Mediterranean Sheet-pan Chicken

Mediterranean Sheet-pan Chicken

So Shabbat was coming. My husband was busy making challah and I was trying to decide what I could make for dinner that would feel special. And it was 90 degrees outside! So I came up with this delicious, Greek-inspired, sheet-pan chicken with only one pan to wash. And if I am really being lazy, I can use aluminum foil on the pan and have nothing to wash!

I’m sure that I’m not the only one to have come up with this idea. But mine came to me at 2:00 am when I couldn’t sleep. It’s based on decades of cooking and eating, rather than a recipe. It is an easily adaptable recipe and I have already thought of several variations for other Friday night dinners. Since it is just the two of us, I only made a relatively small batch, but this can easily be doubled or tripled.

Growing up, when chickens were delivered to our house by Irving The Chicken Man, my preference was for chicken wings and breasts. But nowadays, when so many chickens are bred with these ginormous, flavorless and often rubbery breasts, I prefer to use thighs. They have more flavor, stay juicier and more tender and are almost impossible to overcook. And they tend to be cheaper too. Need I say more?

For other delicious sheet-pan chicken recipes:

Nigella Lawson’s Sheet Pan Chicken, Leeks and Peas

Sheet-Pan Chicken with Chickpeas

Roasted Chicken with Clementines and Arak

Harissa Chicken with Leeks, Potatoes and Yogurt

Roasted Chicken Thighs with Fennel & Lemon

Recipe

Yield: 4 servings

Mediterranean Sheet-pan Chicken

Ingredients

About 2 pounds of bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (You can also use drumsticks, if you prefer)

4 to 5 golden or baby Bliss (red) potatoes, quartered lengthwise

1 lemon, sliced into rounds

1 Tablespoon fresh rosemary, coarsely chopped

3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced

1/4 cup pitted cured green olives (You can use olives with pits, but be sure to let people know when serving!)

1/4 cup pitted cured black olives (If you only have one kind of olive, then use 1/2 cup)

Juice of 1 lemon plus enough vinegar (I used Balsamic) if necessary to make a generous 1/3 cup

A 5 Tablespoons of EVOO

1.5 teaspoons dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika

Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper

Optional Garnish

Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, cilantro or any fresh Mediterranean herb

Directions

Make deep slits on both sides of the chicken thighs. Generously sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of chicken and place in a glass or aluminum bowl or clean resealable, heavy-duty plastic bag.

Mediterranean Sheet-pan Chicken

Add the sliced lemon, potato wedges, sliced garlic, olives and chopped rosemary.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, mix together the remaining ingredients and pour it over the chicken mix. Refrigerate for at least one hour, but up to overnight is okay.

Mediterranean Sheet-pan Chicken

Remove from the fridge one hour before ready to cook. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Remove the solid ingredients from the bag or bowl and place, skin-side down on a rimmed sheet-pan that has been lightly oiled. Lightly sprinkle with some additional salt and paprika.

Mediterranean Sheet-pan Chicken

Place in the top third of the oven and bake for 25 minutes. Then turn the chicken to be skin-side up. Again sprinkle lightly with additional salt and paprika. You can also turn over the potato wedges. Return to the oven and bake for another 20 to 30 minutes or until the chicken and potatoes are golden brown. Remove to a platter and garnish with the chopped parsley if you are making a presentation or just serve from the pan to be unfussy. Either way, feast and enjoy!

Cashew Curried Chicken

Cashew Curried Chicken

While it may officially be Spring, the weather is still quite chilly, damp and a bit dreary. Normally, I would cheer myself up by heading to the Art Institute or Museum of Contemporary Art, but until very recently these have been closed. And although you now can go to the museums, you have to think ahead and make reservations. So to brighten up our lives, I have been turning to Indian and Middle Eastern foods even more than usual. This Cashew Curried Chicken with its bright spices and herbs lend color to my otherwise somewhat dull existence. As mentioned in a previous post, I have become a fan of Chetna Makan and watch her on YouTube almost daily. This recipe is hers with some tweaks from me that do away with a pan, an extra step and the order of adding a couple of ingredients.

Do not be put off by the seemingly long list of ingredients. The spices are used over and over again in both Indian and Middle Eastern cooking. So if you enjoy these foods, you will easily use them up. And everything is readily available online or in many grocery stores these days. But because the spices and herbs are so integral to the dishes, please look for the freshest ingredients and grind your own spices whenever possible. It only takes seconds in a spice or coffee grinder and you will be rewarded over and over with the most vibrant flavors. And by buying whole spices, they will remain fresh longer in your cabinet.

Chicken thighs are used here. They are more flavorful than the breast, in my opinion, and almost never get dried out or tough. However, if you really want, you can use an equivalent amount of chicken breast meat instead.

This curry comes together easily and you can have dinner on the table in about an hour. Served simply over rice or with a flatbread, it’s a complete meal. Since my husband just made some delicious pita, we went with that. But if you have the time and add on a raita and some pickle, you can have a feast. So brighten up your life and enjoy this luscious and luxurious Cashew Curried Chicken soon.

Recipe

Cashew Curried Chicken

Yield: 4 to 6 servings, depending on appetite and sides

Ingredients

1/3 cup raw cashews, soaked for 1 hour in hot water to cover

2 medium onions, peeled and chopped in a fine dice

2 Tablespoons neutral oil with a good smoke point (I use Canola)

4 medium tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped

4 large cloves of garlic, peeled and grated or crushed

3-inch piece pf fresh ginger, peeled and grated

8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs – 2.5 pounds of boneless meat, trimmed of all fat. (You can use thighs with the bone-in, but you will need to increase the cooking time by 10 minutes.)

