May 23, 2018

Dear friends,

I try to make my husband happy. That’s why I made Moroccan Chicken with Green Olives last week, and how he came to almost crush my foot on Sunday.

The foot crush was an unanticipated byproduct of his latest craze, giving me a massage. Lest you think this is about him making ME happy, I’ll describe it: I lay face-down on a blanket on the floor while he “massages” my back vigorously with his fingertips, which makes me laugh until I cry, and in turn gives him belly laughs.

“Laughing is good exercise,” Tony explains when I ask him to use the palms of his hands so it won’t tickle. The foot crush was an extra he thought of on the spur of the moment, recalling the rough massage techniques of the high school for athletes he attended in Japan. The technique: He stepped on the bottom of my foot as I lay face-down on the floor. Ow.

So I do what I can for my marriage. Last Wednesday it was making luscious Moroccan chicken. It looked so pretty Tony snapped a couple of photos of it on his iPad and showed them to a Moroccan woman in an English class he takes through Project Learn. She makes the dish with regular couscous, not large-pearl Israeli couscous, Tony reported. Otherwise, mine looked authentic, she said.

That’s nice to know but not essential for me to love a recipe. I am more interested in whether it tastes good, and Mark Bittman’s Chicken With Green Olives does indeed. The recipe is from his book, “The Best Recipes in the World,” a compendium of Bittman’s global favorites. Cook this when you want to make someone happy.



2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
3 to 4 lbs. chicken leg-thigh pieces (I used all thighs), legs and thighs separated, trimmed of excess fat
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 large onion, chopped
2 tsp. peeled and minced fresh ginger
About 1 inch cinnamon stick or ¼ tsp. ground
A few saffron threads or ½ tsp. ground turmeric
1 tbsp. minced garlic
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. paprika
Pinch of cayenne, or to taste
2 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
2 cups good-quality green olives, pitted
Fresh lemon juice to taste, at least 2 tbsp.
Chopped fresh cilantro leaves for garnish

Put the oil in a deep skillet or flameproof casserole, preferably nonstick, over medium-high heat. After a minute or so, when the oil is hot, add the chicken, skin side down, and brown it well, rotating and turning the pieces as necessary and sprinkling them with salt and pepper as they cook, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate and pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion, ginger, ½ teaspoon or more pepper, the cinnamon, saffron, garlic, bay leaf, cumin, paprika, cayenne, and some salt and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, until the onion softens. Add the stock and raise the heat to medium-high. Return the chicken to the pan, skin side up, and cook at a lively simmer while you prepare the olives.

Put the olives in a small saucepan and cover with water; bring to a boil, drain, and repeat. Add the drained olives to the chicken. Cook until the chicken is done, about 15 minutes from the time you returned it to the pan. Add lemon juice, then taste and adjust the seasoning—it’s unlikely, but not impossible, that the mixture will need some salt. Garnish and serve. (I served it over Israeli couscous.) Serves 4.

From “The Best Recipes in the World” by Mark Bittman.


Corelife Eatery opens today in Fairlawn, and I plan to be one of the first in line. I’ve had my eye on this healthful-eating concept since the Strongsville location opened. The menu features salads, grain bowls and broth bowls with vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options, as well as choices for the way I like to eat — a bowl of protein and vegetables with maybe a smidgen of whole grains. (Actually, I’d prefer foie gras and creme brûlée but those eat-anything-days are long gone.)

Some menu choices: Spicy Thai Chicken & Rice Noodles, 450 calories with Thai cashew dressing; Spicy Ginger Steak Salad (shredded kale, arugula, steak, bell peppers, ginger, Sriracha), 370 calories with miso sesame dressing; and Grilled Chicken Tortilla Bone Broth Bowl (broth, chicken, shredded kale, napa cabbage, tortilla strips, jalapeno, black beans, cilantro, lime), 630 calories. No prices are listed on the restaurant’s Internet site.

