Saturday, February 04, 2006

Herb Jam with Olives and Lemon

Yes, I have flirtations with others. Sexy swiss chard flaunting its dark green leaves and ferrari red stems. Ride with me baby and I'll take you to culinary heights. And for one whole autumn I had a crush on kale. Oh lacinato kale, strong and mysterious, the tall, dark and handsome Italian heirloom set my gastronomic heart aflame.

But despite these adventures, it is the boy next door, enduring patiently my flings with those other leafy greens, that captures my heart. Spinach - wholesome, available, and willing to please in so many ways. Maybe it's just that we grew up together. Or that spinach was there when I had my first quiche. But it will always have a special place in my heart.

And so it seemed right to choose the Slow Mediterranean Kitchen, Recipes for the Passionate Cook by Paula Wolfert, to let loose my feelings for what the Chinese called the "herb of Persia".

Herb Jam with Olives and Lemon is a thick puree of several types of leafy greens and herbs, but mostly spinach. First steamed, then fried in a skillet, then mixed with chopped olives and olive oil and then refrigerated for 1 to 4 days. When you bring it back up to room temperature the jam glistens and spreads like warm butter on bread. Combine that with subtle smoky flavors from the Spanish pimenton de la Vera, livened with lemon and you have a delicious and healthy jam.

With parsley, cilantro, and celery leaves, it also happens to work just great for Weekend Herb Blogging hosted by Kalyn's Kitchen. Serve it on toasted pita bread or on bell pepper slices.

Herb Jam with Olives and Lemon adapted from Slow Mediterranean Kitchen, Recipes for the Passionate Cook by Paula Wolfert. (We add more pimenton and lemon.)

4 large garlic cloves, halved
1 pound baby spinach leaves
1 large bunch of flat-leaf parsley (about 4 oz), stems discarded
1/2 cup celery leaves, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, stemmed
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
12 oil-cured black olives (about 1 ounce), pitted, rinsed and coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons Spanish sweet smoked paprika (pimenton de la Vera)
pinch of cayenne
pinch of ground cumin
1 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice or more to taste
salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Put the garlic cloves in a large steamer basket in a pan of simmering water and top with the spinach, parsley, celery, and cilantro. Cover and steam until the garlic is soft and the greens tender, about 15 minutes. Let cool, then squeeze the greens dry, chop finely and set aside. Mash the garlic cloves.
  • In a heavy-bottomed skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the mashed garlic, olives, and spices and stir over moderately high heat for 30 seconds, or until fragrant. Add the greens and cook, mashing and stirring, until soft and dry and somewhat smooth, about 15 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Add the remaining olive oil. Refrigerate, covered, for at least 1 day and up to 4 days.
  • To serve, return to room temperature. Stir in the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Serve with crackers, pita bread pieces, or vegetables.

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Blogger Kalyn said...

This sounds amazing. I even have the smoked paprika to make it. I just got a different Paula Wolfert cookbook which I haven't even had time to look at, but it looks great.

BTW, you're a great writer. Do you write for a living?

12:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

...very very beautifully written.... just beautiful... keep jammin' Heidi....

1:22 PM  
Blogger Heidi said...

Kalyn - thanks for your comment! This is my first Wolfert recipe -- now I'm looking forward to the next one. I work in film, which does include writing of course.

Anonymous - I notice your way with words too - very cute!

1:45 PM  
Blogger Sara said...

That sounds delectable. I have that same cookbook and had been eying that recipe for a while... guess I'll have to make it now that you've so enticingly described it. By the way, it was nice meeting you last night :)

11:47 AM  

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