4 Tablespoons whole milk natural yogurt

1 sweet bell pepper, cut into large cubes

1 medium onion, peeled and cut into 8 pieces

1 Tablespoon fenugreek leaves (also called methi)

Spices

Cashew Curried Chicken

4 green cardamom pods

1 cinnamon stick

2 bay leaves (dried or fresh)

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

2 teaspoons ground coriander

2 teaspoons garam masala

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon chili powder

Directions

In a large, deep pan with a tight-fitting lid, heat the oil. Add the cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaves and cumin seeds. Allow everything to sizzle and become fragrant – about 30 seconds.

Cashew Curried Chicken

Now add the chopped onion and stir through the oil and spices. Cook until golden, stirring occasionally for 10 to 12 minutes.

Cashew Curried Chicken

Stir through the chopped tomatoes, garlic and ginger. Then cover the pan and on medium-low heat, cook for 10 to 12 minutes. The tomatoes should be softened and a sauce is beginning to form.

While the tomatoes cook, drain and crush the cashews into a paste using either mortar and pestle, food processor or spice grinder.

Turn off the heat! Now add the yogurt and crushed cashews and stir through, mixing well. By turning off the heat, you prevent the yogurt from splitting.

Cashew Curried Chicken

Stir through the coriander, garam masala, turmeric, salt and chili powder.

Nestle the chicken thighs into the sauce and coat with the sauce. Cover the pan and simmer for 20 minutes if using boneless chicken and 30 minutes if the thigh is on the bone. Add the bell pepper and onion sections and stir through. Recover the pan and continue simmering for 10 more minutes.

Take 1 tablespoon of fenugreek leaves and crumble them into the curry by rubbing the leaves between your hands. Cook for a few more minutes, stirring until they are fulIy incorporated. If you do not have fenugreek leaves, do not try to substitute them. Do NOT use fenugreek seeds, which would be very bitter. Fenugreek has a unique and wonderful flavor and I think they are worth having on hand. If you are leaving them out, you can sprinkle some fresh cilantro on top before serving. The flavor is completely different but is also delicious.

Serve the curry over basmati rice (white or brown) or eat it with flat bread.

For other delicious curry recipes:

Chicken Curry with Spices

Tofu Coconut Curry

Vegan Red Curry Coconut Soup

Bene Israel Fish Curry with Fresh Ginger, Tamarind and Cilantro

Thai Style Yellow Curry with Sweet Potato

Indian-Spiced Chicken with Mixed Veg

Indian-Spiced Chicken with Mixed Veg

Indian-Spiced Chicken with Mixed Veg is bursting with color and flavor. It’s a one-pan meal to feed a family and satisfy your soul. Recently I have taken to watching Jamie Oliver on YouTube. This very engaging British chef and his charming young family makes cooking accessible and fun. It’s a very welcome change from the seemingly unending bad news we have had this past year.

When I watched Oliver make this dish, which is jam-packed with vibrant fresh veg and relatively inexpensive chicken thighs, I knew that I wanted to make it. In the early days of the pandemic, coming by reliable, fresh vegetables was hit or miss. Thankfully, we seem to be past that now and most produce is fresh and available.

The beauty of Indian-Spiced Chicken with Mixed Veg is that you can change up the vegetables to suit your taste, your budget and availability. No eggplant? Use cauliflower. And because you are mixing the spices and flavors, you are in control of the heat level. By using chicken thighs on the bone and with skin, you are ensured of a tender and flavorful end result. The skin will get lovely and crisp and simply cries out to be eaten.

Indian-Spiced Chicken with Mixed Veg

Because everything is cooked in one pan, all of the beautiful flavors of each element are enhanced by the other components while still retaining their own unique texture and taste. When making this wonderful dish – and you will want to make it – don’t get too bogged down in exact measurements. Use the amounts below as a guide. This isn’t baking.

I like to do a lot of Indian and Mediterranean cooking so I had all of the herbs and spices on hand. Over the past year I have become a big fan of curry leaves. These are very different from curry powder and NOT interchangeable. Since the pandemic, the places where I shop have become much more limited and therefore, I do not have access to fresh curry leaves. However, I found very good quality dried leaves online and if I place them in an airtight jar, they last quite a while. You can also purchase fresh leaves online and keep them in your freezer. Everything else in this recipe should be readily available in your local markets.

This recipe includes a minty yogurt dressing. I was able to make the dressing in minutes. Any additional dressing can be used on salads, roast meats or as a sandwich spread. Our lives may have become a bit bland and colorless this year, but we can spice things up a bit with this vibrant dish.

Recipe

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

Indian-Spiced Chicken with Mixed Veg

1 large onion

800 g potatoes (about 6 medium Yukon Gold or other thin-skinned potato)

2 large ripe tomatoes

1 eggplant

1 red pepper

2 cloves of garlic

Thumb-size piece of fresh ginger

½ a bunch of fresh cilantro (coriander (15g))

olive oil

2 tablespoons mustard seeds

1 handful of curry leaves

2 teaspoons ground turmeric

6 large chicken thighs, bone in and skin on

1.5 teaspoons kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper for seasoning the chicken

2 fresh red or green chilies

YOGURT DRESSING

½ a bunch of fresh mint (15g)

Juice of ½ a lemon

1cm piece of ginger

150 g whole-milk yogurt (If you use Greek-style yogurt, the sauce will be thicker. The choice is yours.)

1 fresh green chili (Optional)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas 5.

