O-live O-love

There are a rare number of foods that I don't like, but one that has notoriously disagreed with my palate is the olive. Yet, I am determined to acquire the taste for the power-packed icon of Mediterranean flavor, and so, I have gotten into the habit of trying and re-trying olives every chance I get. My tastebuds accepted some varieties sooner than others -- the mild green olive was a quick convert, though I have had a harder time accepting the kalamata and bolder black varieties. It has been a slow transitional process, but I have found myself beginning to appreciate a range of olive types for their distinct flavors and ability to add punch to a dish. Appreciation has turned to fondness in recent weeks as I've tried recipes that not only integrate olives into the ingredient list, but some that even feature olives as the star.

Exhibit A: MEDITERRANEAN OLIVE BREAD -- I never anticipated making a bread centered around the olive, but this quick-bread from Merrill Stubbs, co-founder of food52, is truly divine.



1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup milk
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup chopped pitted imported olives (I used Kalamata)

1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 350ยบ F. Grease a 6-cup loaf pan.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, rosemary, and salt. In a large bowl, stir together the eggs, milk and olive oil. Add the flour mixture and fold until about three quarters of the dry ingredients are moistened. Add the olives, and fold just until the pieces are distributed and the dry ingredients are moistened; the batter will be stiff.
3. Scrape the batter into the pan and spread evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a rack for 5 to 10 minutes before unmolding to cool completely on the rack. Serve with olive oil for dipping.

To accompany the bread, I made a Greek fritatta using quintessential Mediterranean ingredients such as feta, olives, tomatoes, rosemary and olive oil:



2 eggs
2 egg whites
1 tomato, chopped
2 cups spinach
8 olives, chopped
2 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
crumbled feta cheese
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp olive oil

1. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs and egg whites. Add chopped rosemary and set aside.
2. In a medium skillet heat olive oil over medium heat. Add spinach and saute in batches until wilted; add garlic with last batch of spinach.
3. Spread spinach evenly over bottom of pan; pour egg mixture over spinach. Evenly sprinkle tomatoes and olives into the pan. Cover and allow eggs to set.
4. Cook for 6-8 minutes until eggs are nearly set; remove lid and sprinkle crumbled feta on top. Re-cover and cook an additional several minutes until eggs are cooked through.


Stack of the Day

I recently re-watched the movie "V for Vendetta" and this time, instead of the message, "Remember, remember, the Fifth of November," it was the breakfast that made an appearance twice in the flick that stuck with me--namely, the One-Eyed Jack. Or.... Hen in a Nest, Chicken Egg Nest, Sunshine Toast, Moon Egg, One Eyed Monster Breakfast, Cowboy Egg, Toad in the Hole, Egg in a Frame, Eggs in a Bucket, Eggs in a Nest, Eggs in a Hole, Egg Toast, Pharaoh's Eye -- all names for one simple breakfast pairing -- an egg and a slice of toast, fried together. Removing a hole in the middle of the piece of bread holds the egg in place as they meld together magically during the cooking process. Sounds and looks easy enough, though I've never made it before so today I felt compelled to give it a whirl (adding a creative twist). In my version, cottage cheese, grapes and honey join the protein-carb power duo adding a textural dimension of both creaminess and crunch, as well as a fresh sweetness to contrast the savory flavors of the dish. Mmm nothing like a tastebud rollercoaster to get your morning started.


[Makes 1 serving]


1 slice whole wheat toast
1 egg
olive oil
1/4 cup cottage cheese, no salt added
1/2 cup red grapes, halved

1. Cut a round hole in the center of the slice of bread (a shot glass works well).
2. Heat a small amount of oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the slice of bread and cook until lightly browned; flip and cook until the other side is slightly browned.
3. Return bread to its original side and crack one egg in the center hole. Allow the egg to cook for a few minutes on that side -- make sure you allow the egg time to fuse with the bread -- if you try to flip too early it will fall through the hole. Flip and cook an additional several minutes until the egg is cooked to its desired degree of doneness.
4. Plate the one-eyed jack and top with 1/4 cup of cottage cheese. Drizzle with honey and top with grapes.


Quick Grain Salad



1 box whole wheat couscous
3 Tbsp walnuts, crushed
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
1/2 cup diced apple
1/2 cup shredded carrot
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1. Prepare couscous according to package directions.
2. in a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, honey, coriander and ginger. Set aside.
3. Combine apple, carrot, green onions and cilantro with couscous. Drizzle dressing over the couscous mixture and stir to coat evenly.


When I saw the recipe for Barley and Greens Gumbo in Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine, I immediately thought of the Hen of the Woods Gumbo that my friends and I recently had at What Happens When restaurant in NYC. Both dishes draw on flavors from forest, with greens and mushrooms as the star ingredients. I combined the two in my own version to create the ultimate woodland-inspired gumbo -- a belly-warming stew that pays homage to wild mushrooms and leafy spinach and swiss chard. Traditional gumbos incorporate rice and broth; in this case, fiber-rich barley plays the starchy role, adding hearty thickness to the dish. The version I adapted from Rachael Ray's uses water as the liquid -- I think next time I will substitute a type of broth for part of the water to give more depth to the flavor. Another variation I might try is to grill the mushrooms separately to give them a more distinct meatiness before adding them to the gumbo. I may also try Hen of the Woods mushrooms next time, as they did at What Happens When. Okra and/or escarole might make an appearance as well...



1/4 cup olive oil
3 ribs celery, finely chopped
1 onion, chopped
Salt and pepper
3 Tbsp whole-wheat flour
1/2 bunch swiss chard, stems and leaves chopped and separated
6 cups water (or part broth, part water)
1 cup pearl barley, rinsed
5 oz spinach, chopped
8 oz package of wild mushrooms (or any combination of cremini, shittake or oyster mushrooms)
1/4 bunch parsley (about 1/4 cup), chopped

1. In a dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the celery, onion and mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes; season with salt and pepper.
2. Add the flour and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes.
3. Add the swiss chard stems and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the barley and 6 cups water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover and simmer until the barley is just tender, about 30 minutes.
4. Working in batches, add the spinach, parsley and swiss chard leaves, stirring the greens until wilted between each addition. Season with salt and pepper.


Inside-Out Italian

Ravioli wearing its heart on its sleeve: pasta dressed in ricotta instead of stuffed with it. Topped with sauteed balsamic peppers and onions.



1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 vidalia onion, cut into large chunks
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp herbs de provence
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 cups whole wheat farfalle pasta
1/2 cup fresh ricotta

1. Cook pasta according to directions; rinse and return to pot. Add ricotta cheese and stir until pasta is evenly coated.
2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add bell pepper and onion; cook about 6 minutes or until browned and slightly soft.
3. Add garlic; cook an additional 1 minute.
4. Add balsamic and herbs de provence; stir to combine.
5. Serve pasta in a bowl, topped with pepper and onion mixture.