Tag Archives: olives

Cod in Crazy Water over Smashed Dijon Potatoes


I came across these recipes from Cuisine at Home Magazine while I was looking for new fish dishes.  I had read about poaching fish and had enjoyed it when others have made it  but I had never attempted it myself.  Somehow I just feared either under cooking the fish or even worse, overcooking it and ending up with it being too dry and tough.  Besides, it is only recently that I even have a receptive fish eating audience at home to test these dishes on.  Bu these times they are a changing………..

With tomatoes, olives, capers, and fennel, I was intrigued by the flavor profile of this dish but given Glenn’s dislike of these briny Mediterranean flavors, combined with his recently acquired desire to even try fish, I was hesitant to try it.  However, fortified with the urge to try something new I decided to give it a go.  And I’m so glad I did.  Not only was the fish fork tender but the Dijon infused potatoes provided the perfect bed for absorbing the flavorful juice or “crazy water”.  And the entire meal came together in less than 40 minutes making it a perfect weeknight dinner.

Oh, and Glenn like it too, declaring it a keeper.


For the fish:

1/2 cup diced carrot

1/2 cup diced fennel bulb

1 Tablespoon minced garlic

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1- 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes in juice

1 cup water

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/4 cup whole black olives

2 Tablespoons capers, rinsed

1 Tablespoon minced lemon zest

1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/2 Teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 Teaspoon red pepper flakes

4- 6 ounce cod fillets (or one per person)

Chopped fennel fronds

  • Cook the carrot, fennel, and garlic in the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat until browned, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the tomatoes, water, wine, olives, capers, zest, lemon juice, salt, and pepper flakes; simmer until reduced by half, about 10 minutes.
  • Add the cod to the pan, and poach over low heat until firm, 8-10 minutes.  
  • Transfer the cod to shallow serving bowls filled with a bed of potatoes.
  • Pour crazy water over each serving and garnish with fennel fronds.


For the Potatoes:

1 pound red-skinned potatoes, cubed

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1 Tablespoon grated Parmesan

1/2 Teaspoon kosher salt

  • Cook potatoes in a pot of boiling water until fork tender, 12 minutes.
  • Drain the potatoes and return to the pot.  Cook potatoes over medium heat, stirring, to remove the excess moisture, 1 minute.
  • Crush the potatoes with a potato mashers.
  • Stir in oil, Dijon, Parmesan, and salt until combined.

Djaj Mqualli (Chicken, Lemon, & Olive Tagine)


I came across this recipe from Saveur Magazine while on my weekly quest for new recipes.  With olives, lemons, and saffron this recipe combines some of my favorite flavors.  As an added bonus, I cured the green olives myself and made the preserved lemons earlier this winter so I had jars of them readily available.  If you don’t have the time or desire to make them yourself, you can buy these items in your local grocery store.  (Unless you are in Albania, then you must preserve your own lemons but with advance planning, it really is easy to do).

There is minimal hands on time for this dish which makes it a deceptively easy dish to serve for guests.  Served with a side dish of rice, flatbread, and Moroccan carrot salad, you have colorful and complete dinner that is sure to please.  Even Sidney, the boy who won’t eat chicken, ate this declaring it “yummy.”  And I agree, it is pretty tasty.


3 tbsp. olive oil
6 whole chicken legs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 large yellow onions, sliced
2 tbsp. ground coriander
2 tsp. ground white pepper
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground turmeric
½ tsp. crushed saffron threads
1½ cups chicken stock
6 oz. green olives, cracked
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 tbsp. finely chopped parsley
2 tsp. finely chopped cilantro
2 jarred preserved lemons, seeded and cut into slices or chunks

  • Heat oven to 350°. Heat oil in an 8–qt. Dutch oven over medium-high heat.
  • Season chicken with salt and pepper; add to pot and cook, turning, until browned, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate.
  • Add onions to pot; cook until golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Add spices; cook for 2 minutes. Return chicken to pot with stock; boil.
  • Bake chicken, covered, until tender, 35 to 40 minutes.
  • Stir in olives, butter, parsley, cilantro, and lemons into pot, and cook for 6 minutes.

