Tonights dinner came about courtesy of Cooking Light magazine.

I’ve subscribed to Cooking Light on and off for years.  It can be good for ideas now and again and it can have some useful information now and again, but I rarely actually follow any of the recipes.

Nothing unusual in that as I rarely follow any recipes…

We had some dates in the ‘fridge that needed using up and this months issue had a recipe for chicken and dates.  The Cooking Light recipe, printed below, really sounded fun.  Problem was, I didn’t have any chicken.  But I had some beef. Not having an ingredient has never been a good reason not to make something.

A recipe was born!

Chicken with Dates, Olives, and Cinnamon

David Bonom, Cooking Light
October 2011


  • 12 bone-in chicken thighs, skinned
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 4 cups sliced onion
  • 1 teaspoon minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 18 pitted manzanilla (or green) olives, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
  • 2 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup whole pitted dates, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves


  1. Sprinkle chicken with pepper and salt. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a 10-quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add 6 chicken thighs to pan; cook 4 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove chicken from pan. Repeat with remaining 1 tablespoon butter, remaining 1 tablespoon oil, and remaining 6 chicken thighs.
  2. Add onion and ginger to pan; sauté 8 minutes, stirring frequently. Add olives; sauté for 1 minute. Add flour and the next 4 ingredients (through cinnamon stick); cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add broth; bring to a boil, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Cook for 1 minute. Return chicken to pan. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook 12 minutes. Stir in dates; simmer 10 minutes or until chicken is done. Stir in juice, and garnish with basil.

I more or less followed the recipe, substituting cubed beef for the chicken thighs and beef broth for the chicken broth.  The spices worked perfectly with the beef – and I’m sure they’d work equally well with just about anything.  It was rich without being overpowering.

Of course, what started the whole stew-ish dinner idea was that I wanted to bake a loaf of bread.  I still have starter from my last pugliese loaf and thought a cruisty loaf of something would be the perfect way to enjoy this slightly-chilly day.

What I didn’t expect was for it to literally be an all-day event.

This particular bread calls for a biga – a starter – but doesn’t call for any more yeast – as do most other breads.  Since I was starting out with a refrigerated starter and the house wasn’t exactly hot, it took several hours for the various risings to happen.  But it was worth the time!

Pane Di Como Antico

Carol Field The Italian Baker

  • 3/4 c  Biga
  • 1 1/2 cups water at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup  Whole wheat flour
  • 3 cups  To 3 3/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • Cornmeal

Cut the starter into small pieces in a large mixing bowl. Add all but 1 to 2 Tbsp. of the water and mix until the starter is in fine shreds and the liquid is chalky white. Stir in the whole wheat flour and most of the all-purpose flour, 1 cup at a time. When the dough is a fairly rough and shaggy mass, stir in the salt dissolved in the remaining water. Knead on a floured  surface, sprinkling with up to 1/2 cup additional flour and using the dough scraper to scrape up the fine film of dough that will accumulate on the sork surface, as well as to turn and lift the dough. After about 5 minutes of kneading, slam the dough down hard several times to help develop the gluten. Continue kneading until the dough is smooth, a total of 8 to 12 minutes. The dough should still be soft, moist and sticky.

By Mixer:
Mix the starter and all but 1 to 2 Tbsp. of the water with the paddle in a large mixer bowl. Mix in the flours and then the salt dissolved in the remaining water. Change to the dough hook and knead at medium speed until soft, moist, and sticky but obviously elastic, about 4 minutes. Finish kneading by hand on a lightly floured surface, sprinkling with additional flour, until smooth but still soft.

By Food Processor:
Refrigerate the starter until cold. Process the starter and 1 1/2 cups cold water with the steel blade and remove to another bowl. Change to the dough blade and process the flours and salt with 2 or 3 pulses to sift. With the machine running, pour the starter mixture through the fed tube as quickly as the flour can absorb it. Process 30 to 45 seconds longer to knead. The dough will be moist and sticky. Finish kneading by hand on a lightly floured surface, sprinkling with additional flour, until the dough is smooth but still soft.

First Rise:
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. The dough is ready when it has numberous bubbles and blisters under the skin.

Shaping and Second Rise:
Divide the dough in half on a lightly floured surface without kneading it. Shape into 2 round loaves. Let them relax under a cloth for 20 minutes. Line baking sheets or peels with parchment paper and flour the paper generously. Roll each ball into a fat cylinder and place seam side down on the paper. Dimple the loaves all over with your fingertips or knuckles, as for focaccia, to keep the dough from springing up. The dough should feel delicate but springy. Cover the loaves and let rise until doubled, with many visible air bubbles, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours.

Thirty minutes before baking, heat the oven with a baking stone in it to 425° F. Sprinkle the baking stone with cornmeal. Carry the peel or baking sheet to the oven and very gently invert the dough onto the stone. Gently remove the parchment paper, peeling off very slowly. Immediately reduce the heat to 400° and bake until golden, 35 to 40 minutes.
Cool on wire racks.

This dough can be made ahead and placed in the refrigerator for the second rise; the flavor is better with the long cool development of the yeast.

Serve this with stews and meats with rich sauces, with green salads, fresh cheeses, sliced salami, and smoked meats.

The long, slow rising made for a most excellent bread!  This was very reminiscent of the San Francisco sourdough breads of my youth.  It was crusty, chewy, and really flavorful.

It’s amazing what nothing more than flour, water, salt, and yeast can produce.