The Olive Chicken Recipe That Restored My Faith in Cooking

I like my home-cooked meals to be simple: baked chicken breast with herbes de Provence scattered on top, an uncomplicated pasta pomodoro, a roasted cod drenched in salt, lemon, olive oil and some pepper. The fewer the ingredients, the more appealing the recipe. 

Don’t get me wrong: My palate appreciates a decadently prepared dish bursting with flavours and aromas. But when I’m the chef, I’m perennially drawn to recipes that leave no room for mistakes and require minimal time — in terms of both preparation and post-meal cleanup. At home, ingredients should be used at their most elemental, without having to resort to an endless rack of additives.

In contrast, my husband Perry believes that each meal should be an experience, a chance to try something new. He loves his food to be flamboyant and flavourfully eclectic, drowning in spices, sauces and all-around thickness. He has the patience to braise and boil and baste for hours, eventually enjoying the fruits of his labor without worrying about the time it will take him to clean the countless pots and pans needed to prepare a single dish.

Of course, that difference in philosophy, albeit exciting in life, has come to be a bit of a drawback within the confines of our shared kitchen. When I make dinner, he eats it with a smile on his face after adding a lot of pepper flakes to everything. When he cooks, I eat with a smile on my face while my eyes spiral backward because of overpowering flavours wrestling inside my mouth.

That all took a surprising turn a few months ago, when we stumbled upon a recipe that caters to both of our culinary demands, checking off Perry’s need for intensity and my own desire for simplicity. 

The olive chicken recipe we found requires a single baking dish and a handful of easy-to-access ingredients that happen to pack a punch in terms of seasoning. Developed by Chanie Apfelbaum for her “Millennial Kosher” cookbook, the recipe stands out because of its straightforwardness, yet earned a spot in our regular dinner rotation because of its long-lasting taste profile. Bonus points: it’s easily customisable, which seems to be the chef’s forte. 

Apfelbaum is behind the popular blog and Instagram handle Busy in Brooklyn, where she chronicles her life in Crown Heights with five kids. All of her recipes are reinventions of traditional Jewish foods, aimed to cater to a curious palate while following kosher dietary laws.

“I do it so many different ways,” Apfelbaum said about the olive chicken. “I put chickpeas in a pan and it’ll be a one-pot thing.”

Although she initially came up with the recipe as a way to satisfy her daughter’s love for olives, Apfelbaum eventually came to think of it as a close cousin to pizza-like dishes. With that in mind, she now prepares the dish as she would a vegetable slice.

“I wouldn’t put cheese on it because I’m kosher,” she explains, calling out religious restrictions against the concurrent consumption of dairy and meat. “But think of how you would order your vegetable slice from the store: Do you like spinach and artichoke? Do you like mushroom slices? Customise it with whatever veggies you like, or whatever you have in your fridge. It’s totally your call.”

In our own household, that personalisation takes the form of a ton of mushrooms in addition to the herbs and dark meat chicken that the recipe calls for. The result? A peaceful matrimonial meal enjoyed and appreciated by all.
Olive Chicken
6 servings

3 ounces tomato paste (heaping 1/4 cup) 1 teaspoon dried oregano 1 teaspoon dried basil 6 dark meat chicken cutlets Salt, to taste Pepper, to taste 1/2 sliced green olives with pimentos, sliced 1/2 cup sliced black olives, sliced 2 ripe tomatoes, diced 1 red onion, thinly sliced into half-moons 2 tablespoons olive oil Pinch of red pepper flakes, options

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. In a small bowl, mix the tomato paste with oregano and basil. Smear the paste over the chicken; place chicken into a baking dish. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Spread sliced olives over the chicken; top with diced tomatoes and onions. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes, if desired. Drizzle with olive oil.

4. Bake for 25-35 minutes.

Reproduced from “Millennial Kosher” by Chanie Apfelbaum with permission of the copyright holders, ArtScroll / Mesorah Publications, Ltd.
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