Monday, August 29, 2016

Roast Chicken with Green Olives and Dates

I had planned to post on here a lot more often this past month while on my Cardiology research elective, but I clearly angered some dark spirits who had other plans. Never in all my days have I experienced such an unfortunate series of (technologic) events, from a computer that passed rather suddenly of unknown etiology to a car repair with unexpected delays (thank gaaawd for Uber). Seriously, there are few things more aggravating than hours of futile phone calls begging to the least incompetent store "manager" available about getting my computer back from repair abyss. Although annoying, these problems are trivial and I remind myself of my many good fortunes.

[Insert seamless transition to chicken recipe]...nah. Won't even attempt to disguise this rant as an introduction to the recipe. Just needed to vent.

Sooo...chicken. Surely I'm not the only health conscious person with a perception of baked chicken as dry and rubbery. Whether cooking it at home or ordering it off a restaurant menu, chicken far too often elicits this feeling much like when you agree to a mediocre...err, movie for Netflix and chill. Regret. With so many busts, I treasure when chicken recipes are satisfying and truly orgasmic. This is one of them.

They say there are two types of men in this world. I'm admittedly...well, let's just say I'm pleased that this recipe uses the meaty thighs and legs of the bird. Yes, breast meat is a bit leaner and "healthier," but if you dislike it, what's the point? A sustainable diet must be balanced and absolutely requires that you love your food. That's exactly what this Yotam Ottolenghi creation delivers.

Like most Ottolenghi recipes, the ingredients are unexpected, brilliant and bursting with flavor. Like seriously, who would think chicken marinated in a mixture of dates, green olives, capers, oregano, wine and date syrup would be so magical?!  And the best part, it's foolproof!

Though the recipe may seem intimidating with long marinating times (48 hours) and exotic ingredients (date syrup), it's actually very simple. I found date syrup at my local Whole Foods, but it's also readily available on Amazon. (So no excuses)! As for the marinade, a little foreplay goes a long way. I promise. Just massage the mixture into your chicken thighs and allow it to sit in the fridge for a couple of days. This dish is perfect for cooks of all levels, from first timers to experienced. It is guaranteed to wow your dinner guests and leave them gossiping about last night.

Tips/Tricks to Make Perfect Roast Chicken with Green Olives and Dates:
  • Use good wine that you enjoy drinking. You only need 1/2 cup, then serve the rest with dinner!
  • Plan ahead and let the chicken marinate for 48 hours. (24 hours minimum).
  • Make extra. You'll want leftovers.
  • Cook the chicken with the skin left on (it will keep everything moist and flavorful), but avoid eating the skin (it's high in saturated fat and cholesterol).
  • Have fun mixing different olives. Sneak some samples at the olive bar and pick your favorites! 

Roast Chicken with Green Olives and Dates Ingredients:
  • 6-8 chicken leg quarters, skin on
  • 5 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 15 grams oregano leaves, torn (plus extra for garnish)
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 100 grams pitted green olives
  • 60 grams capers
  • 2 tablespoons caper juice
  • 70 grams pitted Medjoul dates, quartered lengthwise
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (Sauvignon blanc, Pinot grigio, Albarino)
  • 1 tablespoon date syrup
  • Kosher salt and pepper 

Roast Chicken with Green Olives and Dates Recipe:
Two days prior to serving:
In a non-reactive bowl, mix together all the ingredients, except the white wine and date syrup. Add 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and a few grinds of black pepper and mix well.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to marinate in the refrigerator for 48 hours, mixing occasionally.

One hour prior to serving:
Preheat oven to 355 F.

Spread the chicken quarters and marinade onto a large baking tray. In a separate bowl, whisk together the white wine and date syrup and then pour over the chicken.

Place in the oven and cook for 50 minutes, basting 2-3 times until the skin is a beautiful golden brown and the chicken is cooked through.

Remove from oven. Transfer to a serving platter, if desired. Garnish with fresh oregano leaves and enjoy.

Friday, August 12, 2016


Hummus is a spread made from chickpeas blended with tahini that is immensely popular throughout the Middle East. In Israel, it's everywhere. It is literally served at all times of the day as a delicious dip for pita bread or vegetables, a condiment for sandwiches, or my favorite, straight off a spoon (don't you juuudge me). The best part is it's an excellent source of fiber, protein, and good fat as part of a heart healthy Mediterranean style diet (read more on that here).

