A good olive is a well-cared-for olive. You don't want anything soft or mushy—you want an olive that's been well-preserved. Nothing canned. Jarred is better, but even better is getting something at an olive bar at one of the better grocery stores.
The route to great olives is to take home a container of olives—whatever you like—and doctor them.
What I do is, I heat a pan of olive oil—low heat, nothing that's going to cook them, just warm them—and toss in a clove of garlic, a bay leaf, a cinnamon stick, a couple of cloves, a star anise if you have some around, maybe some fresh herbs and the zest of half an orange. When all those things release their perfume in the warmth of the oil, you're ready to put in the olives. What you want to do is, you want to infuse them with the aromatics in the pan. Twenty minutes or so should do it.
What you end up with is something markedly more flavorful than what you bought, something that really brings out the spirit of the olives.
Serve them still-warm if you can. They make for a great start to a party or dinner.
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