Naturopathic pantry #1: Extra Virgin Olive Oil

While I very much believe that there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all diet and that each person's biology and genetics require an individual approach, I can stand behind the fact that there are some common ingredients that are wonderfully health promoting and create the backbone of a nourishing  daily diet. These are what I like to call the cornerstones of a naturopathic pantry. They are food items that I use day in and day out and are all spectacular both health-wise and taste-wise. Up first: extra virgin olive oil.

Extra virgin olive oil is first on the list because it is the oil I could never live without. It is full of polyphenols which is really just a fancy way of saying it is full of substances that help fight inflammation and damage in the body. These clever plant chemicals are what make olive oil good for the heart, memory, blood sugar function and give it cancer fighting properties.

Because polyphenols are such an important component of olive oil and implicated in fighting inflammation all over the body, it is important to search out oil demarcated as extra virgin. This means you get a healing food as opposed to a dead oil. Luckily, on the west coast we have wonderful Californian (and Oregonian) oils and this is a time when local is important because it is common for imported oils to not be truly extra virgin under a microscope. I always look for the California Olive Oil Council label or support Red Ridge olive mill when I'm in Portland.  

This simple chicken dish was inspired by a cooking class I did in October.  It is rustic, comes together quickly and features olives as well as olive oil and makes a weeknight meal feel just a little more special.  

Chicken with olives and lemon
adapted from Williams-Sonoma Rustic Italian
serves 4

4 boneless chicken thighs
a good glug of extra virgin olive oil + more for finishing (I used olio nuovo from Red Ridge's fall harvest)
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 TBS Italian parsley, chopped and divided
1/2 green jalapeño, seeded and diced (optional)
1/2 cup pitted olives
1/4 cup white wine
juice of 1/2 lemon + 2 strips of zest

Salt and pepper the chicken thighs.  Preheat oven to 375'. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Brown chicken on each side until golden brown and remove to a plate. Lower heat slightly, and add onion. Saute until starting to caramelize adding a touch more oil if it looks dry. Mix in 2 TBS of chopped parsley, garlic and jalapeño, if using. Saute for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and add in white wine, olives, lemon juice and zest and chicken pieces. Transfer to oven and cook for about 7 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest a bit before serving, sprinkled with remaining parsley and drizzled with a bit more oil.