Posts Tagged ‘oil-cured olives’

Low Carb Easy: The Clay Pot Bake

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When I’m having special friends over for dinner and want to have plenty of time for serious conversation, my favorite weapon is a 14″ Spanish cazuela that I got at a Spanish import store many years ago. Any large clay baking pan would do just as well. The idea is to be able to roast chicken and vegetables together in chosen seasonings and have a veggie-rich low-carb meal come out of one pan without a lot of fuss, and be able to bring the baking dish straight to the table fairly attractively. Dark meat of chicken is ideal for a “mixed bake,” and if you don’t grow your own, get the best pastured chicken that you can lay hands on.

Decide on your seasonings. One of my favorites is a loose paste of a few cloves of garlic, about half a cup of oil-cured black olives, a little salt ( half a teaspoon or so, since the olives are pretty salty,) a sprig of rosemary chopped, the juice of half a lemon, and enough olive oil to form a runny paste in the food processor. Work this paste over eight pieces of chicken thighs and legs and set them in the refrigerator overnight.

Then choose your vegetables. A head of cauliflower cut into florets is top of the list for me because it takes up the seasonings so beautifully. Leave out all the stemmy center, which is a nice break for your backyard goat. I always add a cup of thickly sliced celery and a lemon sliced thin, peel and all. You can put in 7-8 chopped stalks of green garlic at this time, or if you already have some cooked green garlic in the refrigerator, it can go in later with the chicken. Have your veggies prepped in a bag in the refrigerator.

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About forty-five minutes before you want to serve, preheat your oven to 425. Spread the lemon slices in the bottom of the dish and put the other veggies on top. Sprinkle lightly with salt but for the most part they will be seasoned by the chicken. Stick in the oven and roast about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, enjoy some wine and nuts or other nibble with your company. Pull the pan out and arrange the chicken on top of the veggies skin side up. If you like (and I do,) you can also add several stalks’ worth of green garlic at this time before putting in the chicken if you have green garlic waiting, pre-sautéed, in the refrigerator. Glop any remaining seasoning paste on top and pour in about half a cup of rich chicken broth to prevent burning.  Return to the oven and roast until the chicken is done, put the pan on a trivet on the table, provide a large serving spoon and a pepper mill, and eat. That’s all there is to it.

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I find the softened, slightly caramelized lemon truly delicious and include a bit of it in each bite, but dubious guests can shove it to the side of their plate if they prefer and still get the flavor. I only suggest doing this with organic lemons.

Even people who don’t usually eat low-carb will find this a satisfying meal, but you can provide some toasted sourdough bread if you want to make sure.

Berries or dark chocolate or both make a good finish.

Vegetable dinners: things to wrap in a pita


My new category, Vegetable Dinners, will be a collection of meals based on vegetables. Some are vegetarian and some aren’t, but where meat is used, it’s a small amount and is used more as a seasoning than as the bulk of the meal. Where relevant, notes on how to make them vegetarian or vegan are included, but many of them taste best with a little meat or fish included, and my recipes note this. My kitchen mantra is “Eat less meat, eat better meat,” and the same goes for eggs and dairy products. Since you aren’t using much, you can afford the best and most sustainable.
Summer vegetables are at their peak now, and in my home most of our meals are based on them. Mixtures that can be wrapped in a pita make a light easy meal on hot days. The filling can be made ahead, and keeps a few days in the refrigerator. OIl-cured black olives are used to add a meaty savor to eggplant and zucchini, and capers add an herbal note. This meal is vegetarian, and can be made vegan if you alter the sauce recipe a little.

Eggplant and Zucchini with olive paste

2 small or one large eggplant, fresh and firm
2 small zucchini
12-20 oil-cured black olives depending on your taste for them (no other kind of olive will do here)
3 tablespoons salted capers, rinsed and then soaked in cold water for an hour and squeezed dry
1/4 cup good olive oil
2 large or 3 medium cloves garlic
chopped parsley to taste, probably a couple of tablespoons

Cut the eggplant in cubes 1/2 inch or a little larger on a side. Whether you peel it first is up to you. The finished dish has a more tender texture if the eggplant is peeled, but less fiber and fewer antioxidants, so take your pick. Personally, I leave the peel on for this dish as long as the eggplants are young and tender. Cut the zucchini in quarters and slice each quarter into segments on the small side of 1/2 inch. Toss the vegetable cubes together in a bowl with 2 teaspoons of salt and let sit at least 1 hour, tossing occasionally. This step is important for this dish and shouldn’t be shortened. Don’t worry about the quantity of salt; if you do the squeezing step well, most of it will be removed with the liquid. You can soak the capers at the same time. Pit the olives and chop them coarsely, and chop the garlic finely. At the end of an hour, drain off exuded liquid and squeeze the veggie chunks in a clean kitchen towel, a few handfuls at a time, until as much liquid as possible has been squeezed out. Squeeze the capers dry and chop them coarsely. In a clay cazuela or 10″ skillet, heat a few tablespoons of the olive oil and add the garlic. Cook until opaque and cooked but do not allow it to start to brown even a little. Now add the olives, capers, and veggie chunks, toss to coat with the oil, and cook over low heat for about an hour, tossing occasionally and making sure it doesn’t burn on the bottom. Add a little water if needed to prevent burning.
Texture is very important. Start tasting a little after 45 minutes or even 30 if it looks like it’s cooking quickly. When the zucchini is just tender but not mushy, and the eggplant is melting in texture, it’s done. Also check for salt, but the seasonings are salty and you are unlikely to need any. Stir in the parsley just before serving. Serve with good pita bread, lightly warmed, and the sauce below.

Lemon-garlic sauce
This sauce is like an aioli but looser and less rich. The egg yolk just binds it and thickens it a little. If you leave out the egg yolk the whole dish is vegan, and the flavor doesn’t suffer at all but the texture will be liquid, not thick, and it will need to be stirred up by each diner before taking any.

1 egg yolk
1 large clove garlic
juice of half a lemon
1 Jalapeno pepper
olive oil as needed, usually about 1/4 cup.
salt to taste
1-2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

In a small food processor, chop the garlic clove and the chile pepper. I always mince fresh chiles before putting them in the processor to make sure that big chunks don’t startle diners. Add the egg yolk and lemon juice, process briefly, and slowly drip in the olive oil until it’s as thick as you want. I like it to be liquid and spoonable, but velvety. Taste and salt as needed. Add the thyme leaves and stir in. For the vegan version, proceed the same way except leave out the egg yolk, and be aware that it won’t thicken in the same way but will be more like a vinaigrette.
Don’t save leftover sauce more than a day in the refrigerator, because of the egg yolk, but I like to spread leftover sauce on a warmed pita for lunch the next day.