Peel the onion, then cut into 3cm cubes with the potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant and pepper.

Put the potatoes in a large pan of salted water over a medium heat. Bring to the boil and cook for 8 minutes, then drain in a colander and leave to steam-dry for 3 minutes. (I did this step, but honestly I’m not sure that it really is necessary. The potato pieces are small enough that they should completely cook through in the overall cooking time.)

Indian-Spiced Chicken with Mixed Veg

Tip into a large bowl and mix with the tomato, eggplant, pepper and onion.

Peel and finely slice the garlic. Peel and finely grate the ginger. Pick the cilantro (coriander) leaves and set aside, then chop the stalks.

Indian-Spiced Chicken with Mixed Veg

Heat about 2 Tablespoons of oil in a large oven-safe pan over a medium heat. (I used my mom’s old paella pan which was perfect, but any large roasting pan would work. Since this was the pan I was going to use in the oven, it was one less pan to clean.) Add the garlic, ginger, coriander stalks, mustard seeds and curry leaves and cook for 2 minutes, or until fragrant. Add the turmeric and cook for 30 seconds more. While still hot, add the chicken, skin-side down to the spice mixture.

Then add the veg and potatoes and smush everything around. Using tongs, arrange the chicken on top (skin-side up now) and season everything with salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Drizzle a little olive oil over the vegetables. (I didn’t do this and it wasn’t called for, but I think the EVOO would help the veg roast better.)

Indian-Spiced Chicken with Mixed Veg

Roast in the bottom of the oven for about 1 hour, or until the chicken is cooked, the skin is crispy and the veggies are well-roasted.

(My oven is really garbage, so it ended up taking about an hour and 20 minutes for mine to get where I wanted it. I also didn’t trust the process and hadn’t added any EVOO over the veg. I was worried that it would be too dry so I added a cup of water to the pan at the beginning of the cooking. In the end, I didn’t need it although the resulting gravy was awfully delicious…. So if you want your vegetables more steamed with a lovely gravy, add the water. If you want the veg more roasted and “gnarly” as Jamie Oliver would say, just drizzle them with a bit of EVOO and forego the water. You really can’t go wrong either way.)

Indian-Spiced Chicken with Mixed Veg

For the dressing, pick the mint leaves into a blender, squeeze in the lemon juice, then peel and add the ginger with the remaining dressing ingredients and a pinch of seasoning. Blitz until smooth.

Top the chicken, potatoes and veg mix with the coriander leaves. Finely slice and scatter on the chilies, if using, then serve with the dressing on the side and a little drizzled on top.

Creamy Chicken Gnocchi Soup

Creamy Chicken Gnocchi Soup

Creamy Chicken Gnocchi Soup with fennel and chard is just what the doctor ordered. We actually had snow today! Fall can be the most beautiful time of year with all of its autumn reds and golds and crisp chill. However, it can also be damp and dreary as it is today. What’s my cure? Soup, of course.

This Creamy Chicken Gnocchi soup ticks all of my boxes for the perfect weeknight dinner. All it needs is some delicious crusty bread like the wonderful olive bread that I bought at Publican Meat Market and maybe a glass of wine. While I enjoy baking bread almost as much as I do eating it, my apartment oven just doesn’t reach the kinds of temperatures to make truly crusty sourdough, pizza or other kinds of artisanal breads. So while other women may dream of jewels and clothes, I dream of a bread oven.

I came across this recipe on the kitchn.com website and knew immediately that I wanted to make it but with a few modifications. Why is this soup so great? It’s just the ticket when you want something homemade and delicious but with minimal time and effort. Because unless you choose to complicate it by first making your own broth and gnocchi, and shredding carrots yourself, everything is easily available in convenience packages in your supermarket. You could even buy a rotisserie chicken, although as it happens, I had roasted a chicken for dinner on Friday, so had the leftovers I needed.

I chose to use Rainbow Chard and fennel bulb in place of the original celery and baby spinach. The chard and fennel give a little sumpin’ sumpin’ to the soup that the milder celery and spinach won’t. And despite the seemingly generous amount of half & half cream, the soup is not at all heavy or overly rich. Just satisfying and delicious with a slight peppery bite nestled in the creamy broth.

Homemade doesn’t have to mean hours spent slaving over a stove. But you do have to buy quality ingredients. Find a brand of chicken stock that you like (and I always try to buy unsalted stock) and make sure to keep it on hand. A good stock is the basis of many a wonderful meal. And while I do make my own stock on occasion, I simply don’t have the freezer space to have it available whenever I need it. I’m using a fresh gnocchi, but there are also shelf-stable gnocchi or tortellini that you can keep on hand.

Once you have the ingredients together, the soup can be made in well under an hour. Any leftovers will keep in the fridge for several days and only requires a gentle reheating. So go ahead and make this Creamy Chicken Gnocchi Soup this week and beat the autumn drears.

Creamy Chicken Gnocchi Soup

For other delicious chicken soups:

Thai Coconut Chicken Soup with Rice

Yemenite Chicken Soup

Aromatic Chicken and Vegetable Soup (Koli)

Kalguksu (or Korean chicken noodle soup)

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Recipe

Creamy Chicken Gnocchi Soup

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

Creamy Chicken Gnocchi Soup
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1 cup sliced fennel OR 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 4 to 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups chicken broth (32 ounces), preferably unsalted or low sodium
  • 2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 pound refrigerated potato gnocchi (not frozen) Alternatively, you could use tortellini.
  • 4 cups of torn Swiss OR Rainbow Chard OR 5-ounces baby spinach or escarole
  • 1 1/2 cups half-and-half

Directions

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed 4 quart pot (or larger) over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion, carrot, fennel, garlic, salt and pepper and sauté, stirring occasionally until softened – about 5 to 8 minutes.