Thanks to brands such as Sabra, hummus has become mainstream in America and can be easily found at the grocery store. Sure, there are some pretty good brands of hummus on the market (if you're a basic bitch), but if you have not had homemade hummus you are missing out. It's life changing.

Families across Israel take tremendous pride in their hummus recipe and claim to have the best version...

They clearly have not tried mine.

But the truth is, everyone likes hummus slightly differently. Some prefer bits of intact chickpeas left in their hummus for added texture while others want it perfectly smooth. There are also varying degrees of garlic, lemon, and spice. I am personally in the perfectly smooth camp and I mean smooooth. I am also a minimalist and expect hummus to taste like chickpeas with just subtle notes of tahini, lemon, garlic and cumin. My hummus is adapted from a family recipe with inspiration from Jerusalem by my culinary idol Ottolenghi. He uses baking soda to help break down the chickpeas tough outer layer.

What the...Tahini
Before I get to the recipe, just a few words on this essential hummus ingredient. Tahini is a paste made from roasted sesame seeds and is what gives hummus its distinct nutty and creamy qualities. It most commonly comes in a jar, bottle or can and can be labeled as "tahini" or "tahina." They are equivalent. But not all tahini is created equally. There is definitely differences to taste, consistency and overall quality across brands. If this ingredient is foreign to you, it may be difficult (but is so important) to identify a quality tahini for your hummus. Try searching for products online with great reviews or find a Middle Eastern specialty store and ask for help. Otherwise just experiment with products till you find one you love. The tahini consistency should be slightly thinner than peanut butter, and similar to natural peanut butter, the oil separates and rises to the top. You must mix your tahini really well before using.

Tips/Tricks to Make Perfectly Creamy Hummus:
  • Due to the simplicity of hummus, the highest quality ingredients are needed
  • Each brand of chickpeas, olive oil, tahini vary in taste and texture, so it is important to taste as you go and don't be afraid to make adjustments 
  • Hummus thickens as it cools, so save some of the reserved cooking liquid in case you need to thin the hummus the next day. But resist temptations to over thin the hummus. 
  • Add ice to the reserved cooking liquid to chill it before combining with the other hummus ingredients for a lighter, fluffier end result.  
  • Place a layer of plastic wrap directly over the hummus to prevent an unappetizing crusty layer from forming
  • If serving the next day, allow hummus to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes prior to eating 
Hummus Ingredients:
  • 1 1/4 cups dried chickpeas (250 g), soaked in water overnight (or at least 12 hours)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2/3 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 1/3 cup really good olive oil + extra to serve
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt + more to taste
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice + more to taste 
  • 1/2 cup reserved chickpea cooking water, chilled with a handful of ice cubes (see below)
  • Paprika for garnish
  • Parsley, chopped for garnish

Hummus Recipe:
The night (or at least 12 hours) before, soak the dried chickpeas in plenty of cold water.  Drain the chickpeas.
Note, the dried chickpeas should roughly double in size after soaking (mine went from 250 g/1.25 cups  to 483 grams/3.5 cups)

Heat a saucepan over high heat. Add the chickpeas and baking soda and mix constantly for 3 minutes. Add 6.5 cups of water and bring to a rapid boil. Skim off any foam or chickpea skins that float to the top. Reduce heat slightly to maintain a gentle boil and cook chickpeas till soft. The chickpeas are done when easily squished between your fingertips. (Mine were perfect at 25 minutes, but depending on your chickpeas it may take 20 to 40 minutes, or longer).

Drain the chickpeas, setting aside 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid. Add a handful of ice cubes to the reserved cooking liquid to chill.

Place the chickpeas in a food processor and pulse until completely broken down and a thick paste is formed. Use a spoon to scrape down the edges if needed.

Add the tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, cumin, and salt. Blend till well combined (about 1 minute).  While continuing to blend, slowly add 1/3 cup of the reserved cooking liquid. Blend for 2 minutes (yes two entire minutes).

Stop and check the consistency of your hummus. Add more of the reserved cooking liquid, 1 tablespoon at a time, until you reached the desired consistency. (I add about 3 tablespoons). If you stick your finger through the hummus, your imprint should remain. Blend for an additional 1-2 minutes until the hummus is fluffy and very smooth.

Taste the hummus and adjust the flavors with extra lemon juice and salt if necessary. Transfer to a bowl and allow to rest for at least 30 minutes before serving. (Keep covered with plastic wrap to prevent crusting). 

When ready to eat, use a spoon to form a crater through the hummus and pour in flavorful olive oil. Sprinkle with paprika and chopped parsley. Serve with vegetables or pita bread.