Tori Avey’s Mediterranean Olive Chicken is one of those guest-worthy dishes – impressive, yet easy to prepare and sure to please. (photo by Shelley Civkin)
It’s Thursday afternoon and I’m wondering what the maid is going to make for dinner. Or how I’m going to spend that $70 million Lotto Max I just won. Or when I’ll fly to Mars. See my quandary? I guess you could say I’m in a rut: fish, chicken, steak. Not being a big pasta fan, I seem to fall back on my old regulars every week. If I let him, my husband Harvey would eat pizza and pasta every night.
I remember the ’60s, when my mom had an unwritten weekly dinner schedule. Sundays were prime rib roast with Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes and salad. The salad was only ever iceberg lettuce (hadn’t farmers discovered romaine, butter lettuce or kale yet??), mixed with cucumbers, tomatoes and green onions. Bottled dressing. The rest of the week’s dinners consisted of chicken livers with onions, salmon, meatloaf or hamburgers, or chicken. Each main was accompanied by the same weekly side dishes. And I mean the same. There was little, if any, variation from week to week. There’s something to say for consistency. With the exception of salad, every other vegetable mom served was frozen and came pre-chopped in a plastic bag. It was the ’60s after all. Occasionally, we’d go to the White Spot on Granville and 67th for a treat, and eat in the car, with the long tray spread across the front seat, attached to the window edges. Exciting times!
It’s funny that the ’60s and ’70s were a time of instant everything – Carnation Instant Breakfast, Pop-Tarts, Shake ’n Bake, Swanson TV Dinners, Nestle’s instant chocolate milk. Even though lots of women were stay-at-home moms and had time on their hands. Not to diminish the hard work they did raising their kids and keeping the house spotless. But let’s face it, lots of women today work outside the home and still do the majority of the childrearing and house chores. There were those privileged few who also had live-in housekeepers (yes, my family was one of them), and still my mother used lots of instant, pre-made foods. She was a good cook, for sure, but had to have a recipe in front of her. I’m like her in that regard. But I digress.
When we got married 10-and-a-half years ago, Harvey and I used to eat out at restaurants three to four times a week. So cooking was easy. Now, not so much. Sure, retirement provides me with more time to explore recipes. But my heart’s just not in it. Actually, that’s not true. I’m usually so busy volunteering that I simply don’t have the time (or inclination) to sit in front of a computer looking for culinary inspiration. Harvey thinks of cooking like a chemistry experiment, so he enjoys it. But as we get older (and sleep way less), we’ve kind of lost the fire in our bellies for cooking.
My father, alav hashalom, used to describe me as a human garbage disposal, because I would pretty much eat anything. He used to say that I’d “eat out of a puddle.” I was the “Give-it-to-Mikey-he’ll-eat-it” daughter. Admittedly, as long as someone else cooks it, I’ll eat it. That was then.
I am still a very easy-to-please eater – as long as the food isn’t too spicy, doesn’t contain too much roughage and doesn’t have nuts, corn, celery or raw vegetables in it. Well-seasoned food is nice, but, at heart, I’m a purist. With a bad gut. Bland food doesn’t bother me; in fact, I’ve been known to enjoy hospital food. After my recent three-month stomach illness, during which I ate only bland food, and very little, I’ve been a bit apprehensive about trying anything different. But, lately, as I’ve been feeling better, I figure it’s time to branch out. Caution to the wind!
As I strolled the culinary landscape that is the internet, I came across a particular chicken recipe by Tori Avey, whose recipes I’ve enjoyed before. Best thing about this recipe is that it’s easy. And, turns out, it’s stunningly delicious. Feast your taste buds. Find it online at toriavey.com/toris-kitchen/mediterranean-olive-chicken.
TORI AVEY’S MEDITERRANEAN OLIVE CHICKEN
(tweaked by me slightly)
3/4 cup chopped green olives (I used queen Manzanilla)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tbsp crushed garlic
2 tsp honey
1/2 tsp lime zest
salt and pepper
4-5 lbs chicken pieces, bone in, skin on (I use 6 chicken thighs, as we’re dark meat fans, but white meat would be fine, too)
The recipe also called for red pepper flakes and dried oregano, which I omitted, plus wine to make a sauce afterwards, which I also omitted.
- In a mixing bowl, whisk together the chopped olives, olive oil, lime juice, garlic, honey and lime zest. Season the marinade with salt and pepper to taste.
- Sprinkle the chicken pieces lightly with salt and pepper. Place chicken pieces in a nine-by-13-inch baking dish. Brush the pieces evenly with olive marinade, using all of the marinade to coat.
- Cover the baking dish with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least two hours (or up to overnight).
- Preheat oven to 375˚F. Remove the plastic wrap and cover the baking dish with foil. Pierce a few vents with a sharp knife around the outer edges.
- Place the covered dish in the oven. Let the chicken bake for 60 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for an additional 15 to 30 minutes, basting periodically, until well cooked and tender. At the end of cooking, you can broil it for a minute or two to brown the skin (I didn’t bother with this step).
After two bites, my husband pronounced this the best chicken I had ever made. Bar none. And we eat a lot of chicken. Since I usually bake chicken uncovered and it turns out dry, this was a surprising treat – extremely moist, über-flavourful and just as yummy the next day. I’ll probably double the recipe next time around, since it’s worth having enough left for a second dinner. This is one of those guest-worthy dishes – impressive, yet easy to prepare and sure to please. And it makes a nice Shabbat meal, too. I also realized the versatility of the marinade when I tried it on pasta. I’d place bets that it goes well with steak, too. One marinade, three uses. Now that’s a masterful marinade!
You’re welcome. Beteavon!
Shelley Civkin aka the Accidental Balabusta, is a happily retired librarian and communications officer. For 17 years, she wrote a weekly book review column for the Richmond Review. She’s currently a freelance writer and volunteer.