Watermelon and Feta Salad

Watermelon and Feta Salad3 (2)NOTHING says summer quite like ripe, juicy, red slices of watermelon. I’ve eaten watermelon my entire life, but I first ate it with feta or Bulgarian cheese on a visit to the YMCA in Jerusalem about 8 years ago. It was a revelation. The salty tang of the cheese was the perfect foil for the sweet, juicy melon. It wasn’t on any menu – you just had to know to ask for it. Ever since that fateful meal, I have been combining the two ingredients. It really doesn’t take anything more than a drizzle of a good olive oil, but tonight I decided to add some fresh chopped mint and chives from my terrace garden along with a good squeeze of fresh lime juice and a drizzle of a fruity EVOO. Add the oil and lime juice just before serving for simply the most refreshing summer salad ever! While I have included measurements, I honestly just eye-ball everything. So don’t get too bogged down and use the measurements as a guideline only.

Watermelon and Feta Salad

Watermelon and Feta Salad

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

6 cups of watermelon, without the rind and cut into large cubes

7 ounces of feta or Bulgarian cheese (Feta is ubiquitous and is very close to Bulgarian cheese.)

About 1/4 cup of fresh mint leaves, cut into ribbons

About 2 Tablespoons of chopped fresh chives

About 10 cracks of fresh black pepper

Sprinkling of sea salt or Kosher salt (The feta is fairly salty on its own, but I found that just a sprinkling of additional salt was needed to make everything sing.)

Juice of one lime

About 2-3 Tablespoons of a fruity EVOO

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Directions

  1. Place the watermelon, feta, mint, chives and black pepper in a bowl. Watermelon and Feta Salad1
  2. Just before serving, add the lime juice, salt and EVOO. Toss gently.

Rhubarb Strawberry Tart with Walnut Crust

Rhubarb Tart with Walnut Crust8 (2)

It’s rhubarb season again! Growing up my mother always made a strawberry or raspberry rhubarb compote that always hovered on the edge of sweet-tart flavor that was so refreshing on a hot summer day. I wanted to capture that flavor again but in a slightly more complex dessert. It is especially wonderful topped with a little Greek yogurt sweetened with agave syrup or honey or some lightly sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. The resulting dessert is light, a little bit tart, a little bit sweet, with that distinctive rhubarb flavor and a crumbly, nutty crust.

Since everyone’s taste is a bit different and fruit also varies, you may need to adjust the amount of sugar. I also made dough for a 9-inch shallow tart with enough left-over to make about 4 individual tartlettes if you wish. I made my dough with a mix of butter and Crisco for the shortening, but you could use all Crisco (a solid vegetable shortening) if you wish to keep this vegan.

Rhubarb Strawberry Tart with Walnut Crust

Yield: One 9-inch tart

Ingredients

For the filling

4 cups (about 1 pound) of rhubarb, washed, trimmed and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces

Rhubarb Tart with Walnut Crust2

1 cup granulated sugar

Scant 1 cup water

2 teaspoons arrowroot

pinch of Kosher or sea salt

1 cup of sliced strawberries

About 1/4 cup of red currant jelly

For the crust

2 cups finely ground walnuts

1 cup all-purpose unbleached flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 teaspoon Kosher or fine sea salt

3 Tablespoons granulated sugar

12 Tablespoons very cold solid shortening OR 4 Tablespoons of unsalted butter plus 8 Tablespoons of solid shortening

About 4 Tablespoons ice water

Directions

For the filling

Rhubarb Tart with Walnut Crust1

  1. In a 2 quart saucepan, dissolve the sugar in the water over medium heat. Add the rhubarb, cover the pan and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Cook until the rhubarb is very tender. This only takes about 3-4 minutes so watch it! Drain the rhubarb, reserving the liquid. Add the sliced strawberries to the hot rhubarb and add the pinch of salt, mixing through gently.
  2. Return the liquid to the pan and add the arrowroot. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the liquid clarifies and begins to thicken – about 8 minutes. Remove the mixture from the heat and allow it to cool somewhat. When it has cooled a bit, add only enough (about 1/4 cup) to the rhubarb-strawberry mixture to give it a “sauce” but not so much as to drown the rhubarb or to make it soupy. You will eye-ball this since it is not an exact science. (The arrowroot will thicken the liquid but will not become gloppy, something I HATE in fruit pies and desserts.) Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature. It can also be made ahead and refrigerated until you are ready to use it. Rhubarb Tart with Walnut Crust3

