There was a day when I swore up and down that I hated olives. They were salty and strong and tasted weird and why in the heck would anyone want to eat those things? Along came our Secret-Secret Geography Club where we got together each month with two other couples and cooked dishes from a particular country. The goal was to cook and eat food together that we might not otherwise get to and to have lots of fun doing it. It seemed my friend Lindsey went out of her way every time to make something totally weird and crazy and most often involving ingredients I "didn't like". Like the one time we made Spanish Tapas and she served us green olives stuffed with garlic, wrapped in an anchovy and skewered with a pepperoncini pepper. Both my husband and I thought we both hated olives and anchovies and expected this to be the one dish of the night we would totally hate. I secretly got a glass of water ready to wash it down as fast as I could and as I popped the little morsel into my mouth it exploded with these intense but DELICIOUS flavors that I had never experienced before. My husband liked them so much he ate FOUR more.
After that I still wasn't convinced I liked olives, I just assumed that time was a fluke. A few months later we were making Italian food and Lindsey showed up with large green olives stuffed with herbed goat cheese. I had a bad experience with goat cheese quite a few years ago, and once again I assumed I hated the stuff. Coupled with olives I was not looking forward to trying these things. Dang that Lindsey! But once again the dish knocked my socks off and I'm pretty sure I was pleading with the others to give me their share of goat cheese stuffed olives.
I learned two very valuable lessons:
- If you pair ingredients properly, even ones you don't like will really shine.
- Your palate can change if you just open your mind and try new things.
It came as a complete surprise to me when I was lusting after this tomato sauce and one of the variations I wanted to try was the chicken baked with mozzarella and olives. Turns out I LOVE olives! Paired with Jamie's delicious tomato sauce this is a simple, full flavored chicken I would gladly eat served over some pasta or some good Italian bread used to sop up the sauce.
Recipe from Jamie's Dinners: The Essential Family Cookbook
4 chicken breasts
1 tbsp olive oil
1 batch simple tomato sauce
1/4 - 1/2 cup pitted and sliced black or green olives
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup basil, torn
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
In a large oven-proof skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Season the chicken breasts on both sides with salt and pepper. When the skillet is hot, cook 2-3 minutes on both sides until browned but not cooked all the way through. Turn off the heat and remove the chicken from the pan. Pour in the tomato sauce and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Place the chicken back in the pan and sprinkle over the olives and cover in mozzarella cheese. Bake for 20 minutes until the chicken is no longer pink inside. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the fresh basil before serving.
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This dish is easy, simple and fabulous. If you've already got a batch of simple tomato sauce made up it takes no time at all before you throw everything in the oven and you can relax until dinner. The one thing I have learned about my taste in olives, is that the green ones are fruitier and tend to be a tad bit more mild that the black kalamata olives. I used black this time, but would go with green next time. I buy marinated olives from the deli at the grocery store and not the canned ones.
For a variation, you could make this more Greek tasting by adding a bit of fennel seeds to the sauce, swapping out the mozzarella cheese for feta, and maybe adding a bit of fresh torn oregano leaves over the top.
- Baked Chicken in Tomato Sauce with Olives + spaghetti + simple salad
- Baked Chicken in Tomato Sauce with Olives + good Italian bread + Ceasar salad