Clementine and Olive Oil Muffins


Everyone has their favorite candy from their childhood. I have several. There was the luscious Galaxy milk chocolate bar. It was more expensive than others, so it was a rare treat. There were the pink and white individual marshmallows, so intensely sweet that they burned the back of my throat. But there was one sugary treat that I always loved. It was a mandarin-flavored hard candy that came in a pack of around ten of them. It was tantalizingly tart and sweet and it had this perfect, completely artificial mandarin flavor that I adored. It seems to have completely disappeared from the market. I wonder if I tried it now, decades later, if I would still enjoy the chemically-created taste that I used to love.dsc05322

You don’t need to worry about any artificial flavor with these muffins. They get theirs from clementine zest and juice, so it’s a lot more subtle than a hard candy. I had seen this recipe for olive oil muffins on David Lebovitz’s website and when I opened the fridge and saw a few clementines that needed to be eaten soon, I decided to adapt the recipe to use them instead of an orange. The result is a moist, not too sweet muffin, with a subtle taste of clementine. The slight bitterness and sweet tartness of the clementines combines really well with the olive oil. If I hadn’t made them myself, I would have had a hard time guessing what that mysterious flavor was when I bit into them.  They are nothing like my childhood favorite candy, and that’s a good thing.

Clementine and Olive Oil Muffins – Adapted from David Lebovitz

Makes 12 muffins


1 1/3 cups (185g) flour
1 cup (200g) sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder, preferably aluminum-free
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup (180ml) fruity extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup (180ml) whole milk
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 tablespoon freshly grated clementine or tangerine zest
1/3 cup fresh clementine juice


1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Put liners in a 12-muffin pan.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, olive oil, milk, eggs, zest, and juice.

3. Add the dry ingredients in the wet ingredients. Stir them together with a flexible spatula until they are just combined but do not overmix. There may be some minor lumps in the batter, which are fine.

4. Fill the muffin molds 2/3rds to 3/4ths full of batter and bake until they just feel set in the center and the tops are golden brown, about 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool a bit before serving.

Clementine and Almond Syrup Cake

DSC02324The warnings started early last weekend and escalated in severity with every few hours. “Snowstorm predicted for next week.” “Snow blizzard expected.” “Brace for three feet of snow!” “Snowmaggedon!” “Snowpocalypse!!” “It’s the end of the world!!!” Ok, I made that last one up. In all seriousness, it sounded like we were due for a whopper of a snowstorm, so on Sunday morning, I decided to go to the grocery store in our neighborhood and get some basics, like milk and fruit. I walked through the sliding doors of the store and I started laughing. You’d think that the world really was ending. People were piling up enough food in their carts to feed their family for a couple of weeks. I guess it’s better to be prepared than sorry.

I bought just a few things for us (I have enough food in the house, at all times, to feed a small army), including some beautiful tangerines. They (and all their cousins, like mandarines, clementines, and tangelos) are probably my favorite citrus fruit. There is something beguiling about them, a seductive streak to their sweet tartness with that tinge of bitterness. And they are so easy to carry and peel, giving bananas a real run for the most convenient fruit snack.

This recipe comes from Jerusalem: A Cookbook, which remains one of my all-time favorite cookbooks. It’s a cake soaked in clementine syrup. I love syrup cakes. They are really common in Middle Eastern cuisines, so they are familiar to me from my childhood.

Oh, and that historic blizzard that would bury us in snow? As you probably already know, it never materialized here in New York city. We barely got eight inches of snow. There’s still time this winter, though, for the world to end in a blizzard of snow.DSC02328Clementine and Almond Syrup Cake – Slightly adapted from Jerusalem: A Cookbook


14 tablespoons (200 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
scant 2 cups (380 g) sugar, separated
grated zest and juice of 4 clementines
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
2½ cups (280 g) ground almonds
5 large eggs, beaten
¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon (100 g) all-purpose flour
pinch of salt


Preheat the oven to 350° F. Lightly grease a 9½-inch springform pan with butter and line the bottom with parchment paper (if you can, line the sides as well).

In a mixer, beat the butter, 1½ cups (300 g) of the sugar, and both zests on low speed just until everything is well combined. Don’t beat it too much or incorporate a lot of air in it. Add half the ground almonds and continue mixing until combined.

