Harissa Chicken with Leeks, Potatoes and Yogurt

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I really love meals that I can prep a day ahead – especially when everything is cooked on one pan that I cover with foil, making clean-up a breeze. Sheet pan meals are all the rage now and I have been trying a few of them out, including a Honey-Sesame Tofu with Green Beans that I now have my husband making. I came across this chicken recipe in the Parade Magazine that accompanies my Sunday newspaper. Its provenance is from a new cookbook by New York Times Columnist Melissa Clark called Dinner: Changing the Game. I made a couple of small changes but the biggest change came because my husband ended up having to work late last night so everything was prepped yesterday and marinated in the fridge for a day. I can only believe that it improved the wonderful flavors and made tonight’s dinner a snap.

Harissa is a North African-style chili paste that is now available in many supermarkets and online. There is both red harissa and green harissa. Either would work here, but I used the red. How much you use will be a matter of personal taste as well as the heat of the particular brand of harissa that you are using. I like a lot of flavor, but I don’t like my food so hot that all I am tasting is heat and nothing else. The 2 Tablespoons of harissa that I used produced an intensely flavorful dish with just a little heat. You could easily increase the amounts to make this for a crowd. You must use fresh herbs here and a good Greek yogurt. This recipe is definitely a keeper and one that will appear on our rotation many times. I only added a simple salad to complete the meal.  IMG_3047

Harissa Chicken with Leeks, Potatoes and Yogurt IMG_3044

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

4-6 chicken thighs (depending on size – about 2 pounds) on the bone and with the skin

1.5 pounds of fingerling potatoes, sliced in half lengthwise

2 teaspoons Kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (You can use cracked black but I really encourage you to buy the flavorful, citrusy Aleppo pepper)

3 Tablespoons EVOO

2 Tablespoons harissa or to taste

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (Grind your own if you can!)

2 leeks (white and light green parts only) washed, trimmed, sliced in half lengthwise and then thinly sliced

Grated zest of one lemon

1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

1.5 Tablespoons EVOO

1 cup plain Greek yogurt

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

1 garlic clove

1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground sumac (optional but really good)

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1 cup chopped fresh herbs, divided in 2 (I used a combination of dill, mint and parsley)

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Directions

  1. Place the first seven (7) ingredients in a one gallon freezer bag along. Seal the bag well and gently smush everything around to distribute the seasonings. If you are anxious (I was) place the bag inside of a second freezer bag and put it in the fridge for at least 4 hours and as much as one day.
  2.  Place the next 4 ingredients in a one quart freezer bag and seal it well. Gently smush the leeks around to distribute the zest, salt and EVOO. Refrigerate along side the chicken.
  3. When you are ready to cook, cover a sheet pan with 2-inch sides with heavy duty aluminum foil. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  4. Place the chicken and potatoes on the pan in a single layer along with any liquid. Roast for about 20 minutes. Then scatter the leeks over the chicken and potatoes and roast for an additional 20 minutes or until everything is golden and slightly crispy.
  5. In a small bowl combine the yogurt and all ingredients (Only half of the fresh herbs) keeping the final 1/2 lemon and the other half of the herbs for garnish. Stir with a small whisk or fork.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

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I have been making this uber-rich, super simple coffee cake for almost 50 years. Yikes! And it is still one of THE best coffee cakes I have ever had. I recently thought I had lost the recipe and went trolling the internet for it. While I found recipes with the same ingredients, the proportions were entirely different. I wish that I could say that I recall where it originated but in checking, I couldn’t find this exact recipe anywhere. Fortunately, I found the recipe in one of my hand-written cook book collections that I had made years ago. So my apologies in advance to the creator of this wonderful cake.

Because the ingredients are few, it is essential that you use only the best quality unsalted butter and sour cream that isn’t filled with guar gum or other thickeners. And please don’t substitute margarine or light sour cream or even thick yogurt. They might make a decent cake, but it won’t be THIS cake. Yes, it is rich. No, it will not be on the approved heart healthy diet. But it is sooooooooooo good that if you are going to splurge once in a while, do it right. And this cake can easily be frozen. It also lasts a long time on its own when properly wrapped. And because it is so rich, even small slivers are incredibly satisfying. This cake is the real deal.

