hours, stirring once or twice.
Serves 4.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Foods of the World Series, Barcelona, by Paul Richardson (Oxmoor House, 2004).