For the crust

Rhubarb Tart with Walnut Crust4 (2)

  1. Place all of the dry ingredients in a bowl and add the cold shortening in small cubes. Using your fingers, work the shortening into the dry mixture until you have pieces about the size of peas.
  2. Add the water and continue working the mixture until you can form the dough into a solid ball. I didn’t need to add any additional water, but if you must, add it in very small amounts at a time. Gather the dough together and flatten into a disk. Wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. This can also be made ahead and should keep for a couple of days in the fridge.
  3. When the dough has been chilled, remove it to a well-floured board, counter or pastry cloth and roll it out so that it fits into the bottom of the 9-inch flan pan. I only used about 2/3 of the dough. Place the round into the ungreased pan and using your fingertips or knuckles, carefully push the dough into and up the sides of the pan. While you are doing this, preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Prick the dough all over with a fork and bake it until well browned, about 30 minutes. Ovens vary, so just keep checking it. You want it to look like this: Rhubarb Tart with Walnut Crust6

Assemblage

  1. Once the crust has cooled, pour in the rhubarb-strawberry mixture and spread it evenly across the crust.
  2. Warm the red currant jelly and spoon it over the top of the filling. If the jelly had actual currants in it, pour it through a sieve before putting it over the rhubarb mixture. Spread it evenly with the back of a spoon or a pastry brush. Only use enough to give a nice sheen to the tart. Rhubarb Tart with Walnut Crust7
  3. Refrigerate the tart in the pan for at least 2 hours to allow everything to set up nicely. This can be made a day ahead. Once the tart has chilled, carefully remove the tart from the fluted flan pan and place on a serving plate. Serve as is, maybe with a sprig of fresh mint for color. I like it with a bit of sweetened Greek yogurt, crème fraîche or whipped cream, but if you wish to keep it vegan, it is also delicious plain. I’m personally not a fan of vegan whipped toppings, but go for it if that is what you like. Just enjoy!

Eggplant Pâté (Bharta)

I have been making the Middle Eastern roasted eggplant pâté, both with and without tahini for years and I love it. However, I saw this recipe in an Indian cookbook and decided to try it for some variety. In Hindi bharta means a mishmash of sorts. This version uses ingredients from the peasant community in the northwest region of India. It is redolent with that smoky eggplant flavor and is wonderful as a side dish or spread on toasted baguette slices to go along with cocktails. Try it over smashed avocado for an even deeper dish. Eggplant Pate8While traditionally made with ghee (clarified butter) it can also be made with a neutral vegetable oil to keep it vegan. No matter how you try it, the result is wonderful and the recipe can easily be doubled or tripled if you are making it for a crowd. My husband LOVED this.

Eggplant Pâté (Bharta) from Indian Cooking Unfolded by Raghavan Iyer

Yield: About 2 cups

Ingredients

1.5 pound firm purple eggplant without blemishes

1/4 cup finely chopped red onion

1 rounded Tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger (I admit that I use the stuff from a jar)

1 fresh green chili, stems discarded, finely chopped (The recipe suggests using a Serrano chili, but that is a bit too hot for my taste so I used a jalapeno. Since it was quite large, I only ended up using half of the jalapeno.)