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Yield: 1 bundt cake

Ingredients

1 cup (2 sticks) of unsalted butter, at room temperature – I used Kerry Gold

2 cups granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 cup, full-fat sour cream

1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or extract

2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt

1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (I used walnuts this time but have also used pecans other times)

1 generous teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 teaspoons granulated sugar

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. (This can be done by hand, but is much easier if you use a standing mixer on low speed.) Beat in eggs one at a time.
  3. Add sour cream and vanilla and beat on low speed just until mixed.
  4. Slowly add the flour, baking powder and salt, scraping down the bowl as you go.
  5. Combine the 4 teaspoons sugar, cinnamon and chopped nuts in a small bowl and set aside.
  6. Grease and sugar a bundt pan or use one of the sprays like PAM or Baker’s Joy that has flour in it. (I recently discovered these and I am never going back to anything else. Nothing sticks.) Sprinkle the bottom of the pan with a few tablespoons of the nut mixture. Add about 1/3 of the batter and spread it evenly. Sprinkle about half of the nut mixture over the batter. Cover with another third of the batter and cover that with the nut mixture. End with batter. Give the pan a tap on the counter to settle things.
  7. Bake about an hour or until golden brown and a tester comes out clean. My oven needs to be calibrated so it actually took me 1.25 hours this time.
  8. Remove to a cooling rack and wait 10 minutes before turning out of the pan. IMG_3001

Baked Pasta in Eggplant: Pasta Incaciata

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It probably wasn’t my brightest idea to make this dish when I had no one available to help me and I’m still recovering from hand surgery. However, the fact that I could proves that it is not too difficult. This recipe is based on one from the Extra Virgin Cookbook by Gabriele Corcos and Debbie Mazar. It is actually pretty flexible and could even be made as a vegetarian entree if you preferred. The presentation has that wow factor that turns relatively mundane ingredients into a dish that you could be proud to serve to company. Just add crusty bread, a green salad and a good bottle of red wine. Please consider the ingredients as a jumping off point for your own creativity. And one real advantage of this dish is that you can prepare the elements separately as befits your schedule and then assemble them when you are ready.

Baked Pasta in Eggplant: Pasta Incaciata

Yield: 8-12 servings

Ingredients

Softened butter for greasing the pan

2-3 eggplants (about 3 pounds total weight)

1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons dried seasoned breadcrumbs (I used crumbs that had Italian seasonings, but you could use plain and add your own oregano and basil)

4 Tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino Romano, Asiago or Parmigiano cheese plus more for topping

1 pound fresh, uncooked Italian sausage (sweet or “hot”), removed from its casing

3 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

1 small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup full-bodied red wine (use whatever you will be drinking for dinner)

About 4 cups of Red Sauce (Either a good quality bought sauce or make the Butter Roasted Tomato Sauce). You do not want the pasta to be drowning in sauce or it will never hold together.

1 pound ziti or penne, cooked al dente according to package instructions

1 pound of fontina or fresh mozzarella cheese, shredded, plus more for the topping

EVOO or Grapeseed Oil

Aquafaba (optional – see note below under frying eggplant)

Kosher salt and cracked black pepper to taste (Go easy on the salt since the cheese is very salty.)

Red pepper flakes (optional)