Serve with rice or flatbread

Olive Oil – Olive Bread


My 2013 bread baking challenge continues.  For inspiration I’ve been reading Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Fanncois’ Artiisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day and was excited to find this recipe that includes one of my favorite savory ingredients. This time it is taking on a Mediterranean twist with a rich olive oil based dough (using my stash of my own olive oil) as well as a generous helping of home cured olives.  Since the recipe for the dough produces four full pounds of dough, it can easily be halved, or even doubled if you are a big fan of bread.  The dough can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 12 days so you can make a batch of dough and use it as the base for several different types of bread.


2 3/4 cups lukewarm water

1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast (1 1/2 packets)

1 1/2 tablespoons salt

1 tablespoon sugar

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

6 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour


1/4 cup high quality olives pitted and halved

  • Mix the yeast, salt, sugar, and olive oil with the water in a 5-quart bowl, or a lidded, not air tight, food container.
  • Mix in the flour without kneading, using a spoon, a 14-cup capacity food processor with a dough attachment, or a heavy duty stand mixer with a dough hook.  If you are not using a machine, you may need to use wet hands to incorporate the last bit of flour.
  • Cover (not air tight) and allow to rest at room temperature until dough rises and collapses (or flattens on top), approximately 2 hours.
  • The dough can be used immediately after the initial rise, though it is easier to handle when cold.  Refrigerate in a lidded (not air tight) container and use over the next 12 days.  



  • Dust the surface of of 1-pound of refrigerated dough with flour.  Using your hands and a rolling pin, flatten the dough to a thickness of 1/2 inch. Cover with the olives and roll up to seal inside the dough.  Dust with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.  Allow to rest and rise on a cornmeal-covered pizza peel for 1 hour.
  • Twenty minutes before the baking time, preheat the oven to 450 degrees, with a baking stone placed on the middle rack.  Place an empty broiler tray on the other shelf that won’t interfere with the rising of the bread.
  • Just before baking, paint the surface of the bread with a cornstarch wash of 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch combined with 1/2 cup of water that has been microwaved on high for 1 minute.  Slash a cross onto the top of the loaf using a serrated bread knife.
  • Slide the loaf directly onto the hot stone.  Pour one cup of hot tap water into the broiler tray, and quickly close the oven door.  Bake for about 35 minutes, or until the top crust is deeply browned and very firm.
  • Allow to cool on a wire rack before slicing and eating.

Olive You Two

Olives the easy way

I love all types of olives.  In college I used to keep jars of them in my mini refrigerator for midnight snacks.  They only kind I have ever tried and not liked are the nasty black ones whose slices grace pizzas in the United States.  No matter how much I try I can’t get the metallic taste that accompanies them out of my mind.   One of the things that excited me most about moving to a Mediterranean country was the potential for a great variety of olives.  And I certainly haven’t been disappointed.  The largest outdoor market in Tirana sells barrels and barrels of this tiny fruit; tastes vary depending upon the region in which they were grown and eager vendors are always quick to offer samples so you can take home exactly what you are looking for.  Visiting the olive vendors is my favorite part of the market experience and I never leave empty handed.  I am the only olive eater in the Brown household but that doesn’t stop me from from toting home bags of them.

Green olives ready for curing

With fall upon us and olives at their prime, I decided to try to cure my own olives this year.  Yes, I could just buy my olives from the central fruit market, or from just about any of the tiny neighborhood markets in Tirana, but where is the fun in that? Besides, I was assured that the process wasn’t hard- just tedious and time consuming- but my efforts would be well worth it. So on my last market trip I came home with a large bag of the little green beauties.

