A Shift in Comfort [Chermoula Chicken with Toasted Almond Couscous & Coriander Yogurt]
And just like that, winter came. And liked us so much it decided to stay for 4 long months.
As the nipping air blows into town and we wrap our bones in layers over layers like flaky croissant dough around a piece of rich Swiss chocolate, I find myself feeling a constant power struggle in the kitchen. Comfort vs. Health. Does there need to be such a decision? Can’t we have it all?
The short answer is yes! We can! But there needs to be a bit of a shift in the way you prepare and buy ingredients for your favourite comfort foods. If you love macaroni and cheese, add the cheese to a pureed cauliflower or squash base instead of the classic butter-filled bechamel and use whole wheat pasta. Take time to learn how to adjust your seasoning with herbs and spices instead of salt. It’s not only healthier, but you really learn how to use all those little jars collecting dust on the shelf. Love a gooey lasagna? Try using thin slices of eggplant to replace the noodles, or place a spoonful of meat sauce at the end of an eggplant slice and roll it up like cannelloni There are so many simple ways to make the dishes we crave most when the temperature drops just a little bit healthier, we just need to be a bit more mindful of how we shop and what goes into our meals.
The dish I’m sharing today might not bring visions of couch-snuggling, wine drinking or cozy evening movie-watching to mind initially, but to me it’s as quintessentially comforting as a bowl of noodles and broth. The couscous with toasted almonds is surprisingly satisfying, the fiery chicken with it’s array of warm spices can take the chill out of any frigid evening, and the cooling coriander yogurt really brings everything together. All of these flavours of lemon, yogurt, coriander, paprika and cumin compliment each other so wonderfully your mouth won’t even realize you’re eating something packed with nutrition. I chopped up all the leftovers and tossed them together in a salad for lunch that I just happen to be eating RIGHT NOW. And let me tell you, if it tasted good the first day, you’re going to be blown away by day 2! And it’s lovely cold, as well.
Invite a few close friends over and serve this up family-style over the holidays. It’s a meal that’s meant to be shared and enjoyed together. And since you’ve already saved yourself a few calories, why not have an extra glass of wine with dinner? Live a little! I give you my permission.
Chermoula Chicken with Toasted Almond Couscous & Coriander Yogurt
adapted from Fork Magazine
6 sweet red peppers (if you can find the long skinny ones, those are best)
6 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
For the Coriander Yogurt
1/2 cup coriander (cilantro), minced
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
Juice + zest of 1 lemon
salt, to taste
½ tsp fresh ground pepper
Stir all ingredients until combined. Taste for seasoning and add more if needed. Place in the fridge until ready to eat. Can be made 1 day in advance.
For the Chermoula spice:
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp whole cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 small red chilli, chopped & seeds removed (substitute: ½ tsp cayenne pepper)
1 small bunch of coriander, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
Place all ingredients in a bullet or food processor and blend until smooth. Can be made a few days in advance and kept in the fridge until ready.
For the couscous:
3 cups cooked couscous
1 cup toasted almond flakes or slivers
2 tbsp olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt & pepper, to taste
Stir all ingredients except for salt and pepper. Add a few pinches of salt and fresh ground pepper and taste. Add more if needed. Keep warm in a pot over low-heat on the stove, stirring every so often.
For the Chicken and Peppers:
In a large container with lid (or a food-storage bag), add the chicken and Chermoula spice. Squish around until the chicken is coated and place in the fridge for 3 hours up to overnight. The longer you leave it, the better the flavour the chicken will have.
Bring a grill pan or cast-iron skillet with a couple glugs of vegetable oil to high heat until sizzling. Add the chicken and cook for 6 minutes on each side or until juices run clear. Keep the pan on the stove and remove the chicken to a plate to rest for a few minutes. Place the whole peppers, 3 at a time, on the pan and let the skin blacken and blister slightly, 3-4 minutes. Flip and let the other side blister. Alternatively, you can move your oven rack to the top ledge and cook the peppers under the broiler. Remove and slice the peppers into thin strips and place them in a serving bowl.