Creamy Chicken Gnocchi Soup

Stir in the broth, shredded chicken and thyme and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and continue cooking for 10 minutes.

Creamy Chicken Gnocchi Soup

Up to this point, the soup can be made ahead, if you wish. Once you are ready to serve, make sure that the soup is simmering. Add the gnocchi and chard and cook until the chard is just wilted and the gnocchi cooked through – about 3 minutes. Now add the cream and quickly mix it through, immediately turning off the heat. The original instructions had you add the cream with the gnocchi, which I did, but it breaks the cream as you can see from the photos. The taste is fine, but it doesn’t look as nice and smooth.

Okay, now serve. Yep, it’s that easy. You’re welcome!

Iraqi/Indian Shabbat Chicken (Spayty)

Iraqi/Indian Shabbat Chicken blends cultural food influences deliciously. Now more than ever, I have become an armchair traveler. My world has narrowed down to our apartment and so I take every opportunity to bring the world safely to us. This fragrant dish conjures up spice markets in India and the Middle East. Perhaps a little history is called for in order to understand the origins of this curried coconut chicken dish.

While we Jews are small in number, we can be found in pockets all over the world. In part this is because we have been driven out of so many places over the millennia. But it is also because of the trades that we were limited to practice as merchants of goods ranging from spices and cloth to diamonds. And as we have traveled and changed our homes, we have adopted local cuisines.

This Iraqi/Indian Shabbat Chicken (Spayty) originates with a small community of Baghdadi Jews living in India. “The community, according to professor Shalva Weil of Hebrew University who has written on the Baghdadi community, traces its origins to 1730 when a man named Joseph Semah moved from Baghdad to Surat, a city north of modern day Mumbai. By the mid-19th century thousands of Jews from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria migrated to India, escaping persecution under the rule of Daud Pasha and seeking business opportunities.” Most of this community left when India gained independence from the British.

I came across this recipe for Iraqi/Indian Shabbat Chicken on a Jewish heritage food website called Naama. It documents our varied and deep food traditions from Jewish communities all over the world. And there are always fascinating family stories to go along with the recipes.

Influences from whatever country Jews lived in were absorbed and adopted while making changes that allowed them to continue to observe the laws of kashrut. For example, this delicious curry is made with coconut milk rather than yogurt in order to honor the prohibition to not mix milk and meat. But you definitely don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy this traditional Iraqi/Indian Shabbat meal.

Don’t be frightened off by the relatively long list of ingredients. If you do much South Asian and Middle Eastern cooking, you should have most of the spices on hand. Iraqi/Indian Shabbat Chicken isn’t difficult to make, but I do urge you to use fresh spices and whole spices that you grind yourself when cooking these cuisines. It is the spices that make the dish.

Since I was making this only for me and my husband, initially I did not also cook up a rice pilau to which I would have added English peas and carrots for additional color. I did serve this with a simple Moroccan beet salad and a Jerusalem salad along with a fresh mint chutney that I made. [See recipe below] Mint grows like weeds and I happen to have it in my terrace garden. You can also buy mint or coriander chutney. While normally I enjoy Indian food with naan or roti, Shabbat challah actually went beautifully with this dish and along with the potatoes served to sop up the delicious sauce. Served with some ripe cantaloupe and cherries – a perfect Friday night meal.

Since I had plenty of left-overs, the second time I served this with dal and a rice pilau. For some ideas of Indian side dishes to make, check out these suggestions.

While very well-seasoned, this dish is not at all spicy so is a perfect introduction for those who are heat averse. And the bonus in making this dish is that your house will smell absolutely amazing!

For another Iraqi chicken dish:

Iraqi Chicken over Red Rice

Recipe

Yield: 6 to 8 servings, depending on sides

Ingredients

2 pounds chicken breasts, cut in half if large
2 pounds of chicken saddles (thighs with legs attached)
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground turmeric, divided
4 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used Canola)
5 whole cloves
5 green cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
5 generous teaspoons ground coriander
3 generous teaspoons ground cumin
About 2 pounds of small-medium potatoes, peeled [I used Yukon Gold and cut the potatoes in half so they would fit into my pan.]
1 large onion
1 piece of fresh ginger (2 tablespoons)
4 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon paprika
14 oz. can of unsweetened coconut cream
2 teaspoons white distilled vinegar
1/4 to 1/2 cup water
1 8-ounce can of bamboo shoots, drained and cut into thin slices lengthwise (Optional)
1 teaspoon garam masala 

Directions

1. Place the chicken pieces into a large bowl or plastic freezer bag and sprinkle and rub all sides with 1½ teaspoons of kosher salt, ½ teaspoon of fresh cracked black pepper and ½ teaspoon of turmeric. Set aside for about 30 minutes. [This can be done hours ahead and refrigerated.]

2. Place the vegetable oil into a large pot over medium heat. Add the cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, and cumin. Fry for about 30 seconds or until fragrant.

3. Place all the chicken pieces into the pot with the skin side down. Sear the chicken until golden brown, about 5 minutes on each side. Transfer the chicken onto a plate. 

4. Place the potatoes into the pot with the oil and spices and fry the potatoes until golden brown on all sides, flipping them occasionally.