1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 Tablespoon ghee or Canola oil

1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds

Juice from 1/2 of a small lime

1 Tablespoon, chopped fresh cilantro

Directions

  1. If you are grilling the eggplant, place it on the grill grate, cover the grill and cook, turning it periodically to ensure even grilling. Cook until the skin is evenly charred, about 25 minutes. If you are broiling the eggplant (which I did since I don’t own a grill), position the broiler rack so the eggplant will be about 6 inches from the heat. Place the eggplant on heavy duty foil directly on top of the rack and broil it, turning it midway until the skin is evenly charred. This takes about 30 minutes.
  2. Place the grilled eggplant in a bowl large enough to easily hold it and cover the bowl with plastic wrap to sweat the eggplant. This will take about 15 minutes. Once the eggplant is cool enough to handle, peel the eggplant skin away over the bowl using a soup spoon, discarding the skin and stem. Retain any of the liquid that has pooled in the bowl. Eggplant Pate6
  3. Smush the eggplant with a potato masher or your hands. Add the onion, ginger, chili, salt and turmeric and stir to mix well.
  4. Heat the oil or ghee in a medium skillet over medium heat. Once the oil or ghee begins to shimmer, sprinkle in the cumin seeds. They will instantly sizzle and perfume the air. This only takes about 5-10 seconds. Add the eggplant mixture and cook, stirring occasionally and scraping the bottom of the skillet to make sure that nothing sticks. Cook for about 15 minutes until the flavors have mingled and are irresistible. Eggplant Pate2
  5. Stir in the lime juice and serve it warm with the chopped cilantro.

Maialino’s Olive Oil Cake with Roasted Strawberries

Maialino's Olive Oil Cake

I’m not into fussy foods or fads. I don’t want my dinner misted by my nose or constructed in such a way that to touch it is liking destroying the Mona Lisa. I appreciate the artistry but it just isn’t me. I enjoy dishes with ingredients I can identify and that I can dig into with joy and abandon. So when I saw this recipe for another olive oil cake with simple ingredients I knew that I wanted to try it. But don’t be fooled or misled by “simple.” It also means that you need to use the best quality ingredients because there is nothing masking the taste or distracting you from the elements. Only use a really good quality fruity olive oil here and preferably one like Sciabica’s Orange or Lemon-flavored Olive OilMaialino's Olive Oil Cake2

This recipe comes from one of my favorite food sites – Food52, although it really originates from the Maialino Restaurant in New York City. The Roasted Strawberries is from the forthcoming Genius Desserts Cookbook (Ten Speed Press, September 2018). The cake is so moist and fragrant that it is almost like eating a pudding and a cake. It is wonderful on its own, but the addition of the roasted strawberries and some freshly whipped cream does make it amazing. The roasted strawberries are wonderful and can be used in so many ways – on pancakes or waffles or over yogurt to name a few, and they store in the fridge for a couple of weeks. If you are new to olive oil cakes, you might also want to try the recipe for Olive Oil Cake with Orange, Pine Nuts and Rosemary. While I made the cake with orange juice, zest and Grand Marnier, I saw that readers successfully made it substituting lemon juice, zest and Limoncello for a lemony take. Either way you can’t go wrong.

Maialino’s Olive Oil Cake

Yield: One 9-inch round cake (at least 8 servings)

Ingredients

2 cups (250 gr.) all-purpose flour

1.75 (350 gr.) cups granulated sugar

1.5 teaspoons Kosher salt

1 package Lievito Pane Degli Angeli OR 1/2 teaspoon baking soda plus 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1.33 cups (285 gr.) fruity extra-virgin olive oil or flavored olive oil

1.25 cup (305 gr.) whole milk

3 large eggs at room temperature

Zest of two oranges

1/4 cup (60 gr.) fresh orange juice

1/4 cup (55 gr.) Grand Marnier or Cointreau

Powdered sugar (Confectioner’s Sugar) for dusting

Slow Pan Roasted Strawberries (See recipe which follows at the end of the post)