The Fairlawn restaurant is the eighth in Ohio for the chain, which began three years ago in Syracuse, N.Y., and has quickly spread to eight other states. Find out more at


What I cooked last week:
Chicken With Green Olives over Israeli couscous; grilled strip steaks, asparagus with butter and lemon; ham and cheese omelet, sautéed mushrooms with feta cheese; spaghetti sauce with venison and bison; spaghetti sauce over melted feta cheese, steamed asparagus; scrambled eggs over melted feta cheese, grapefruit sections; seared peppered tuna steaks drizzled with sesame oil and soy sauce, charred whole scallions, pickled shaved carrots and radishes. (I bought the BIG container of feta cheese.)

What I ate in restaurants last week:
Cobb salad with grilled chicken at Alexandri’s in Wadsworth; egg roll, pad Thai and grilled chicken skewers at the Asian Festival in Cleveland; fried lake perch, cottage cheese and coleslaw at Wil’s Grille & Pub in Coventry Township.


From Jim S.:
I assume you know this but just in case, since you are enjoying your asparagus patch, asparagus is properly eaten with the fingers. What better source than Miss Manners herself?

Dear Jim:
Thanks for attaching Miss Manners’ written explanation that it’s OK to eat asparagus with one’s fingers. She writes in her column, “Asparagus is, indeed, correctly eaten with the fingers, in a very old tradition of which few modern people seem aware.”

I would add that, should the spears be draped with Hollandaise or another sauce, utensils may still be your best bet. However, at home when no one is watching, I have managed to eat even sauced asparagus with my fingers. It’s tricky but entirely possible.

From Maria M.:
I absolutely love rhubarb and have been looking for a rhubarb jam recipe for years. I cannot find one that does not include other fruit/berries or gelatin. Do you happen to have a recipe? Or do you think I could take a strawberry-rhubarb jam recipe and substitute an equal amount of rhubarb for the strawberries? Thank you so much.

Dear Maria:
There’s no reason you cannot make jam or jelly with rhubarb alone, as long as you add pectin, according to information I found at the the University of Georgia’s National Center for Home Preservation site. You should process the jam or jelly in a boiling water bath. More canning safety information can be found at

That said, I could not find a recipe for straight rhubarb jam or jelly on the home preservation site, the Ball canning jar site or even the Washington Rhubarb Growers Association site. I finally located the recipe at Kraft Foods’ Sure.Jell site. Here it is:

2 1/2 lbs. fully ripe rhubarb
1 cup water
1 package Sure-Jell Fruit Pectin
1/2 tsp. butter
6 1/2 cups sugar, measured into a separate bowl

Bring a boiling water canner, half full of water, to a simmer. Wash 8 1-cup jars and screw bands in hot soapy water; rinse with warm water. Pour boiling water over flat lids in a saucepan off the heat. Let stand in hot water until ready to use. Drain jars well before filling.

Chop unpeeled rhubarb finely. Place rhubarb and water in a 4-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil on high heat. Reduce heat to medium; simmer 2 minutes or until rhubarb is tender. Measure exactly 4 1/2 cups prepared rhubarb into a 6- or 8-quart sauce pot.

Stir pectin into prepared rhubarb. Add butter to reduce foaming. Bring to a full rolling boil (a boil that doesn’t stop bubbling when stirred) on high heat, stirring constantly. Stir in sugar. Return to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Boil exactly 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim off any foam with a metal spoon.

Ladle immediately into prepared jars, filling to within 1/4-inch of tops. Wipe jar rims and threads. Cover with two-piece lids. Screw bands tightly. Place jars on elevated rack in canner. Lower rack into canner. Water must cover jars by 1 to 2 inches; add boiling water if necessary.

Cover canner with lid and bring water to a gentle boil. Process 10 minutes. Remove jars and place upright on a towel to cool completely. After jars cool, check seals by pressing middles of lids with a finger. If a lid springs back, lid is not sealed and refrigeration of that jar necessary. Makes 8 1-cup jars.


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