5. Meanwhile, place the onion, ginger, and garlic into a blender or food processor. Process the mixture until a paste is formed, about 2 minutes. [This can also be done ahead and refrigerated.] Add the paste to the pot with the fried potatoes. Add the paprika and remaining ½ teaspoon of ground turmeric. Cook until golden, about 4 to 6 minutes. Place the chicken pieces back into the pot with the skin side up. Add the coconut cream, vinegar, water and bamboo shoots (if using) into the pot. Cover the pot and cook on medium-low heat for about 40 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. The dish can be made several hours ahead and gently reheated. I didn’t add the garam masala until just before serving.

6. Sprinkle garam masala over the curry and serve hot. 

Mint Chutney (Phodino) Recipe

1 generous cup of packed fresh mint leaVES

1/2 cup of roughly chopped scallions, including green stems

1 Tablespoon finely chopped or grated fresh ginger

2 fresh hot green chili peppers, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Juice of one lemon or up to 2 limes (I used limes)

Directions

Blend everything together. Unlike commercial chutney which almost certainly has food coloring added, the green of the mint will darken some if made ahead. The taste will be fine, however. If you wish to have that vibrant green, add a couple of drops of a vegetable food coloring. I store this in a glass container in my fridge and it will perk up any meat, chicken, fish or vegetarian meal.

I actually was unable to get any hot peppers in my most recent grocery order so I substituted some Gojuchang. You could use other hot sauces like Sriracha or harissa and while possibly not quite authentic, the taste will be great.

What I’m Buying Now

Root Vegetables | Co+op, welcome to the table

Like most of the world, my husband and I are confined to our apartment. And because we are in the vulnerable age category and I have asthma, we are being especially cautious. Therefore, we have not gone to a grocery store for a month and are relying on the brave individuals who will shop and deliver goods to us. And in order to cut down on the number of deliveries, I have to think very carefully about what I’m buying now.

Being an American of moderate means, I have been spoiled. We live in the land of plenty and I have never lacked for anything of importance. And I had become careless. Yes, I recycled before it became fashionable. But I also wasted food and used toilet paper without a thought. Covid19 has changed all of that. And hopefully, some of the rationing that I have been practicing will continue once we get past this epidemic. And I believe that we will, just as previous generations got past polio and the Great Flu Epidemic. Not unscathed. And not without tremendous and gut-wrenching loss. But this too will pass.

I’m fortunate in that I get to share my isolation with my husband and best friend. I simply can’t imagine what it would be like to go through this alone. But we are missing our first grandchild who was born in November and lives across the country. At this age, she changes daily. And while our son and daughter-in-law have been great at sharing photos and videos, it just isn’t the same as being there to hug and kiss her, read and sing to her. She’ll probably be walking by the time we get to see her in person again.

And like many of you, my husband and I have gotten a little scruffy around the edges. No trips to get haircuts. And I have given myself permission to dress in my favorite overalls and to wear my curly, fuzzy hair down with my dangly earrings. It will be difficult to return to taming my unruly locks and dressing like a respectable adult again.

So what do I do each day? Like many of you, I turn to hobbies and even prayer. I grocery shop and plan meals in my head and make adjustments according to my pantry and what’s actually available at the store when I place an order. Fresh produce has always filled my shopping cart, but I need to think of what foods will hold up well since I am trying to shop only once every 10 days. So what I’m buying now are loads of root vegetables: carrots, radishes, potatoes, turnips, parsnips and beets. Onions, shallots and garlic. And cabbages like kale (curly and lacinato), red cabbage, broccoli and kohlrabi. These are all great for soups, salads, pickles etc.

And while I always bought lots of fresh herbs (which I grow on my terrace in the summer) I was admittedly wasteful. Now, as soon as my parsley and cilantro or dill arrive, I wash the herbs in cold water and dry them well in my salad spinner before putting them away. The same goes for my kale, which I remove from the stems, chop up, wash and dry well. I am amazed at how long these all last now in my fridge and I have almost zero waste from rotting greens. With these in my fridge, and the spices in my pantry, I can make almost anything from plain rice to potatoes to pasta to pulses (lentils) taste delicious as well as being nutritious.

And don’t forget the lemons! Without the zest and bright, fresh juice life would definitely be a much duller place. Other citrus fruit is also good if you have it available.

The further challenge for this week is that it is Passover. And while certain of the rules around eating have relaxed over the years for many adherents, it still is not anything goes. I grew especially anxious when buying eggs became challenging. So many Passover desserts and special treats like matza balls and matza brei rely on eggs as the permissible leavening. And while I have developed a number of delicious vegan options over the years, it’s still a challenge.

Some Passover Options for Vegan and Non-

I am not a rabbinical authority and depending on where your family is from and the traditions you follow, some of the vegan desserts may not be permissible. Options are presented that are now allowed by many who follow the Reform and Conservative Movements and/or Sephardic traditions. It is up to you to decide whether they fit into your permissible Passover foods. And depending on the ingredient that you may be missing, don’t stress. Get creative and use what you do have on hand.