Directions

  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Oil, butter or spray a 9-inch cake pan that is at least 2-inches deep (The batter will go almost to the top so they really mean “at least 2-inches deep!”) Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and spray or oil that as well.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, salt and Lievito Pane Degli Angeli. In a large bowl, whisk the olive oil, milk, eggs, zest, juice and Grand Marnier. Add the dry ingredients to the liquid and whisk until just combined. Do this all by hand and do not over-whisk. Maialino's Olive Oil Cake3
  3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour, until the top is golden and a cake tester comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a cooling rack and allow to cool for 30 minutes. Maialino's Olive Oil Cake1
  4. Run a knife or thin spatula around the edge of the pan and invert the cake onto the cooling rack. Remove the parchment paper and allow the cake to cool completely – about 2 hours. Re-invert the cake onto a cake stand or plate and dust with powdered sugar.  Maialino's Olive Oil Cake4

Michelle Polzine’s Slow-Roasted Strawberries

Yield: About 1.5 cups (450 gr.)

Ingredients

2 pounds (900 gr.) of fresh, ripe strawberries

1/2 cup (100 gr.) of granulated sugar (You can add 2 additional Tablespoons if the strawberries are not especially sweet on their own.)

Directions

  1. Heat the oven to 250 degrees F. Rinse and hull the berries. Leave any tiny ones whole and either quarter or halve the rest so the pieces are all about the same size.
  2. In a non-reactive pan (I used a stoneware baking dish) that will hold all of the berries closely packed in a single layer, gently toss the strawberries with the sugar.
  3. Roast slowly in the oven, uncovered for 3 to 6 hours, gently moving them around occasionally with a wide spatula. Mine took 5 hours. They are done when the juices have reduced to a syrup but not darkened into caramel and the berries are jammy. They can be stored in the fridge in an airtight jar or container for up to two weeks.

Steamed Artichokes with Tahini Sauce

Steamed Artichokes2Most people think of artichokes only as the hearts that come out of a can or jar or occasionally the freezer. They casually throw them into salad or maybe cook them with chicken and rice. Very little thought is given to the rest of the vegetable. I freely admit that steamed artichokes are an acquired taste – one that I acquired as a very young child. My mother frequently served them with a lemon butter sauce or a simple vinaigrette – both wonderful and something you should consider trying. I recall the fun of peeling off the leaves one by one and dipping them in the sauce while I grabbed that teeny bit of edible green at the bottom between my teeth. I would peel and dip and discard over and over anxiously waiting to get to the prize at the bottom – the artichoke heart. But first I had to winnow the leaves down until I came to the spiny purplish leaves which covered the fibrous choke. The trick then was to dig out the choke without losing even the tiniest bit of the heart. That wonderfully green, firm/tender taste of the heart was the final destination at the end of the journey.

I haven’t made artichokes in years but I saw a recipe in the Sunday Chicago Tribune newspaper by Leah Eskin that reminded me how truly simple they are to prepare and I made up my mind to make some. You want to find nice green, fat globes. They can be eaten warm or cold with a host of sauces. My husband was not a huge fan, but for me – well, it brought back many fond memories and I enjoyed it immensely. Give it a try and make up your own mind.

Steamed Artichokes with Tahini Sauce (I always make extra sauce since left-overs never go unused)

Yield: Makes 2 but can easily be doubled or tripled

Ingredients 

Steamed Artichokes

1 lemon cut in half

1/2 cup tahini

2 cloves of garlic

3/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt plus 2 teaspoons

1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or fresh cracked black pepper

