When you slowly simmer good olives into a stew, they infuse the stew with a saltiness that is more complex than simple salt. This dish is simple, delicious, and possibly addictive. My vegetarian cooking group put together a huge Greek meal last night, and ate a long extended table in the backyard. This was one of the favorite dishes, and the serving dish was practically licked clean.
The recipe comes from Diane Kochilas’ cookbook The Greek Vegetarian, which has become one of my most favorite and beat-up cookbooks. Kochilas says that this dish is inspired by a classic dish from Zakintohos. I’ve made this stew a few times over the years, and I plan to make it several times over the summer before I move to China, since olives will be harder to find there!
GREEK POTATOES STEWED WITH KALAMATA OLIVES
2 1/2 pounds medium-sized potatoes
1/3 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1 1/2 cups kalamata olives
2-3 cups canned plum tomatoes, with their juices
1 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Peel and finely chop the garlic. Peel and wash the potatoes. Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise, and cut each half into four slices, each about 1/2-inch thick. Drain the olives and pit them.
In a stewing pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes and stir to coat. Toss in the garlic and stir. Add the olives, and stir and saute for 2-3 minutes. The olives will break apart a little and the dish will change color and darken.
To break up the canned tomatoes, grate them with a large-tooth cheese grated. Add the tomatoes to the pot and stir.
Lower the heat, cover the pot, and simmer the potatoes for 25-30 minutes, until they are very tender and the sauce is thick. In my experience, it may take a little longer than this for the potatoes to become completely soft. Add a little water during cooking if it seems as though the potatoes are in danger of burning.
Just before removing the pot from the heat, add the oregano and season to taste with salt and pepper. This stew would be good with some feta as a garnish. Here you can see the potato and kalamata stew served at my vegetarian cooking group alongside a slice of spanakopita, or “Spartacus” as my friends were calling it, as well as an arugula, orange, and wrinkled olive salad.