Death by Chocolate Vegan Passover Cake

Passover Sephardic Wine Cookies

Chocolate Chip Vegan Meringue Buttons for Passover

Passover Almond Coconut Macaroons

Passover Florentine Cookies

Passover Orange Ginger Spice Cookies

Moroccan Beet Salad – Barba

Orange and Radish Salad

Roasted Asparagus and Bell Peppers

Parsley Soup

Yemenite Chicken Soup

Aromatic Chicken and Vegetable Soup (Koli)

Garlicky Beet Spread

Moroccan Beet and Orange Salad with Pistachios

Beet Caviar

Vegan Stuffed Vegetables Mediterranean Style

Chicken Thighs with Garlic and Olives and Kale Salad with Lemon Anchovy Dressing

Chicken Thighs with Mushrooms, Eggplant and Tomatoes

Roasted Chicken Thighs with Fennel & Lemon

Nigella Lawson’s Sheet Pan Chicken, Leeks and Peas

Roasted Chicken with Clementines and Arak

Harissa Chicken with Leeks, Potatoes and Yogurt

Chicken Legs with Wine and Yams

Crock Pot Short Ribs

No matter what traditions or religion you observe (or even don’t), we are in this together. So please make smart choices, think of others, especially those less fortunate, and stay healthy. Be generous to those who are helping to make our lives safer and to those families and individuals who have lost their jobs, their loved ones and their sense of security. Remember to call those who are older or alone. Keeping in touch by phone, email or video chatting has never been more important – or easier. It is especially difficult for those who are celebrating holidays this year without their friends and family. Stay connected. And find a way to laugh every day.

Iraqi Chicken over Red Rice

Iraqi Chicken over Red Rice is a savory, succulent, budget-friendly dinner worthy of company. Also known as Plau B’Jeej, this dish contains subtle layers of flavors and textures. I cooked chicken thighs with tomato paste and spices to make the broth which I then used later to cook the rice. Chicken thighs are more flavorful than breast meat and they retain their moisture. Onions (LOTS) were slowly sauteed until just short of caramelization. When I added an exotic blend of spices along with almonds and raisins I was immediately transported to the market places in Israel.

We ate the Iraqi Chicken over Red Rice for a satisfying, lovely Shabbat meal. A cup of Greek Red Lentil Soup, along with side salads of Moroccan Beets, Baba Ganoush and a watercress, Persian cucumber, tomato and olive filled out the menu. And, of course, my husband’s beautiful challah!

While I know that some people eat the same special meal every Shabbat, I have always tried to vary it. With a wonderful library of cookbooks, I’m never short of inspiration. As anyone who follows my blog knows, I especially love Middle Eastern/Mediterranean food as well as Indian. They both use lots of fresh herbs, pulses, vegetables and spices and it’s fun to mix and match cuisines. These palate pleasers also create a feast for the eyes with their colorful blends. This recipe comes from the Jewish Soul Food From Minsk to Marrakesh cookbook by Janna Gur.

Recipe

Yield: 6 servings, depending on sides. Any leftover rice can be used with other grilled, or roasted meat, chicken or fish.

Ingredients

2 to 2.5 pounds of bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (or saddles , which includes the legs)

5 cups of water

7 ounces of tomato paste

1 slightly rounded teaspoon of ground cumin

1 slightly rounded teaspoon sweet paprika

Generous pinch of cayenne (optional, but I used)

Kosher salt

2 cups long-grain white rice (I used Basmati)

3 to 4 Tablespoons vegetable oil such as Canola

3 large yellow or white onions

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 slightly rounded teaspoon baharat spice mix (easily available online, but a recipe for making it at home will be included at the bottom)

1 cup of blanched slivered or halved almonds

1/2 cup of raisins (I used unsulphured Sultana Raisins)

Directions

Place the chicken in a medium saucepan. Mix the water with the tomato paste, cumin, paprika and cayenne. Pour the liquid mixture over the chicken. Partially cover the pot and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for one hour. Toward the end of cooking, add a 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside until it is cool enough to handle (about 15 minutes). There should be just about 3.5 cups of liquid remaining, which you will use in a bit to cook the rice.

While the chicken is cooking, rinse and then soak the rice in cold water, using a sieve or colander over a bowl. The rice should soak for at least 15 minutes and up to 30 minutes. Then drain the rice.

Once the chicken has cooled enough to handle, remove the skin and shred the meat off of the bone. Set the chicken meat aside.

Peel and thinly slice the three onions. Don’t get scared off by the seemingly large amount. It cooks down and is all necessary. In a 12-inch pan (preferably cast iron) heat the vegetable oil. I ended up using about 3.5 Tablespoons of oil. Add the sliced onions and saute over medium heat, only stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes+. You want the onions to become softened and just beginning to turn golden and caramelized. Season with salt to taste and add the turmeric and baharat. Mix through. All of this can be done ahead if you wish.

Twenty minutes or so before you are ready to eat, bring the tomato liquid to a boil. Add the drained rice. Cover the pot tightly and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for about 20 minutes, but check it after 15 since different brands of rice cook different times. You want the liquid to be absorbed and the rice to be tender. Fluff the rice with a fork, re-cover the pot and allow the rice to stand for 5 to 10 minutes.

Heat the onion mixture if you made it ahead. Add back the chicken and mix it through. Add the almonds and saute for about 5 to 6 minutes more, gently tossing the almonds through the mixture. Now add the raisins and cook for one more minute.

This can be presented on a platter with the rice on the bottom and the chicken, almond, onion, raisin mixture mounded on top. Be sure to leave some of the rice visible. You can also serve this in a similar presentation on individual plates. Top with a bit of fresh parsley or cilantro for color contrast.

Baharat Spice Mix

There is no one single recipe for Baharat. Every family and spice vendor has their own blend. The following recipe also comes from the Janna Gur cookbook and is one option for making Baharat at home. I used a commercial blend this time which I received as a gift.

1 Tablespoon ground cardamom

1 Tablespoon freshly ground balck pepper

1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 Tablespoon ground ginger

1.5 teaspoons ground allspice

1.5 teaspoons ground nutmeg

Combine and keep stored in an airtight container in a cool dry place.