1/8 teaspoon ground sumac

2 bay leaves

2 large, fat artichokes

Directions

  1. Trim the stems of the artichokes with a large chef’s knife. You only want about 1/2 inch of stem and the artichoke should be able to sit flat on its bottom. Using the large knife, cut through the top third of the artichoke, discarding the leaves. Pull off any nasty leaves along the bottom of the artichoke. Using a pair of kitchen shears, snip off the sharp points of the remaining visible leaves so that the top of each leaf is flat.
  2. Place the artichokes cut side up in a deep pot that is large enough to hold them in a single layer. Pour in cold water to a depth of about one (1) inch. Place one garlic clove and the bay leaves in the bottom of the pot. Place 2 teaspoons of salt in the pot. Squeeze the juice of the lemon into a dish or measuring cup and set aside. Place the lemon halves (without the juice!) into the pot. Steamed Artichokes3Bring the water to a boil,cover the pot and reduce the temperature to a simmer. Steam until tender, which took 25 minutes for me. When the artichokes are tender (test by piercing a sharp knife into the base) carefully remove them from the water. Either use tongs or a large slotted spoon. Place them cut side down onto a clean dish towel and allow them to drain for at least 10 minutes. Discard everything else. The artichokes can be made up to a day ahead and eaten cold or you can eat them immediately.
  3. While the artichokes are cooking make your sauce. Place the well-stirred tahini into a bowl or measuring cup with the lemon juice. Whisk until well blended. Then add the remaining clove of garlic that has been crushed, the 3/4 teaspoon of salt, the Aleppo pepper and enough cold water to achieve the consistency of sauce that you like. When you serve them, be sure to have a place for people to discard the leaves and individuals bowls of the sauce for dipping. Steamed Artichokes4

Italian Braised Short Ribs

Short ribs are one of those dishes that is always fun to try a new recipe for. We’ve blogged some variations on this, but I recently saw this recipe that looked exciting and decided I had to try it.

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The long story is that I had originally seen a beautiful Staub baking dish that I thought was revolutionary and so different from anything else I already had in my (very full) kitchen, only to find upon delivery that it was basically the same as my trusty Lodge cast iron skillet – it just had a cool lid. One order of a lid from Amazon later, I was in business and decided to embark on recipes that were recommended for said fancier version of my baking dish. Ironically, this recipe ended up not fitting in the 12″ skillet (what is it they say about best laid plans…) so I had to resort to also using a medium size Dutch oven. Ergo the very odd picture below of… a lot of food.

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This is all to say, if you plan on only using the 12″ skillet, only get about 3-4 lb of short ribs. I was ambitious and thought “gee, 6 lb of short ribs means meals for weeks!” – which to be clear, is what I now have, and it’s all going to be delicious – just level setting for any of you who try this recipe and were scratching your heads thinking… no way 6 lb (!) of meat fits into a 12″ skillet.

The recipe also suggests adding gremolata, and I’m very happy that I did – something Lisa introduced me to and is a wonderful complement to any braised, rich meat dish.

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbs. all-purpose flour
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 5 1/2 to 6 lb. (2.75 to 3 kg) bone-in beef short ribs
  • 1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml) olive oil
  • 2 oz. (60 g) pancetta, chopped
  • 2 yellow onions, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 1 Tbs. sugar
  • 1 cup (8 fl. oz./250 ml) dry red wine
  • 1 can (14 1/2 oz./455 g) diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup (8 fl. oz./250 ml) beef broth
  • 1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml) balsamic vinegar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 fresh rosemary sprigs
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1 Tbs. dried oregano

Directions:

  1. On a plate, stir together the flour, 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Turn the ribs in the seasoned flour, shaking off any excess.
  2. In a large, heavy pot, over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Working in batches, sear the ribs, turning occasionally, until evenly browned, about 10 minutes per batch. Transfer to a plate.
  3. Add the pancetta to the pot and sauté until mostly crisp, 4 to 5 minutes.
  4. Add the onions and sauté until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes.
  5. Stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  6. Add the carrots, tomato paste and sugar and cook, stirring often, until well blended, about 1 minute.
  7. Add the wine, bring to a boil and stir to scrape up any browned bits on the pan bottom.
  8. Stir in the tomatoes and their juices, the broth and vinegar and bring to a boil.
  9. Preheat an oven to 350°F (180°C).
  10. Return the ribs to the pot with the tomato mixture.
  11. Add the bay leaves, rosemary and thyme sprigs, and oregano.
  12. Cover, transfer to the oven and cook until the ribs are very tender, about 2 hours.
  13. Skim as much fat as possible from the cooking liquid and discard the bay leaves.
  14. Season with salt and pepper and serve. Serves 6 to 8.Adapted from Williams-Sonoma One Pot of the Day, by Kate McMillan (Weldon Owen, 2012)

Vegetable Fritters with Mango Chutney

Some weeks it is challenging to come up with something that I think is worthy of sharing. I had intended on sharing a recipe for a Neapolitan Curd Tart, (which I am still determined to do – someday…) but while certainly edible, it just wasn’t share-worthy. However, I did come across a vegan recipe for a vegetable fritter that uses red lentils as a binder and I was hooked.