Pour the couscous onto a large serving dish. Sliced the chicken and serve over the couscous. Serve with Coriander Yogurt and Grilled Peppers.
Me and My Salad [Cauliflower Salad with Almonds, Apricots & Fried Capers]
As I shoved the last bite of this salad into my mouth the other day, I knew I would have to share it with you all. I’ll make this short, sweet, salty and sour.
It’s become clear that I not only have an issue with baked eggs, but cauliflower too. I can’t get enough lately. I want it all, and I want it now. This salad sort of threw itself together as I stood in the kitchen, watching it all unfold before my eyes. It was as if my brain couldn’t keep up with my hands, grabbing, tossing, mixing, and then there we were. Me and my salad. Sitting down to a lovely lunch together.
This bad boy has it all. A gentle nuttiness from the caramelized bits of cauliflower, a pungent brininess from the fried capers, gentle heat from the almonds and a slight sweetness from the dried apricots. All this pulled together with a creamy orange-scented yogurt dressing. It might sound a bit much, but believe me when I tell you these flavours were meant to be married into one big delicious family. And then eaten by you!
Cauliflower Salad with Almonds, Apricots & Fried Capers
1 large (2 small) head of cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
1/3 cup raw almonds
pinch or two cayenne pepper, optional
1/4 cup capers, stems removed if necessary
small handful of dried apricot slices, diced
1/2 cup orange-yogurt dressing (recipe follows)
fresh ground pepper, to garnish
Preheat oven to 350.
Toss cauliflower florets with 2 pinches of salt and enough olive oil and to lightly coat. Pour onto a baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes or until florets begin to brown around the edges. Turn florets over and bake for another 6-7 minutes until golden.
While cauliflower cooks, put a small saucepan over medium heat and drizzle very lightly with olive oil. Add the almonds and a pinch or two of cayenne pepper, more if you like it spicier. I didn’t add salt to mine, but you can if you’d like. Let sit for 3 minutes until lightly toasted on one side. Shake the pan and let toast for another 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Remove to a paper towel lined plate to cool.
In the same pan, add 1/3 cup olive oil and bring to med-high heat. Add the capers and let them fry until they’ve opened slightly and start to crisp up, 40-60 seconds for small capers, 1-2 minutes for large ones like I used. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate to cool.
Toss the cauliflower, almonds, capers and apricots into a large mixing bowl and toss with 1/4 cup dressing. If it’s too dry, add a little more until it’s coated to your liking. Serve warm with lots of pepper and dressing on the side for those who want more.
makes 1 cup
If you don’t use all the dressing, it makes a great marinade for chicken!
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
zest from 1/2 large orange
juice from 1/2 large orange
1/2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp olive oil
Mix all but the water in a small bowl. If the texture is thin enough already (it should be similar in texture to a slightly thicker buttermilk), don’t add water. If it needs to be thinned slightly, add water 1/2 tbsp at a time until texture is to your liking. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, honey or orange juice if needed.
Pretend Hooky [Spaghetti with Roasted Asparagus and Tarragon Pesto]
It’s Monday and I’m playing hooky.
Alright, you got me. I’m not playing hooky. I’m not brave enough to do things like that. In actuality, my office access card seems to be on the fritz so I was told I could just go home. Isn’t that wonderful?
Lucky for me, I seem to have gotten a day off on the one gloriously sunny day of the week. Knowing that, I decided to take my time strolling home. Lazily sipped a latte, stopped in a few shops, and finally ended in my mecca, the grocery store.
Grocery shopping in the morning is much different than grocery shopping after work or in the evening. Shoppers, though few, are noticeably more pleasant, having not yet had to deal with the many stresses of daily routine. No one is waiting impatiently for you to get out of their way or racing to be the first one through the small passage way out of the produce aisles. It’s just lovely.
