If there’s one thing Trader Joe’s likes to do, it’s suddenly releasing jars of preserved Mediterranean produce with little or no instruction. The latest entrant is Trader Trader Joe’s Marinated Olive Duo with Lemon and Herbs, a vacuum packed bag of green and black olives muddled up with a strong shot of lemon zest and thyme – a combination that brings new levels of intense flavor to an otherwise familiar appetizer.
|What it is:||Strong, marinated olives with lemon zest and herbs.|
|Worth it:||Yes, if you’re making an anitpasto plate. Otherwise, no.|
Previously, we looked at Trader Joe’s Preserved Lemon Slices, and before that their various iterations of olives stuffed with almonds and peppers stuffed with olives. Aside from growing on the sunny shores of the wine-dark Aegean, these products are all united by the confusing lack of all instruction. Usually Trader Joe’s is pretty good about this sort of thing – giving you a little nudge on the packaging and suggesting that you maybe, you know, serve your Korean scallion pancakes with soy sauce and vinegar, or explaining why bamboo flowers are being served with your rice, or what have you.
No such luck here. Instead, I’m left looking at this cloudy bag of olives, straining the limits of my imagination in an attempt to integrate these into my daily diet. Martinis maybe? Should I put these in martinis? Again? The lemon zest whisper yes, but all the floating herbs and slices of red pepper say no pretty clearly. Can I cook with them, then? Maybe this is a sort of add on kit for the otherwise underwhelming Greek Cheese Spiral I reviewed the other day? All ready to spread on top of those folded cheese coils?
Native Greeks, the very ones who pack this product of Greece perhaps, surely have no such uncertainties – gobbling them down by the handful, stuffing them into their mouths one after another, and firing out the pits with machine gun-like efficiency, I’m sure.
Actually, as it turns out this sort of marinated olive dish is actually meant to be eaten as is – as an addition to an anitpasto platter, as an appetizer in of itself, or as a stand alone cocktail snack. This being a Mediterranean snack, these marinated olives can naturally be served up with some cheese, cured meats and, of course, wine.
If that sounds good to you, just make sure that you’re prepared for how very intense this flavor combination is. A briny olive can be overwhelming by itself, but combined with the bitter citrus bite of lemon zest and a pungent dose of thyme and other herbs, they become an entirely new beast. This is certainly not an appetizer to serve to the unaware or persnickety. Both types of olives in this duo – the purple kalamata and green chalkidiki – have firm, almost tough flesh, and come loaded up with that intense sodium punch you expect from a preserved olive.
On top of this we have a strong lemon zest – which tastes about as bitter as it does citric. The lemon zest does a lot to balance out the strong salty taste of the olives, but it also leaves a lingering bitter aftertaste that, while not unpleasant, definitely doesn’t invite binge consumption.
The titular herbs, though still strong, are understated in comparison. The ingredient label don’t provide a description of what seasonings go into the mix, but you can certainly detect thyme and rosemary and probably garlic. Not easy flavors to contend with, but certainly interesting ones.
The result of all these parts is a simple dish that is very strong, but also intriguing enough to invite a second and third tastes. In some ways, it’s a cocktail snack’s cocktail snack. They look nice, they’re compelling to try, but no one is going to need more than a small handful of them. It’s telling that the serving size is given as “3 olives” on the package. That seems about right – after three olives you’re about ready to move onto something else.
If you’re looking for something to pique your guest’s palettes, these marinated olives might be just what you need – the culinary equivalent of brash bit of trumpeting mid-concert. For more mundane uses, such as satisfying your afternoon munchies, you should look elsewhere.
Would I Recommend Them: Hesitantly. They’re not “good” so much as they are “interesting.”
Would I Buy Them Again: I doubt it. I’m not sure I or my friends are quite cultured enough to appreciate these.
Final Synopsis: A more intense olive for your appetizers.