Equally good to the flavor of Kalamata olives served alongside cheese is using these tart, small oval shaped delicacies in cooking. The Kalamata olive, holds a distinction of its own as a PDO, a European Union product label indicating a singular specialty of a designated area. Given this stature, it is surprising to me how many markets on the product pricing signs spell Kalamata with a ‘C’ Calamata. I might otherwise think that perhaps we are getting a variation of the actual product Kalamata from Greece but then I also see the dish Tilapia, spelled Talapia so I will take it as phonetics, people making signs sounding out the words as verbalized.
Philadelphia ‘speak’ when I was growing up often included adding extra syllables into words. If you have ever seen the movie Rocky filmed in Philadelphia then you know what I mean. The supermarket called Acme was most commonly called ‘The Ak-A-Me’; and a word of which I am guilty and met with uproarious teasing each winter by my daughters is the word Glove. I say the old Philadelphia version, ‘Ga-Love’. I try to remember but it just rolls off my tongue like the water running out of a spilled glass. Conversely, when I moved back to Philadelphia after living in Arizona a number of years, I was also met with uproarious teasing for correctly pronouncing the word ‘water’. In Philadelphia the word is pronounced ‘woiter’. I’ve managed to merge the two, though I always left the ‘Pop’ in Arizona, along the East Coast, its soda.
Grown in the Kalamata area of Greece, before gracing the olive bars of markets and specialty stores, the Kalamata is actually a purple color and only turns the darkish brown black tint through the brining method. Years back Kalamata olives were not readily available in most markets, and when they were, they always contained the large size pit in the center of the meaty exterior. Today seedless Kalamata olives, easily obtained make them so accessible to use and work well with many types of International flavors and styles of menus.
One of my favorite easy and quick dishes using Kalamata Olives is with Rigatoni Pasta tossed into simmering red tomato sauce with mixed sweet peppers, mushrooms, red onions, capers, and chicken. This dish is flexible, it works well if you prefer to omit the chicken though I do like the added flavor and texture the chicken provides. Capers added to the peppers mixture combined into the sauce also provide a greater depth of flavor, as does the red wine though you can still create a flavorful, just plainer dish without them.
Last week my concentrated focus communicating back and forth toward the updated design items for the Blog also combined with trying to beat the winter photography clock, which means during the shorter days photographing all food photos by about 3:30 pm when I pick up the J-Dude at the Bus Stop. In my haste, I prepped, cooked and photographed the peppers and mushrooms realizing after the six-year-old neighbor boys gang left playing at the house as the dark began to set in that I had forgot to add the red onions. The peppers, mushrooms, and red onions all get sauteed together in this recipe. Yes, the recipe is flexible, but the real key and important tip to this dish in bringing all of the flavors alive and blending together is the once purple then dark brownish black oval treasure of singular stature, please do not forget the Kalamata Olives.
Kalamata Olives in the Rigatoni with Peppers, Mushrooms, Onions, Chicken and Red Sauce
1 Pound Box Rigatoni
olive oil for sauteing
1 Red, Green and Yellow Pepper, cored, seeds removed and cut into a little bigger than one inch pieces
8 ounces fresh button Mushrooms, wiped clean and quartered
1-2 red onions quartered, halved, then halved again to make crescent shape slices
2 Tablespoons capers, if desired, chopped
1 cup Kalamata Olives
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 can tomato paste
1/2- 1 cup red wine (you can omit this, adding just water to the tomato paste, but it really does enhance and deepen the flavor )
24 ounce jar of Tomato Sauce, you can add a little extra tomato sauce if desired
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon oregano
salt and pepper to taste
Add a little olive oil to cover a medium size saute pan. Saute together the pieces of red, green, and yellow peppers, the quartered mushrooms, and crescent shaped red onion slices until all of the ingredients are softened. If using capers, add in the chopped capers near the end of cooking the pepper mixture and stir throughout. When the Pepper mixture is cooked transfer to another plate. If using chicken, wipe out the saute pan and add in a little more olive oil to cover the pan and saute the chicken pieces on both sides until golden colored being careful not to crowd the pan. As chicken is done transfer to a platter. In a large cast iron enameled pot, add in enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pot. Cook chopped garlic for a minute or so on very low heat until softened, then stir the tomato paste into the pot with the garlic. Then add in the garlic powder and oregano, stir, then add in red wine and cook until red wine reduces. If you prefer not to use the red wine you can alternatively fill your empty tomato paste can with water and add to the tomato paste mixture. When the wine is reduced, or, if using water, the tomato paste and water are well blended together, add in the pepper mixture, and, if using chicken, add the chicken pieces to the pot and stir together. Pour in the jar of Tomato Sauce and stir throughout. Heat mixture to hot before reducing to a simmer then add in the chopped Kalamata Olives, stirring through then continuing to simmer on the lowest heat for about twenty minutes until all of the flavors have developed together. Cook Rigatoni. When Rigatoni is cooked, drained, and salted stir Rigatoni into sauce mixture and stir constantly for one or two minutes until ingredients mix thoroughly together. Pour into a serving dish and top with fresh grated Parmesan Cheese. Serve steaming hot.