A traditional superfood native to the Mediterranean region, olives – both green and black – are powerhouses of health. Yet Swati Basu Das discovers that the pit doesn’t fall far from the tree as local groves producing world-class oil can be found right here in Oman.
Considered a blessed fruit – ‘zaitoon’ (‘olive’ in Arabic) – has been used as a vital source of nourishment across cuisines and cultures since time immemorial and is best known for its medicinal properties – from the green olives of Cyprus, to the Kalamata varieties of Greece and the black Liguria of Italy.
Rich in beneficial fatty acids, and vitamins K and E, the golden nectar of their oil has claimed a wide range of health and beauty benefits since 4,000 BCE. From treating excessive dry or flaky skin, to providing an abundant source of healthy dietary fat, this versatile liquid super-food and its silky-smooth texture drizzle nutritional richness into everyday life.
Far away from their usual Mediterranean climate, the olive orchards found in Oman have adapted hardy varieties of plant adapted to the climatic conditions of the mountainous Jebel Al Akhdar region where they grow abundantly alongside local pomegranates, walnuts, and roses. The Sultanate’s second-highest yielding produce after the humble pomegranate, the cultivation of local olives is nothing short of a Sultanate success story.
Delicately harvested in the warm month of August, fresh ripe olives hand-picked with care so as to ensure they’re not over-matured, are cleaned, pitted, crushed, and ground into a paste in machines that pump out every last drop of this liquid gold. High-quality local Omani olive oil smells entirely ‘green’, fresh, and nutty when processed within 24 hours of harvesting. It’s this pungency, combined with its ripe flavour, that are hallmarks of its purity.
A sumptuous ingredient in any dish, this local liquid sunshine is so much more than just a nutrient-packed flavour enhancer. It makes a perfect accompaniment with a hunk of fresh bread and balsamic, offers up a subtle depth of flavour when drizzled over pasta or tossed with salad greens. Here are a few tried-and-tested healthy recipes that will help you make the most of your sensory experience with this hero ingredient.
Sounds simple, right? Well, the saying that ‘less is more’ hits this delicious recipe right on the nose. Super-food kale meets super-food citrus in hearty, yet delicious salad made all the more flavourful by pungent Parmesan and nutty-sweet lashings of Omani olive oil.
• 3 Tbsp extra-virgin Omani olive oil (Ex: Minara)
• 10 cups packed, torn kales leaves, stems removed
• 2 Tbsp freshly- queezed lemon juice
• 2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
• 1 cup chopped, toasted nuts (almonds, pine nuts, pecans, or local Omani walnuts)
• Place the olive oil in a large bowl and add the torn kale – using clean hands to work the olive oil into the kale leaves until the leaves are well-coated and tenderized.
• Add one tablespoon of the lemon juice and taste – adding more if desired. Season with salt to taste.
• Toss the seasoned kale with the grated Parmesan and transfer to a large serving bowl or platter.
• Sprinkle the green with toasted nuts of your choice and serve.
Whether it’s a special occasion dish or an upgraded weeknight dinner you crave, this juicy chicken dinner owes its succulence to – you guessed it – an array of olive-y goodness.
• Two 3 ½ – 4-pound chickens, backbones removed
• Kosher salt and freshly-ground pepper, to taste
• 6 garlic cloves, finely grated
• ¼ cup Aleppo-style pepper
• ¼ cup finely chopped fresh rosemary
• ½ cup olive oil, divided
• 1 cup local Omani green olives, or Castelvetrano variety, pitted and torn
• ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
• ¼ cup oregano
• ½ cup chopped parsley, plus leaves for serving
• The night before you plan to grill the chickens, place them on a work surface, breast side up, and open them up against the surface as much as possible. Using your palms, press firmly on the breastbone to flatten breast. You may hear a crack. This means you’re doing it right. Set chickens, breast side up, on a large rimmed baking sheet. Season generously on both sides with salt and black pepper. Chill, uncovered, at least eight hours and up to two days.
• Remove chickens from refrigerator and set out on your counter. Combine garlic, Aleppo-style pepper, rosemary, and ¼ cup olive oil in a small bowl. Rub chickens all over with mixture and let sit until room temperature for one to two hours.
• Prepare a grill for medium-high, indirect heat (for a charcoal grill, bank coals on one side of grill; for a gas grill, leave one or two burners off). Set chickens, skin side down, on grate over indirect heat. Cover grill, placing cover vent (if your grill has one) over chickens so it draws heat up and over them. Grill, rotating chickens as needed so that they colour evenly, until skins are lightly browned, 15–20 minutes.
• Turn chickens and continue to cook, covered, until skins are deep golden brown and crisp, and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of breasts registers 160° Fahrenheit (71 Celsius), 20–25 minutes. Transfer chickens to a cutting board and let rest at least ten minutes before carving.
• Mix olives, lemon juice, oregano, chopped parsley, the remaining ¼ cup of olive oil, and any accumulated juices from the chickens on the cutting board in a medium bowl. Season with salt.
• To serve, arrange the carved chickens on a platter and top with olive mixture and parsley leaves.