I picked up some asparagus with the intention of having it grilled with our steaks tonight, but when I noticed the almost sagging leaves of tarragon wasting away in the crisper, I decided I’d better use them before it was too late. Asparagus and tarragon are a lovely combination, one you should rush try if you haven’t already. The fresh, sweet asparagus and the bold anise-like tarragon bring out the best in each other. Roasting the asparagus delivers a lovely nutty kick to the pair. Add in some toasty almonds, garlic and Parmesan and you’ve got a creamy, earthy little pesto that is great with pasta or on fish or poultry. Because it was lunch and I was looking for a quick snack, I tossed some in with spaghetti for a creamy, light bite.
Spaghetti with Roasted Asparagus-Tarragon Pesto
If you don’t have spaghetti, your favourite pasta will do just fine!
1 lb spaghetti
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed of tough ends
Salt and pepper
1 clove garlic
2-3 tbsp fresh tarragon
handful almonds, toasted
1/2-3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Preheat oven to 350.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta until al dente according to package instructions. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water and strain.
While pasta is cooking, add asparagus spears to a roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Roast until spears are bright green but still have a little bite, about 6-7 minutes. Remove from oven and add to a blender, bullet or food processor. Throw in the garlic, tarragon, almonds (reserving a few to garnish), a pinch or two of salt and a good glug of olive oil. Give it a few whizzes until a you’ve achieved a smooth paste, adding more olive oil if necessary. Taste for seasoning and adjust to your liking.
Put pasta back in a big pot over medium heat and add half the pasta water, 1/2 cup of the pesto and the parmesan cheese. Toss to combine. If it’s a little too sticky, add more pasta water to loosen.
Serve with a drizzle of good olive oil, some chopped almonds, a grind or two of pepper and extra Parmesan.
Golden Globes [Beet Salad with Almonds and Goat Cheese]
In the days since we last spoke, my dearest laptop fell ill and I was forced to lay her to rest. We had good times, her and I, but in her last days she was keeping from my favourite thing. That, of course, would be chatting with you. So, how are you?
It’s Good Friday today and oh how good it is. We slept late (ok, I slept late), moved slowly, and arrived at Mr GL’s parents place to have a quick afternoon visit and some dinner before heading out to see one of our favourite bands, The Acorn, play this evening in Wakefield.
Of course, I couldn’t, in good concience, enjoy the sounds and sights without coming here, tea in hand, and telling you about a yummy little salad I came across this week.
This warm salad is a small adaptation on one I stumbled across on The Kitchn recently. My eye was quickly drawn to the brilliantly yellow golden beets, but quickly shifted when I read of the addition of garlicky beet greens, toasty almonds, and some tangy goat cheese. A home run of a salad, made a little more toothsome with some hashed Brussels Sprouts I had in the fridge, silently begging to be used. This makes the perfect side salad for poultry or fish, and makes a great light lunch or dinner, as well. Might I also suggest digging in while you sit on your stoop, sockless and squinting from the sun, beside a handsome man. It tastes really nice that way, too.
Golden Beet Salad with Greens and Almonds
adapated from The Kitchn
Feel free to add your own pantry favoruites and make this salad your own.
Golden beets are much sweeter and milder than their red cousin, but if you can’t find any golden ones, red will do in a pinch.
1 bunch beets, both tops and roots
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
a few pinches red pepper flakes (optional, but gives a nice little kick)
2 handfuls Brussels sprouts, grated or sliced thin
4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
2/3 cup toasted almonds (slivers, or chopped)
Preheat oven to 425.
Rinse beets and greens to remove any clumpy dirty. Remove greens from beets and set aside.
Place beets in a large pan, whole, and roast until easily pierced by a fork, about 60 minutes.
While beets are roasting, remove the stalks from the beet greens right up to where the leaf starts. Cut leaves into bite-sized ribbons.