One-Pot Chicken with Beans and Fresh Herbs

Umami in a pan

One-Pot Chicken with Beans and Fresh Herbs makes a savory and satisfying dinner. It takes no time or special skills to prep, is budget-friendly and can easily be tailored to your personal tastes.

I’m always looking for meals that are full of flavor, reasonably healthy and which don’t break the bank. Chicken thighs are the perfect solution. They are versatile, almost impossible to over-cook and are always available. And best of all, they lend themselves to one-pan meals. They are inexpensive enough to serve on a weeknight but can also be dressed up for company. Unless you are a vegetarian or vegan, you can’t go wrong. And unlike chicken breasts these days which are bred to be huge, chicken thighs are proportioned for healthy eating.

We have been growing fresh herbs on our terrace, but now that winter temperatures have hit, the pots have moved indoors. So I used my ready supply of fresh herbs for this dish. If you don’t grow your own, choose whatever looks good at the market. You could use dried herbs here as well, by halving the amount. But do buy fresh for this One-Pot Chicken with Beans and Fresh Herbs if it is an option.

All you need to complete the meal is a grain or some crusty bread. And while we enjoy drinking and cooking with wine, you could use chicken broth in its place here.

For other one-pan/one-pot chicken recipes check these out:

Roasted Chicken with Clementines and Arak

Harissa Chicken with Leeks, Potatoes and Yogurt

Chicken Thighs with Garlic and Olives and Kale Salad with Lemon Anchovy Dressing

Sheet-Pan Chicken with Chickpeas

Nigella Lawson’s Sheet Pan Chicken, Leeks and Peas

Recipe

Yield: 4 to 6 servings, depending on sides

Ingredients

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

2 Tablespoons neutral oil such as Canola or grapeseed (You could use all oil if you prefer to not mix dairy and meat)

2.5 pounds of bone-in, skin on chicken thighs

14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes in their own juices

15 ounce can of cannellini beans or Great Northern, drained and rinsed

Generous 1/4 chopped fresh herbs (I used rosemary and thyme, but you could use oregano, parsley or any combination)

2 small bay leaves

1 large shallot, peeled and thinly sliced

1 head of garlic, with cloves peeled and lightly smashed

1/2 cup dry white wine or chicken broth

kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste

Directions

Heat your oven to 375 degrees F.

In a 12-inch deep skillet with a lid, heat the oil and butter (or all oil if using). Season your chicken thighs with salt and pepper to taste. If you are using kosher chickens, use less salt.

Place the thighs skin-side down in the pan and cook for 8 minutes without stirring. (I like to use a screen over the pan to cut down on splatter and mess.) This will turn the skin to a lovely brown. Turn off the heat and turn the chicken thighs so that the browned skin is now facing up.

Evenly scatter the remaining ingredients around the chicken and place the pan, uncovered in the heated oven. (Could this GET any easier?)

Cook for 1.25 hours. Now eat! If you want, you can garnish with a little additional fresh herbs, but it’s just for show.

Sheet-Pan Chicken with Chickpeas

So who needs one more chicken dinner recipe? Well, I do. And this Sheet-Pan Chicken with Chickpeas dinner by Alison Roman checks all of my boxes. It is easy to make, inexpensive and loaded with umami.

I came across this recipe and knew immediately that it was something I had to make – and it didn’t disappoint. With a few tweaks and served up with Mediterranean salads, I had a dinner that my husband loved and which I would gladly serve to guests.

Now as much as I hate cleaning and use foil-lined pans whenever possible, placing the ingredients on an unlined pan really gave me the crispy, roasted finish to the sheet-pan chicken and chickpeas that this dish cries out for. And with a good pan soak overnight, clean-up was easier than I had expected – especially since my husband supplied the elbow grease! If you really don’t want to do that, you may have to turn the broiler on towards the end of cooking to approximate the right effect.

My chicken marinated overnight, but you could do it all in the same day. However, the longer marinating left the chicken incredibly moist and flavorful. Give your family something special with this sheet-pan chicken and chickpeas or try it the next time you have friends over for dinner. Once everything is in the oven, you get to relax and enjoy the company.

One thing I have learned in over 35 years of cooking daily and entertaining is that you don’t have to make everything yourself. Find some good brands that you like and trust and augment your meals when you want to serve multiple courses. If you have access to good salads or dips, use them. I found a really excellent boxed soup brand (Pacific Foods) and I use their Butternut Squash, Spicy Red Lentil or “Creamy” Tomato Basil soup as a first course. I might tart them up a bit by adding some pumpkin seeds that I dry-roasted quickly in a pan and tossed with a wonderful spice blend that I bought or I add some fresh basil when serving. Nobody knows that I didn’t make these from scratch, but if asked, I’m happy to confess.

For some accompanying salad ideas, try any of the following:

Moroccan Beet Salad (Barba)

Moroccan Beet and Orange Salad with Pistachios

Greek Eggplant Dip

Moroccan Carrot Salad

Watermelon and Feta Salad

Easy Feta and Roasted Tomato Salad

Orange and Radish Salad

And, of course, don’t forget the hummus!