With the mixer running, add the eggs one at a time, stopping the scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the remaining ground almonds, the flour, and the salt and but until completely smooth.

Pour the batter into the pan and level it with an offset spatula. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out just a little bit moist.

When the cake is still in the oven and almost done, place the remaining sugar and the citrus juices in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. As soon as the syrup boils, remove it from the heat.

As soon as you take the cake out of the oven, brush it with the boiling syrup (use all the syrup), making sure that all the syrup is soaked in. L

Chicken with Clementines, Fennel, and Ouzo


I’m back from a little over three weeks of travel and I am so happy to be home again. I’ve always been a homebody, so being away from home for long periods of time makes me feel rootless and restless. Even when I am in New York I’ve been known to resist being out of the apartment for too long. I like to come home, regroup, and then go out again.


One of my trips was back home to visit my family. It was a somewhat special trip because I had a reunion of sorts with three of my friends from high school, two of whom I hadn’t seen in 25 years. I marveled at how little we have changed in some things (our looks in general, our mannerisms, many of our interests) and how much in others (the inability of some us to read menus in dim restaurant lights, having teenage kids).


The older I get, the more I find myself going down memory lane and remembering little details about my childhood. The four of us, along with my sister who was there with us, remembered and laughed about some silly things, like our predilection for writing bad poems which we exchanged and commented on with the seriousness of a grand literary salon.


Inevitably, we compared our teenage years with those of their own kids. And, as it seems to be the habit of every generation, we lamented the fact that “back in our days” things were different, or better, or less complicated. Truth be told, things were simpler then. We were a lot more innocent, as was the world in which we lived. With no Internet or any connected devices, our world was limited to what was physically close to us and that made things a lot less complex.


While I was at home, I also did one of my favorite activities: go to the grocery store. I love to walk the aisles and rediscover food that I grew up with but have either completely forgotten or haven’t tasted in years. Like the slightly sweetened sesame rusks called glystarkes or the fried dough balls soaked in honey syrup called loukoumades. Every morning I ate a fresh kolokoti, a turnover filled with cooked pumpkin, raisins, and bulgur wheat.


I started this blog post thinking I was going to somehow bring it back to the taste of licorice or anise, which is a key element of this recipe I want to share with you today. I had envisioned talking about how as a kid I watched The Little House on the Prairie and always wondered what this “sweet root” (as the greek subtitles translated it) was that the kids seemed to buy at the pharmacy. And how it turned out to be licorice, a word that comes from the greek glykoriza which means sweet root. And how I realized I hated licorice, though I still like ouzo, especially on a hot summer night, turned milky with the addition of ice cold water.

But in the end, I couldn’t really find my way to all that and I figured I would just give you this recipe from “Jerusalem: A Cookbook.” It’s an extraordinary dish, made even more amazing by its simplicity.


Chicken with Clementines, Fennel, and Ouzo – Slightly adapted from Jerusalem: A Cookbook

Makes 4 servings


6 1/2 tablespoons / 100ml ouzo (or other anise flavored drink like arak or pernod)
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons grain mustard
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
2 medium fennel bulbs (about 1lb or 500gr)
2 – 2 1/2 lbs skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
4 clementines, unpeeled, sliced horizontally very thin (about 1/4 inch)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds, lightly crushed
chopped flat-leaf parsley for garnish


Put the first eight ingredients in a large bowl and whisk well. Cut each fennel bulb in half lengthwise and then cut each half into 4 wedges. Add the fennel to the bowl along with the chicken thighs, clementine slices, thyme, and fennel seeds. Using your hands, mix everything well and then cover and leave to marinate in the fridge for a few hours or overnight (if you don’t have the time, skip the marinating stage).

Preheat the oven to 475º F / 220º C. Transfer the chicken and all the ingredients in the bowl, along with the liquid marinade, in a baking sheet that is large enough to accommodate everything without being overcrowded (this will help the chicken to brown). Make sure that the skin of the chicken thighs is facing up. Put the pan in the preheated oven and roast for 35-45 minutes until the chicken is brown and cooked through.

Remove from the oven. Lift the chicken, fennel and clementines from the pan and put on a serving platter. Cover and keep warm. Pour the cooking liquid into a small saucepan and place over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and then simmer until the sauce is reduced by one third. You should be left with about 1/3 cup (80 ml). Pour the hot sauce of the chicken and top with some parsley before serving.