Direction

  1. Generously grease a 9-inch spring-form pan with the softened butter. In a small bowl combine 1/4 cup of the dried breadcrumbs with 2 Tablespoons of the grated Pecorino Romano. Scatter the mixture evenly over the sides and bottom of the pan, discarding any crumbs that do not adhere to the butter. I only ended up using about half of this mixture but used the rest after I added the eggplant.
  2. In a large skillet, brown the sausage, breaking it up so that you end up with crumbled meat rather than big chunks. There should be enough fat in the meat that it doesn’t require any additional oil, but if you are concerned about it sticking or burning, add a little EVOO. When it begins to brown but is not completely cooked through, add the garlic and parsley and continue cooking until the meat is cooked through and the garlic is fragrant. (If you seem to have a lot of excess fat in the pan, carefully drain most of it off before the next step.) Now add the red wine and cook until the wine has become almost syrupy. Add the red sauce, simmering for about 5 minutes, while mixing everything through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Mix the sauce and the shredded cheese through the cooked pasta and then set the mixture aside. This part even be made a day ahead.
  4. Trim the ends off of the eggplants and cut them lengthwise into 1/4-inch planks. Generously salt the eggplant pieces and allow them to sit for 30 minutes. This will remove any bitterness that you might get from the seeds of bigger eggplants. After 30 minutes, rinse the pieces very well under cold water and dry each piece with paper towels.
  5. In a large skillet, heat 3-4 Tablespoons of EVOO or Grapeseed Oil. (NOTE: I found that if I brushed each piece of eggplant with a bit of aquafaba that I had lightly whisked with a fork until frothy, that the eggplant used much less oil.) Place the eggplant slices into the hot oil and cook until browned, turning once so both sides are done. Transfer the cooked slices to a baking sheet lined with paper towels to absorb any excess oil. You can lightly salt and pepper the eggplant slices to taste if you wish.
  6. When you are ready to assemble the eggplant “cake” take one slice of eggplant and place the wider end in the middle of the prepared pan. Carefully bring the piece of eggplant up the side of the pan so that the narrowest part of the eggplant overhangs the top of the pan. Continue doing this with all of the eggplant pieces, slightly overlapping where necessary so you have total coverage. You might need to place a smaller piece over the bottom of the pan to cover any gaps and excess pieces will be used on the top once you have added the filling. Sprinkle any excess bread crumb mixture over the eggplants on the bottom of the pan.
  7. Carefully pour the pasta into the pan, mounding it slightly. If you have any excess, it can be baked separately for another dinner or frozen for a later use.
  8. Gently fold the overhanging strips of eggplant over the top of the pasta. Use and extra eggplant slices to fill in any gaps. You want total coverage. IMG_2970
  9. Cover the top with plastic wrap and place a large plate on top with a weight. I used 2 bricks that I keep for this purpose but you could use canned vegetables. The plate should be sitting on the pasta. Keep this weighted for at least 4 hours but I did it overnight in the fridge. (Okay, to be honest, it was cold enough outside that I actually placed it on my terrace. We are high enough up that I don’t have to worry about any critters.)
  10. When you are ready to bake the “cake” preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Remove the weights and the plastic wrap. Sprinkle the top with any additional grated Pecorino Romano, shredded fontina and 2 Tablespoons of seasoned breadcrumbs. Drizzle lightly with EVOO. Cover the “cake” loosely with foil and place on a baking sheet. You might want to cover the baking sheet with foil since there likely will be some oil seepage. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking until the top is browned and bubbling. Remove from the oven and allow it to rest for about 20 minutes Carefully open the latch on the pan and remove the outer ring of the spring-form. Slice wedges as you would a cake and serve. But first allow your guests to ooh and ahhh! IMG_2983

Easy Egg and Soppressata Breakfast Sandwich

There’s nothing quite like poking one’s head in the fridge and finding sandwich leftovers that make for a perfect breakfast sandwich.  We haven’t been making sandwiches of late, but I found some leftover soppressata the other day, sautéed it for a bit in a pan and then assembled it together with some sunny side up eggs, and voila! Fancy breakfast in 10 minutes.

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Ingredients

few slices of soppressata
2 eggs
thick toast (we used leftover challah)
grated cheddar cheese
dash of dried thyme

Directions

1. Sauté the soppressata over medium heat in a skillet.  Set aside after about 5 minutes.
2. Add some olive oil to the pan and over medium heat, crack two eggs into your skillet and cook until the whites are no longer runny.
3. Put the bread slices in a toaster and toast until crispy.
4. Assemble by putting the soppressata on the toast, and then layering with the eggs and grated cheese on top.  Enjoy!

Ricotta Stuffed Chicken Breast with Roasted Red Bell Pepper Sauce

On a recent trip to Healdsburg, a quaint little town in Sonoma wine country, we picked up a lovely book called The Wine Lover’s Cookbook, and it really has turned out to be a perfect cookbook for us with all the wonderful recipes each paired with a recommended wine and an alternative wine.