Recipe for Sheet-Pan Chicken and Chickpeas

Yield: 4 to 6 Servings, depending on sides and appetites

Ingredients

6 large bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (About 3.25 pounds)

Kosher salt and Aleppo Pepper (Freshly cracked black pepper is fine too)

1.5 cups full-fat Greek yogurt, divided

Juice from 2 to 3 lemons

2 rounded teaspoons ground turmeric, divided

2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained, rinsed and patted dry

1 Tablespoon fennel seed

1 rounded teaspoon ground cumin

1 large red onion, peeled, thinly sliced and divided in half

EVOO for drizzling

Torn fresh mint or cilantro for garnish

2 Tablespoons tahini

1/4 teaspoon ground sumac (optional)

Directions

  1. Place the chicken thighs in a heavy-duty (freezer) resealable plastic bag. Combine 3/4 cup of the yogurt with the juice of 1.5 lemons, 1 teaspoon of turmeric and 2 Tablespoons of water. Season well with salt and whichever pepper you are using. (I used 1.5 teaspoons of salt here.) If you are using Kosher chicken, you will use less salt. Mix well to combine and pour it over the chicken. Seal the bag and using your hands, “massage” the yogurt mixture over all of the chicken. Refrigerate at least 4 hours but preferably overnight.
  2. When you are ready to cook, heat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place the oven rack in the top third of the oven.
  3. Mix half of the sliced onions with the juice of 1 lemon and season with about 1/4 teaspoon salt and whatever pepper you are using. Set this quick onion pickle aside until you are ready to serve.
  4. Combine the chickpeas, fennel seed, cumin, remaining turmeric and half of the red onion slices on an unlined, rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with EVOO and season with salt (about 1/4 teaspoon) and whichever pepper you are using. Using tongs or your clean hands, toss everything together.
  5. Move the chickpea/onion mixture to the outer edges of the baking pan. Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade, scraping off any excess and place the thighs in the center of the baking pan, skin-side facing up.
  6. Place the baking pan in the oven and bake, moving the chickpeas around about every 15 minutes so they don’t stick. Bake until the skin on the chicken and chickpeas are well-browned and begin to crisp. This took about 45 minutes in my oven. I then turned the chicken pieces over and roasted for another 10 minutes to crisp up the skin on the underside of the chicken. Because you are using thighs, and because of the marinade, the chicken will not dry out.
  7. Combine the remaining yogurt with the juice of one lemon and season with 1/4 teaspoon salt, pepper, 2 Tablespoons of tahini and 1/4 teaspoon of ground sumac. This can be made ahead and refrigerated until ready to use. And if you like garlic, you could crush in 1 small clove as well, although it’s really not necessary.
  8. When you are ready to serve, scatter the pickled onions over the chicken and garnish with mint and/or cilantro. Serve the seasoned yogurt alongside.

Za’atar Roasted Chicken Over Sumac Potatoes

Sababa, an Arabic word, has come to mean “cool” or “awesome” in Hebrew slang. The Za’atar Roasted Chicken over Sumac Potatoes included in the 2019 cookbook Sababa by Adeena Sussman, is the perfect Shabbat or Sunday dinner. It’s not difficult to make and is a wonderful change from the typical roast chicken. I can attest that it is truly Sababa! The resulting chicken is incredibly moist and juicy and loaded with flavor.

I find it amusing that all of a sudden Middle Eastern food is “in.” Every time I open a newspaper to the food section, another Middle Eastern dish, restaurant or chef is being lauded. It is wonderful that this rich and varied cuisine is receiving its due, but many of us happily been enjoying it for years.

Like this Za’atar Roasted Chicken over Sumac Potatoes, many of the dishes rely on fresh foods livened by a liberal use of herbs and spice mixtures. Za’atar can be found already mixed in many grocery stores these days and is easily available online. You can, of course, make your own if you wish. It is originally a blend of the Biblical hyssop, sesame and salt. Wild thyme is often used in place of the hyssop. Sumac, which was cultivated in Mishnaic times is high in vitamin C and lends a wonderful citrus flavor to foods as well as a lovely almost saffron color.

This dish is simple to create and I paired it with a tomato basil bisque and a lovely salad. For dessert I made tahini cookies, which can be easily whipped up and will last for days in an airtight container – that is, if you can resist eating them all!

Recipe

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

1 roasting chicken, approx. 4 pounds

5 to 6 smallish red potatoes, scrubbed and quartered

4 medium shallots, peeled and quartered

4 Tablespoons EVOO

2 Tablespoons ground sumac

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste (If you are using Kosher chickens, you will probably want less added salt.)

1 small lemon

5 Tablespoons Za’atar Spice blend

1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes

2 to 3 large garlic cloves

6 fresh thyme sprigs

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Place the potatoes and shallots in a rectangular baking dish large enough to hold everything (about 9 x 13). Toss the potatoes and shallots with 1 Tablespoon of the EVOO, all of the sumac and about 3/4 teaspoon of salt and some generous cracks of black pepper.

Rinse and pat dry the chicken, being sure that there are no giblets inside. (If there are giblets, remove them and freeze them for soup.) Season the inside and outside of the chicken with salt and pepper.

Zest the lemon into a bowl and then halve the lemon and set the pieces aside. Add the remaining EVOO to the lemon zest along with 4 Tablespoons of the za’atar and the red pepper flakes. Mix gently.

Place the chicken, breast side up, on top of the potatoes and shallots. Stuff the lemon halves (I could only get one half in so saved the other half for another use), garlic and thyme sprigs into the cavity of the chicken. Tie the legs together with some kitchen twine.

Rub the za’atar mixture all over the outside of the chicken and a bit under the breast skin if you like.

Roast the chicken for 15 minutes and then reduce the heat to 350 degrees F. Continue roasting for 1 hour and 20 minutes more or until the juices run clear and the leg jiggles easily when pulled. Remove the chicken from the oven and allow it to rest for 10 minutes before carving. Cut the chicken right over the potatoes so that the juices run over the vegetables.