Coat a large pan over medium-high heat with olive oil until it glistens. Add garlic and red pepper flakes. Saute until fragrant, 1 minute. Add the beet greens and hashed sprouts to the pan and stir so the leaves are all coated with oil. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the leaves are tender. The Brussels will still be slightly toothsome, so if you like them softer, add them a few minutes before the greens.
Once beets are cooked, remove from the oven and set aside until cool to the touch. Using a paper/dish towel, rub the skins off the beets. Cut them into bite sized pieces and toss with the greens and almonds.
Spoon into serving dish and top with crumbled goat cheese with plenty of fresh cracked pepper.
Sending you all best wishes for a relaxing, food-filled Easter weekend! Have an extra slice of turkey for me, as I will be greatly deprived of it this holiday.
Unhealthy Obsessions, Healthy Meals [Spinach and Rice Gratin]
I had full intentions of coming on here tonight and writing out the Salted Butter Caramel ice cream recipe for you. I did. Scouts honour.
Up until about 2pm, I had decided that I wasn’t going to cook dinner tonight, but instead have something easy, poached eggs on toast or salad, so I could relax and spend some time on the other intended entry. And then my good friend Melody, the one who left me for Halifax and perfect fall-like weather year round, asked me a question.
“Cooking anything good tonight?”
It was as simple as that. That’s all it took to send my thoughts into “need to find something to make, need to make something different, need to get in the kitchen…” mode. I never claimed to be even remotely sane or have it totally together.
As I sat at my desk and frantically scoured the internet for some inspiration, I had a few thoughts of what I might want to make. Vegan breakfast loaf…no, wait… pasta…no, no… something for lunch.. roasted vegetables… and then I saw it. Spinach Rice Gratin. Courtesy of Heidi Swanson, whom I gush about much too frequently, of 101cookbooks.
This is the perfect dish. It’s easy, it’s cheap, it can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner, it’s delicious and filling, and it’s good for you. Things I wish every meal could be.
I made a few minor changes. Mostly because I had to. Lesson of the day: Grocery lists work better when you don’t leave them on your desk at the office.
I really enjoy this dish. Enough to bring it for lunch for the rest of the week. And that’s a big deal. I do not like to have the same thing over and over. Or even two days in a row sometimes. That makes me sound like a bit of a priss-pants, which I hate, but I just get bored easily, ok? So stop judging me and make the dang gratin. You’ll like it. For days and days.
Spinach and Rice Gratin
recipe from 101cookbooks
The recipe calls for leftover rice, but I made mine when I got home from work and just let it cool a little before making the gratin. Use brown rice or a mixture of brown and wild.
2 1/2 cups leftover/pre-cooked brown rice, room temp
1 1/2 cups cups well finely chopped spinach
10 black olives, chopped
1/2 medium red onion, diced
1/3 cup almonds, toasted (buy raw almonds and toast them yourself for the best flavour)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan
3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
Preheat oven to 400F degrees. Rack in the top third. Grease a 10-inch round baking dish (or equivalent) with a bit of olive oil.
If you’re making your rice, cook according to package instructions and spread on a baking sheet until cooled.
In a large bowl combine the rice and spinach. Now, reserving a bit of each for garnish, stir in the olives, and red onion, amonds and olive oil. Now stir in 1/4 cup of the cheese. Add the eggs and fold in. Pour into a greased 10” casserole dish, or whatever dish you have. The gratin should be spread out enough to be about 2” thick. Mine was a little thin. Sprinkle with cheese and bake for 30 minutes or until the casserole is set, and the top toasty and golden. Remove from the oven, and sprinkle with remaining onions, olives, and almonds. Sprinkle with a bit more salt before serving - or taste and get a sense of whether you need any.
I gave mine a pretty hefty dousing of hot sauce before I ate it. If you’re a hot-sauce fan, this is a good dish for it. If you don’t, well you’re a wuss. No, I’m kidding. You’re not a wuss! Some of us just aren’t cut out for a spicy life.