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One of the first recipes we tried was this fantastic stuffed chicken that was served over a spinach fettuccine (the original recipe calls for linguine but we liked the colors of the spinach.)

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This one’s recommended wine was a Sauvignon Blanc, the backup wine is a Pinot Noir.  And as the book notes, if you choose to pair it with the Pinot Noir, replace the sherry in the ingredients with red wine.

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Sauce

  • 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp chopped garlic
  • 1 cup chopped, roasted bell peppers
  • 1/2 cup of dry sherry (or red wine)
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp of chopped fresh oregano (1/2 tsp dried oregano)
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh basil
  • Kosher salt and red pepper flakes

Chicken and Noodles

  • 4 large chicken boneless chicken breast
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • Kosher salt and red pepper flakes
  • 6 tbsp sun dried tomatoes packed in oil
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tbsp chopped shallots
  • 1 tbsp minced chives
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 lb linguine (or fresh spinach fettucine)

Directions

  1. To make sauce, in a large pan or skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Then add garlic and the roasted red peppers and saute for 3-4 minutes. Then, add the sherry, chicken stock, tomato paste, oregano and basil.
  2. Increase the heat to a simmer and reduce the mixture slightly for 4-5 minutes.
  3. Transfer to a food processor or blender and process until well combined.
  4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  5. Rinse the chicken breasts and pat dry.  With a sharp knife carefully cut a deep incision into each breast.  Sprinkle with the salt and red pepper flakes.
  6. In a mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, the sun dried tomatoes, the basil, the thyme, the shallots, and chives and mix thoroughly.
  7. Using your fingers, stuff the ricotta mixture inside the chicken, equally into each breast.  Dust with flour.
  8. In a large, oven-proof skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.  Sauté the chicken breasts for 3-4 minutes on each side until lightly browned.
  9. Transfer to the oven and roast for 15-18 minutes.
  10. In the meantime, cook the pasta noodles to package directions.
  11. When the chicken is done, plate the noodles, add the chicken, and then spoon the hot sauce on top.  Garnish with chopped chives.

From The Wine Lover’s Cookbook

Roasted Chicken Thighs with Fennel & Lemon

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Eleven days ago I had hand surgery on my dominant hand. I want to thank Frances for taking over and posting so many wonderful recipes while my hand has been healing – and there are more to come! Since she has a day job and an active social life, I’m always so grateful when she finds the time to post. But I had THE best surgeon and yesterday I was able to make this dish for our dinner without any help.

I have never understood people who say they don’t like fennel or eggplant because they can be eaten so many different ways. I don’t know if this dish will change your mind about fennel, but it is simple to make and is delicious with bright Mediterranean flavors. All I needed to complete the meal was some brown rice that I cooked in chicken broth and a nice glass of white wine. Had I been more ambitious I would have made salad, but 10 days after surgery, this was my limit. Please do not use chicken breasts for this and do NOT remove the skin. Normally I do remove the skin when I cook chicken, but this is roasted to the point of such lovely crispiness that just this once – indulge.

The recipe came from the kitchn in a series they ran on sheet pan dinners. I only made two small changes in my version and am anxious to try some of the other offerings from this blog.

Roasted Chicken Thighs with Fennel & Lemon

Yield: 4 servings 
Ingredients

2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (4 to 6)
2 small fennel bulbs (1 to 1 1/4 pounds total)
5 large cloves garlic
1 large lemon
2 tablespoons EVOO
2 tablespoons dry white wine
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Aleppo pepper or freshly ground black pepper (I used about 1 teaspoon)
Cooked rice or bread, for serving (optional)