I never really knew my maternal grandmother. She was already fairly old and quite ill by the time I came along. However, I was always told that she had “golden hands.” My grandmother was a wonderful cook and baker and also could sew anything. But getting recipes from her was nearly impossible. She made an ice box cookie that my mother once tried to watch her make in order to write it down. Grandma was always improving recipes and would measure with instructions like “If the flour feels a little heavy in your hand, take a little off” or If it feels a little light, add some more.” I guess even though I never really got to know my grandma, I take after her in some ways.  I’m fairly clever with my hands and I am constitutionally incapable of making a recipe exactly as written. While I am sure that the original recipe is very good (although I never made it that way) I have to say that the version I am presenting here is outstanding. But feel free to improve it yourself. Change the seasonings to suit your taste. And if you prefer sweet potato to regular potato – go for it.

Since I am not actually a vegan, I served this with a simple Greek yogurt that I flavored with Major Grey’s Chutney. If you wish to remain vegan you could stir the chutney into a good quality vegan mayonnaise or use it as is or you could make a tahini sauce instead. If you don’t like Indian flavorings (really?!!) you could season with pretty much any herbs or spices you like. These would make a wonderful appetizer or a summer dinner served over some peppery watercress or arugula with a nice glass of Chardonnay or a Rose and some fresh melon for dessert.

Vegetable Fritters with Mango Chutney by Sina from Vegan Heaven and seriously adapted by me

Vegetable Fritters with Mango Chutney

Yield: About 2 dozen 3-inch fritters

Ingredients

3/4 cup red lentils, well-rinsed and cooked until very soft (I used masoor dal, which are split red lentils, but any red lentil will do. Cook according to the package since the time and amount of water will vary with the type of lentil used.)

1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped (Any kind of onion will do; I used a yellow onion.)

2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and minced

2 medium raw potatoes, peeled and coarsely grated (I used golden potatoes but a Russet would also work.)

1 medium carrot, peeled and coarsely grated

1 ear of corn with kernels removed OR 1/2 cup of canned or frozen kernels

5 Tablespoons of flour (I used Besan or Gram flour made from chickpeas which adds flavor and protein, but you can use all-purpose flour if that is all you have.)

1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

1/2 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika

1 generous teaspoon of Garam Masala

1 scant teaspoon of Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste

Oil for frying (I used Grapeseed oil)

Directions

  1. Cook the red lentils according to the package or until very mushy. Drain any excess liquid and set aside to cool.
  2. Mix together all of the remaining ingredients (except for the oil!) in a large bowl. Vegetable Fritters with Mango Chutney3
  3. Heat a shallow layer of oil in a non-stick or cast-iron skillet until hot but not smoking. Add about 1.5 Tablespoons of the mixture into the pan. I used a cookie scoop to make it easy. Using the back of a spatula, slightly flatten the fritters. Fry until browned on one side and then turn to brown on the other side. The whole process takes about 6-8 minutes. How crispy you like them is a matter of personal preference and since there is no raw egg you don’t have to worry about under cooking the fritters.  Vegetable Fritters with Mango Chutney4I placed browned fritters on a Silpat covered sheet pan in a warm oven while I continued frying. Alternatively you can place them on a plate lined with paper towels and serve immediately.  Vegetable Fritters with Mango Chutney2Any left-overs can be refrigerated and reheated the next day in the oven or in a frying pan.
  4. Serve with any sauce you wish, although, honestly, these are also good just as is.

NOTE of CAUTION: Be a little careful of popping corn kernels if they are in the oil for too long!

