Lemon zesty chicken with olives, basil, & swiss chard

This recipe was inspired by the bounty of food–notably blitva or swiss chard–that my husband’s family brought when they came to visit us last week. Like many families in Croatia, we are lucky to have some relatives that still live in a selo or village. And I don’t mean to conjure depressed, backward images like the opening scenes from Borat (which was filmed in Romania, btw), but of simply smaller towns where the houses have larger properties with small vineyards and gardens.  Sweet and kind of idyllic, many people continue to grow their food organically, which is a god-send considering how expensive food is here. (The reason for which is beyond me. Croatia absurdly has some of the highest food prices in all of Europe, despite the salaries being so low.) Every summer we get homemade jams, elderflower juice, fruits, vegetables, and even brandy. A summer visit to Osijek is not complete without fresh elderflower juice and the smell of lipa (not sure what this translates to in English, maybe linden?) in the air.

Blitva is staple of Croatian cuisine. You can find it in pasta, tossed with potatoes, in soup, and even eaten raw–as my sister-in-law professes to do with yogurt. It’s really good and super healthy as its a good source of  vitamins A, K, and C as well as iron, magnesium, and potassium.

  • 400 g of chicken breast
  • 1 small lemon
  • olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • olives (I used about half of a jar)
  • fresh basil
  • salt and pepper
  • bunch of swiss chard

Toss the chicken with the juice + zest of the lemon, garlic, and about 2 tablespoons or so of olive oil (basically to coat it). Set aside to marinate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 175 degrees Celsius or 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Meanwhile, cut the olives in half and chop up the fresh basil.  Tear the swiss chard into manageable pieces and toss with a little olive oil to coat. Set aside.

Place the marinated chicken in a baking dish.  Add the olives and basil all around and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake for about 15 minutes, flipping at least once. When you see the chicken start to brown, throw in the chard. Cook for an additional few minutes. You can turn up the heat a little at this point or switch to broil, so that it browns a bit faster. My husband prefers the chard to be a little crispy, but you can cook it to your own preference.

Serve with rice (or similar starch) and beet salad.



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