Vail Simply Seasonal: Olives are ripe for the holidays |

Vail Simply Seasonal: Olives are ripe for the holidays

Sue Barham
Simply Seasonal
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the Daily

Olives may be the only common fruit that we cannot eat straight from the tree. Grown on a Mediterranean evergreen, the olive is quite bitter in its raw form. Many are picked green from the tree, while others are allowed to ripen to black. Either way, they are then cured in brine or oil to extract the bitterness.

California has a booming olive business, and the U.S. also imports olives from Spain and Greece. Jeremy Kittelson, executive chef at Restaurant Avondale, recommends buying a variety at an olive bar. “You can mix and match types, figure out your favorites, and create an interesting antipasto plate.”

Olives are found in many hors d’oeuvres as their salty, tangy taste is a great way to whet the appetite. They can be mixed into spreads and dips, or a classic tapenade. Olives are a great snack to serve with nuts, charcuterie or marinated vegetables.

Armando Navarro, executive chef at Larkspur, suggests brightening sauces with olives. “Many Moroccan dishes combine lemon and olives for signature dishes. From Italy, we enjoy a famous puttanesca.” Olives work well with acids like citrus or tomatoes.

While many people shy away from olives for their reputed fat content, they actually contain the essential fatty acids. One 15 gram serving contains only three percent of your total allowed fat intake for the day. Olives are also low in calories. Science aside, olives are reputed to have aphrodisiacal properties and are rumored to increase the female libido.

Holiday Martini Olives

Puree roasted garlic with a pinch of thyme and black pepper, then place into a sealable plastic bag. Cut one of the bottom corners of the bag, and pipe roasted garlic puree into the center of each olive.

Marinated Olives

This mixture of olives, fresh herbs, garlic, and hot pepper flavors makes excellent holiday gifts.

1 pound large cracked green olives, drained

1 pound Kalamata olives, drained

1 sprig fresh rosemary

1 sprig fresh thyme

2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano leaves

2 bay leaves

3 large cloves garlic, smashed

2 tablespoons whole peppercorns

1 teaspoon hot pepper flakes

extra virgin olive oil

red wine vinegar

In a large glass bowl, combine the olives, herbs, garlic, and spices. Place in a glass or plastic container with a tight lid. Add enough oil and vinegar to cover olives halfway, using 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar. Cover tightly and refrigerate at least 2 days before serving. Allow to come to room temperature before serving. Turn the container over several times to make sure the olives are coated with the marinade. These olives will keep for several weeks if refrigerated. Bottle them in pretty glass bottles, cover with the olive oil/herb mixture, seal tightly, and refrigerate.

Lemon Chicken with Olives

2 tablespoons flour

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

2 teaspoons lemon zest, plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

kosher salt and pepper

1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to an even thickness, about 1/4 inch

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 shallots, thinly sliced

1 cup pitted green olives

1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

1/2 cup dry white wine

Mix the flour, cumin, lemon zest, and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper on a flat plate. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and dredge in the mixture. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken in 2 batches until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.

Wipe out the skillet and return to medium heat. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil. Add the shallots and cook until soft, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the olives, parsley, lemon juice, and wine and bring to a boil. Return the chicken to the pan, nestling it in the olives and shallots. Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, until the chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Divide among plates. Serves 4.

Pasta Puttanesca

1 lb spaghetti or the pasta of your choice

1 medium onion, chopped

1 (2 oz.) can of anchovies

Pinch of hot pepper flakes, (more or less to taste)

Olive oil as needed

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 (28 oz.) can of plum tomatoes, including the juice.

2 tablespoons capers

1/2 cup chopped black olives, (about 25 small olives)

Oregano, chopped, to taste

Parsley, chopped, to taste

Grated Parmesan cheese to taste

Boil the pasta while making the sauce, and remove it just before it is done so you can finish cooking it in the sauce.

Sweat the onion, anchovies, hot pepper, in a generous amount of olive oil until the onions soften and the anchovies break down. Add the garlic and cook one minute more. Add the tomatoes and their juices, breaking them up with a masher or wooden spoon as you bring them to a boil. Add the capers and olives, reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 8-10 minutes. Add the almost done pasta and cook until the pasta is al dente. Taste and adjust sauce with salt and pepper if necessary. Finish with the oregano, parsley and cheese and serve. Serves 4.

Sue Barham is the marketing director for Larkspur Restaurant and Restaurant Avondale. Larkspur, ( at the base of Vail Mountain, has been serving American Classics with a fresh interpretation since 1999. Avondale, ( opened in September 2008 in the Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa and features a West Coast inspired, market driven menu.

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