Herb Jam with Olives and Lemon

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Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Easy

  • Serves

    6

Appears in

The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen

By Paula Wolfert

Published 2003

  • About

In Morocco, this thick puree of greens with herbs and olives is made with a local mallow leaf called baqqula. My equivalent is a combination of greens: spinach or chard, celery, cilantro, and parsley, cooked down to a luscious, thick, dark jam perfumed with spices and heady with smoky tones.

In Morocco, our housekeeper, Fatima, prepared this jam in a shallow clay tagine set over charcoal embers. As a result, the greens developed a smoky flavor. I use readily available Spanish pimentón de la Vera to infuse a similar smoky quality.

The greens are first steamed over boiling water to preserve flavor and color, then they're slowly fried in a skillet until all the moisture has evaporated.

Greens cooked this way become quite delicious. The addition of some chopped oily black olives improves the texture. The jam will keep for up to 4 days. When you wish to serve it, simply thin to a spreadable consistency with water and olive oil and use as a spread or dip. It goes especially well with an earthy flavored semolina flatbread baked on stone or cast iron.

Ingredients

  • 4 large garlic cloves, halved
  • 1 pound baby spinach leaves
  • 1 large bunch of flat-leaf parsley (about 4 ounces), stems discarded
  • ½ cup celery leaves, coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup cilantro leaves, stemmed
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 12 oil-cured black olives (about 1 ounce), pitted, rinsed, and coarsely chopped
  • teaspoons Spanish sweet smoked paprika (pimentón de la Vera)
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • Pinch of ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice, or more to taste
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Crackers or semolina bread

Method

  1. Put the garlic cloves in a large steamer basket set over a pan of simmering water and top with the spinach, parsley, celery, and cilantro. Cover and steam until the garlic is soft and the greens are very tender, about 15 minutes. Let cool, then squeeze the greens dry, finely chop, and set aside. Using the back of a fork, mash the garlic cloves.
  2. In a medium cazuela set over a flame-tamer or in a heavy-bottomed skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil until shimmering. Add the mashed garlic, olives, paprika, cayenne, and cumin and stir over moderately high heat for 30 seconds, or until fragrant. Add the greens and cook, mashing and stirring, until soft and dry and somewhat smooth, about 15 minutes.
  3. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Mash in the remaining olive oil. Refrigerate, closely covered, for at least 1 day and up to 4 days.
  4. To serve, return to room temperature. Stir in the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Pack in a serving dish and serve with crackers or semolina bread.