Nigella Lawson’s Sheet Pan Chicken, Leeks and Peas

Over the past year I have become a HUGE fan of sheet pan meals. They are simple to put together, clean-up is minimal if you line your pan with foil (I mean who wouldn’t line their pan with foil?!) and once you have the hang of the timing and amounts of liquid etc. there are almost infinite possibilities. I’ve even gotten my husband making the occasional dinner now. I do think that most of the chicken recipes work best with the thighs even though I otherwise am a breast meat person. The thighs retain their moisture, flavor and tenderness while allowing the chicken to cook long enough to get a wonderfully blistered skin which just cries out to be eaten. This recipe is no exception. If you are looking for a delicious and easy vegan sheet pan meal try Sheet Pan Honey(Agave) Sesame Tofu and Green Beans. We made this last night for dinner and substituted sugar snap peas for the green beans and added 8 ounces of thickly sliced Cremini or Baby Bella mushrooms. Everything cooks the same. Just add the mushrooms with the peas. If you are feeling especially lazy, use a good store-bought teriyaki sauce in place of the sauce in the recipe.

But back to Nigella Lawson’s “Traybake” chicken. If you are not in love with leeks or dill, you could probably substitute another vegetable with a similar texture like baby bok choy. The point is to make dinner easy, delicious and even fun. The chicken in this dish is amazingly moist and I defy anyone to throw out the skin instead of breaking into that crackling goodness. Go ahead – it really won’t kill you to have it once in awhile. You know you want to….Nigella Lawson Sheet Pan Chicken2

Serve the chicken with rice or some gorgeous smashed potatoes. Nigella Lawson Sheet Pan Chicken6

Nigella Lawson’s Sheet Pan Chicken, Leeks and Peas

Yield: 4-6 servings

Ingredients

7 cups (about 2 pounds) frozen petit pois (baby peas)

4-5 medium to large leeks trimmed and washed well, cut into 1-inch slices

3 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and minced

1/4 cup dry white vermouth or other dry white wine

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling

2 teaspoons sea salt flakes or kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling

1 small bunch dill, torn into pieces

6-8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (If they are on the large side then you only need 6)

Directions

  1. Heat the oven to 400° F and spill the frozen peas into a large roasting pan (Nigella says not to go smaller—measuring inside from inside rim to inside rim—than about 15 by 11 inches, and a little larger is fine), followed by the leeks, garlic, vermouth, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, 2 teaspoons of salt, and most of the dill. Toss everything together in the pan—breaking up any large clumps of the frozen peas—until well mixed.
  2. Arrange the chicken thighs, skin-side up, on top, then drizzle them with a little olive oil and give them a good sprinkling of salt, before roasting in the oven for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven, give the peas a small stir or tamp down, so that the few that are sitting on the surface and drying out a little are submerged in the liquid.  Put back in the oven for a further 30 minutes, by which time the peas and leeks will be soft, and the chicken tender and cooked through, its skin golden and crisp.
  3. Tear off the remaining dill fronds, and scatter over the top to serve. Nigella Lawson Sheet Pan Chicken

 

Carrot, Orange, Ginger and Walnut Dip

Carrot, Orange, Ginger and Walnut dip

I’m always looking for something that my guests can nibble on with drinks that will stimulate their appetite but which won’t overwhelm my main meal. I came across this dip which is adapted from Feasts: Middle Eastern Food to Savor and Share by Sabrina Ghayour. While I haven’t explored the actual book or any other recipes, based on this I am anxious to see what else Ms. Ghayour has in store.

I made this dip for Passover but it would be excellent anytime. And since it is vegan, it can be used at any meal if you observe food restrictions for whatever reason. If you are unfamiliar with nigella seeds, they are definitely worth trying. They can be found at any decent spice store or online and will be used in Indian as well as Middle Eastern recipes. Nigella is also known as black caraway, black cumin or fennel or kalonji seeds. Any left-over dip will easily last a week in the refrigerator.