All of the various online recipes and Albanians I consulted agreed that the first step to curing olives is soaking them. Fresh olives are indelibly bitter but this bitterness can be removed through a series of water baths.  In order for this soak be be effective, the flesh of each olive needs to be split.  I tried smashing the olives with a rolling pin but this technique resulted in crushing the fruit.  A hammer didn’t garner much better results (although I did hit my fingers a time or two). I finally decided to slice a small “x” on each fruit with a paring knife.  The technique is similar to what I do when roasting chestnuts.  While not difficult, it was time consuming especially since it is important not to pierce the pit.

Mid soak

The next step was to soak the fruit in water in a dark room.  Over the course of two weeks, I changed my soaking water daily until all of the bitterness was removed from the olives. Unfortunately, I tasted my share of bitter olives during the last few days of the soaking process.

The seasonings

After soaking for two weeks, it was time to season and further cure the olives.  I made a brine of three cups water and two tablespoons of salt.  After bringing this mixture to a boil I set it aside to cool to room temperature.  Next, in a small bowl I mixed together two fresh lemons, cubes with their rinds still intact, a healthy two tablespoons of dried sage, sea salt, six cloves of fresh garlic that had been sliced in half, and a few red pepper flakes.

The final cure

Finally I gave the olives a final rinse under cold water then placed them in a large jar (I was so excited when I found these jars in the local store.  At the time I had no idea what I was going to use them for but they were just too cool to pass up).  I sprinkled my seasonings over the top of the olives, poured in my brine then drizzled some olive oil over the top of it all.  The jar was then sealed up and placed back onto the shelf to cure for an additional two weeks.

The verdict?  Surprisingly good. I have to admit, I was a bit nervous about how they would turn out. I served them as part of my pre-Thanksgiving dinner appetizers. Several of our guests cure their own olives so that added to my anxiety but my worry was apparently for nothing.  We ate a couple of bowlfuls and I still have plenty to share (or not) at future events.  Maybe next time I bring them out I’ll even be able to get Glenn to try one.

Dig in (even my olive bowl is hand made in Albania)

This past weekend I was lucky enough to be able to further fulfill my love of all things olive by participating in an olive oil pressing.  You are read about it here.

Mediterranean Vegetable Bread

Like so many cooks I find recipes that inspire me and then tweak them to my own liking.  I’m also an avid reader of cooking blogs and my favorite, Adventures of the Yankee Kitchen Ninja, regularly posts recipes that intrigue and inspire me.  (It doesn’t hurt that this blog is also written by a fellow Mount Holyoke alum).

The Kitchen Ninja posted this recipe as a savory olive bread after having tweaked it herself from Susan Hermann Loomis, author of On Rue Tatin.  See, this is how recipes evolve!  The Kitchen Ninja’s recipe called for 3 1/2 cups of fresh spinach.  Try as I might, I could not find any fresh spinach, or any suitable substitute in Albania in November.  I used a small amount of frozen spinach instead and added in shredded carrots for bulk.  I also added fresh chopped basil.  The only jarred roasted red peppers I had in my pantry were marinated so I used those instead of the plain variety.  The result?  A tangy vegetable infused bread the blended together my favorite flavors of the Mediterranean.

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 eggs
1/4 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves,  minced
1 cup frozen spinach, chopped and squeezed dry with leaves separated
2 cups shredded carrots
1/2 cup chopped basil leaves
1 cup marinated roasted red peppers, chopped
1 heaping cup black olives, chopped
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese
1)  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F / 200 degrees C.  Grease a loaf pan and set aside.
2)  Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl and set aside.
3)  In another large bowl, beat the eggs; whisk in the olive oil, then stir in the garlic, spinach, carrots,
      and basil.

4)  Add the flour  mixture and stir until well combined.  Fold in the red peppers, olives,

      black pepper, and cheese.


4)  Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes, until the bread is browned and a
     skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.  Let cool in the pan for about 10 minutes then
     continue cooling on a wire rack.


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