There are so many varieties of olives available today. It’s valuable to sample and taste them to find favorites. Certainly olives belong with cheeses and roasted vegetables as an appetizer, but they have many applications within recipes for memorable meals.
A sweeter olive, such as the Italian Cerignola olive, pairs well with tart, earthy goat cheese. Bake them into a quiche together. The nutty flavor of tiny French Niçoise olives is perfect for the renowned Niçoise salad with oily tuna and hard-cooked eggs, roasted red peppers and green beans. Fruity, salty Picholine olives from the South of France pair well with Provolone cheese. And the classic Kalamata olive from Greece is delicious with lemon and feta cheese, with sun-dried tomatoes, or even baked into bread or used as a pizza topping.
Native to the Mediterranean region, olives and their oil figure prominently in cuisines from each country where they are grown. Try the Spanish Manzanillo olives with raisins in a dish that features chicken, tomatoes and shaved Manchego cheese. Bright green Castelvetrano olives from Sicily provide a variation on the salty, sweet, bitter theme, and work well in a salad with navel or blood orange sections.
The sweet oranges, bitter greens, and salty olives make a great combination in the accompanying recipe for Orange and Olive Salad. Or try the following chicken dish, a recent favorite from cooking classes.
Fort Collins chef Linda Hoffman teaches cooking classes emphasizing dinners in 30 minutes or less. Visit www.comebacktothetable.com.
Orange and Olive Salad
4 cups of mixed greens
3 oranges, peeled and sectioned
1 fennel bulb, trimmed
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup sliced olives (Castelvetrano or Kalamata)
Shave the fennel bulb thinly using a mandoline slicer. Toss with the rest of the ingredients, as well as a vinaigrette topped off with the juice from some of the oranges. Grind black pepper over all and serve at once.
Chicken Thighs with Olives and Potatoes
3-4 cups sliced fingerling potatoes
8 chicken thighs
1 tablespoon almond oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon oregano
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup chopped onion
2-4 minced garlic cloves
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup mixed olives
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Cut the potatoes into 1/2-inch wedges. Toss the thighs and potatoes, onion and garlic with the dry seasonings and salt and pepper and place into a shallow baking dish. Toss again with the oil.
Oven roast the thighs and potatoes for 20 minutes at 400 degrees. Raise the temperature to 425 degrees, squeeze the lemon over all, add the stock and toss, and roast another 20 minutes. Serve when the chicken is done and potatoes are tender, topped with chopped parsley.
I like this recipe made with cubes of butternut squash, with sliced golden beets or chunks of peeled parsnips combined with the fingerling potatoes. Substitute diced sweet potatoes, if you like. The sweet flavors of these vegetables contrast nicely with the salty and bitter flavors of the olives, and make a quick weeknight dinner.