Directions

  1. Place the chicken in a large bowl; set aside. When I am dealing with raw meat or fish, I always use either a glass or stainless steel bowl. I know when they get cleaned that they will have no bacteria or other nasty stuff left over.
  2. Trim the stalks and fronds off the fennel bulbs and set aside the fronds. Cut each bulb in quarters through the root. Cut each quarter into 2 to 3 thick slices. Add to the bowl with the chicken. Mince about 1 tablespoon of fennel fronds and add to the bowl.
  3. Mince the garlic and add to the bowl. Finely grate the zest of the lemon into the bowl. Juice the lemon and add the juice to the bowl. Add the EVOO, white wine, season with the salt and a generous amount of pepper, and toss to combine. I like Aleppo pepper which not only has a lovely red color, but it is a relatively mild pepper with a bright citrusy taste. (I also used it here because grinding pepper is still a bit challenging for me. It is wonderful in so many recipes that I encourage you to find it. I bought mine online through Amazon.)
  4. I allowed the mixture to marinate for about 30 minutes. I would imagine that this could even be marinated over night in the fridge in a heavy duty plastic bag, intensifying the flavors even more.
  5.  When you are ready to cook the chicken, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 425°F. Transfer the chicken mixture onto a large baking sheet lined with heavy duty foil for easy clean up. Arrange the fennel around the outside and place the chicken pieces closely together in the center. Pour any remaining juices from the bowl over the chicken. chicken-and-fennel
  6. Roast until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of about 160°F and the fennel is tender and beginning to brown around the edges, about 35 minutes. (You can tell just by looking at it when the chicken is done. And thighs don’t dry out or get tough like chicken breasts so it is a bit more forgiving if you cook it a bit longer.) Take the pan out of the oven and cover with aluminum foil. Let it rest for about 5 to 10 minutes before serving with rice or bread if desired. Be sure to spoon some of the wonderful pan drippings over the chicken and rice when serving.img_2951

Kalguksu (or Korean chicken noodle soup)

Growing up, this was one of the best meals to have when feeling sick and under the weather. As I got older, it finally occurred to me that this was basically just chicken noodle soup, but how the Koreans made it.

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I almost never make my own noodles for this, though I was feeling inspired last weekend and finally gave it a shot.

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In general though, if I can’t find a Korean grocery store or if I’m just feeling lazy I’ll just use udon or ramen noodles.  Kal-guk-su literally translates into “knife cut noodles” so to get the authentic flavor of these, it really is worth either making the noodles or finding them at a Korean grocery store.

For the soup

  • 2 lb of chicken
  • 1/2 cup of “gook-gang-jang” or soup soy sauce (if you can’t find it, I’ve heard you can substitute with fish sauce found in Asian aisles at grocery stores)
  • 1 zucchini, diced finely in matchstick pieces
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 5 tbsp soy sauce
  • 4 tbsp sesame seed oil
  • scallions (1 bunch)
  • sesame seeds
  • Korean red chili pepper flakes (go-chu-garu) optional for garnish

For the noodles

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil

To make the soup:

  1. Bring a 5 qt pot of water (where the pot is about 70% full of water) to boil.  Add the chicken and cook for about 20 minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked.
  2. Skim the surface of the broth, and take out the chicken and move to a cutting board.
  3. Shred the chicken using 2 forks and put into a medium sized glass mixing bowl.  Add the soy sauce, scallions, sesame seed oil, and sesame seeds and mix thoroughly.  Feel free to add some more soy sauce if it’s not enough to coat all the shredded chicken.
  4. Add the soup soy sauce and the zucchini to the broth on the stove and let simmer for about 15 minutes.

To make the noodles:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, add the flour and vegetable oil, and slowly add the cold water mixing to make a dough as you go.
  2. Mix and knead the dough until it hold shape in a ball.  Knead for another 5 minutes or so and then let rest for about 30 minutes in a covered bowl.
  3. After the 30 minutes, knead the dough again for about 5 minutes, and then roll it out like a large pancake until it is rather thin.  Add flour to the top of this “dough pancake,” flip over and add flour to the other side as well.  Then fold the pancake a few times over.  Cut the folded panckae in about 1/8″ increments to make the noodles.

Putting it all together

  1. Once the broth is back up to a boil, add the noodles and cook for about 5-7 minutes.
  2. Put some noodles in a bowl, add some liquid broth, and then garnish with a clump of the marinated chicken. Sprinkle some kochugaru if you have it, and enjoy!

(I personally love to add a lot of kimchi to this hearty dish – plus I think it helps with clearing out the sinuses!)