Carrot, Orange, Ginger and Walnut Dip 

Yield: 8-10 servings

Ingredients

1 pound carrots, peeled and very roughly chopped

5.3 ounces of walnut pieces, very lightly toasted in a dry pan on the stove (As soon as you begin to smell the nut, remove it immediately from the heat!)

1 small bunch fresh cilantro, chopped

1 well-rounded teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

4-inch piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and finely grated

3 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed

2 Tablespoons of Agave syrup or honey

Zest and juice of 2 large unwaxed oranges

About 4 Tablespoons (1/4 cup) EVOO

3 Tablespoons nigella seeds

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Garnish

Coarsely chopped cilantro

Whole walnuts

Directions

  1. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and add the carrots. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the carrots are just tender (about 10 minutes). When a sharp knife inserted into a carrot chunk comes out without any resistance, the carrot is done. Immediately drain under cold water to halt the cooking.
  2. In a food processor combine all of the ingredients up through the EVOO. You want a course puree. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle in a little more EVOO if you prefer a slightly looser consistency. I did not. Pulse through the nigella seeds and serve with a whole walnut and/or some coarsely chopped cilantro on top.

 

West African Peanut Stew with Chicken

Peanut Stew with Chicken2

Over the years I have seen recipes for peanut soup or stew but somehow never got around to making them. So when I saw a recipe this month in our local paper, I decided it was finally time to give it a whirl. I cannot say whether this recipe is absolutely authentic, but I can say that it is delicious. I made a few tweaks to the original recipe which was by Ellie Krieger. Assume that all of my spice measurements mean “rounded.” It’s colorful, delicious and something you can eat guilt-free. Served over some plain boiled rice or other grain of choice and you have one stick-to-the-ribs meal.

West African Peanut Stew with Chicken by Ellie Krieger and tweaked by me

Yield: 4-6 servings

Ingredients

1.5 pounds of boneless skinless chicken (breast or thigh) cut into 2-inch pieces

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

About 1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

2 Tablespoons of Peanut or Grapeseed oil

1 large onion, peeled and coarsely chopped

3 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced

2 Tablespoons grated, peeled ginger (I use the stuff that I get in the jar in the produce section)

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 cups of low-sodium chicken broth (you could use vegetable broth if you prefer)

1 can (14.5 ounces) of diced tomatoes with juice (I like “fire-roasted” but any will do)

1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 2-inch dice

1 bunch of collard greens with the leaves torn off of the tough rib into medium pieces

2 large sweet bell peppers (red, orange or yellow), seeded and cut into 2-inch dice

1 or more large dried Arbol pepper (optional)

1 cup natural-style peanut butter – chunky or smooth

About 6 Tablespoons of roasted and salted (or unsalted if you prefer) peanuts, roughly chopped

Directions

  1. I prefer to use dark meat chicken and I trim off any excess fat. I find it has more flavor than white meat and doesn’t get tough or stringy in the way that white meat chicken does. It’s your choice, however. Once the chicken has been cut, season it with about 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and the pepper. In a 4 quart (or larger) heavy pot with a lid, add one Tablespoon of the oil and heat it to the point where the chicken will give out a nice hiss when added. Cook the chicken until all of the raw look is gone and the chicken is opaque. Move it around in the pot while it cooks. This will take about 4-5 minutes. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, remove the mostly cooked chicken to a plate or bowl, lightly cover it with foil and set it aside.
  2. Add the remaining oil to the same pot. Don’t worry if there is a little liquid in the pot or if there are bits of chicken that stuck. Heat the oil and add the onion cooking until it is softened – about 3 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic, and the spices as well as the remaining salt. Cook stirring for about 30 seconds or until the spices start giving off their fragrance.
  3. Stir in the chicken stock, tomatoes with their juices, the sweet potato, collard and bell peppers. Add the Arbol pepper if using. Bring the mixture to a boil. Partially cover the pot and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes.
  4. Add the peanut butter and stir through the pot until it is incorporated.
  5. Return the chicken to the pot and mix through. Cook for another 5 minutes. Taste to adjust seasonings and serve hot with roughly chopped roasted peanuts on top.