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.
Everyone Wins with Canadian Chicken [Contest + Chicken Recipe Roundup]
Unless you’ve been a vegetarian or vegan for majority of your days, you know how life-saving a simple, lowly chicken breast can be after a long day. The ultimate in versatile staples - it’s healthy, satisfying, and simply delicious.
It’s no surprise that the Chicken Farmers of Canada agree and are using this simple staple to try and wipe out hunger in our country. Often, we forget that the face of hunger isn’t just visible in our homeless and middle-aged residents, but over 40% of the people who use food banks in Canada are children. Now you have a chance to help CFC make a difference in their lives.
The Everyone Wins With Canadian Chicken campaign wants to get all Members of Parliament to submit their favourite chicken breast sandwich recipe for a chance to win!
What’s in it for them?
- First Prize - $10,000 donation to your city’s food bank
- Second Prize - $5,000 donation to your city’s food bank
- Third Prize - $2,500 donation to your city’s food bank
Chicken Farmers of Canada, proud National sponsor of Canada Day in the Capital for our 20th year and host of the annual Great Canadian Chicken BBQ, is calling on all Members of Parliament to enter the recipe contest. Once you enter, CFC will email you an online badge that you can use to let your constituents know that you have participated and support eradicating hunger in your riding!
Find your Member of Parliament, so you can tweet or email them and ask for support in your city, here!
Tweet or email your MP; “Hey @MPxxx, our local Food Bank needs $10,000. Pls submit ur chicken sandwich recipe. http://bit.ly/HU9Zwu #WinWithChicken”
HAVE YOUR MP’s ENTER HERE and spread the word! These donations will make a huge difference in lives and communities throughout the country. Join in the fun with the “TW-EAT In” Twitter Party on May 9th from 8-9:30 in support of Hunger Awareness Week.
And if you’re looking for some inspiration, this round up of my favourite chicken recipes might get your creative juices flowing;
Chicken Recipe Roundup
Chicken Scallopini from Bell’Alimento
Crispy Chicken Thighs & Warm Bread Salad from The Kitchn
Simple Roast Chicken from Thomas Keller/Bon Appetit
Chicken Tacos with Salsa Fresca from Smitten Kitchen
Thai-Style Coconut Chicken Soup from Shiksa in the Kitchen
Pioneer Woman’s Buttermilk Fried Chicken from Steamy Kitchen
Chinese Chicken Salad with Sesame Dressing from Foodie Crush
***Disclosure – I am participating in the Chicken Farmers of Canada program by http://ShesConnected.com. I received compensation in exchange for my participation in this campaign. The opinions on this blog are my own.
Simple Dishes for Entertaining [Spanish Chicken & Chorizo with Potatoes & Cauliflower]
I’ve been so completely all over the place lately that I forgot completely we were having some friends over for dinner last night.
Not daring to ever serve guests take-out at my house (the reason for that is much less pretentious than it sounds, I just REALLY like takeout and want it all to myself) I opted for one of those marvelously simple one-pot-dinners. They save me from a life of Kraft Dinner on a pretty regular basis these days. A little protein, some starch, and veggies all thrown in a roasting pan with spices and out pops a fragrant and satisfying dinner good enough to serve dinner guests. Doesn’t that just sound like the bees knees? It really is. Let me show you!
Since there are so few ingredients in this dish, try to buy the best quality you can afford. The chorizo should be fresh, the produce and chicken organic, and your wine glass full. Wait. What? There isn’t any wine in this dish, you say? That’s no reason no to have a full glass anyways. You’ve had a long day, I’m sure.
One-Pot Spanish Chicken and Chorizo with Potatoes and Cauliflower
adapted from Life is Great
I found the hunks of chorizo to be quiet tough to chew on so I’m going to recommend you cut them up a bit smaller so your guests don’t hurt their mouths. No one likes to be beat up by their dinner.
We served a simple salad of Arugula, Roasted Golden Beets, Toasted Pecans and Piave Vecchio cheese and some crusty bread to sop up the beautiful bright orange sauce on the side.
8 large bone-in chicken thighs, skin on
1 large piece Chorizo (8-10”), cut into bite sized pieces
1 bag baby potatoes (about 2 1/2 cups)
1/2 head of cauliflower, cut into 2” florets
2 tsp dried oregano
zest or 2 oranges
4 whole cloves of garlic, peeled
1 small red onion, rough chopped
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400.
Dry the chicken with a clean towel (or paper towel) and salt on both sides.
Pour the potatoes into a large roasting or jellyroll pan. Toss in the onions. Nestle the chicken thighs on top and tuck the cauliflower and chorizo around them evenly. Throw in the garlic cloves and sprinkle the oregano and orange zest evenly over everything. Give the whole pan a good drizzle of olive oil.
Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the chicken is cooked to 170. Spoon onto plates and serve.
Wasn’t that the easiest? Why don’t you have another glass of wine to celebrate?
Serious Sunday Suppers [Milk Braised Chicken with Lemon, Sage and Garlic]
Sundays are big around these parts.
If we’re lucky enough to find a Sunday where we’re both home for dinner, I am typically up at the crack of dawn and elbow deep in cookbooks looking for something exciting to make. I carefully unfold the corners of my beloved books, that I’ve placed that way for the very purpose of Sundays, and run my hand down the page making mental notes of ingredients I have and don’t have. I nudge Mr GL every few minutes, eyes-wide with inspiration, begging his approval of whatever dish has struck my fancy in that minute. If he agrees that the chosen recipe is ‘Sunday-worthy’, I quickly pound back my coffee, grab whatever article of clothing might be on the floor, and set off on a journey to purchase ingredients and, no doubt, a bottle of wine to go with.
This past Sunday, in particular, I woke up in search of a good chicken recipe. Not just any chicken recipe would do, though. Because I am a holy believer that there is no better chicken than Thomas Keller’s Simple Roast Chicken, it takes a lot for me to trust in another. It’s about as close to perfect as chicken can get. Moist, crispy skinned, and, for lack of a better descriptor, distinctively chickeny.
As I ran my fingers down the pages of Jamie Oliver’s ‘Happy Days with the Naked Chef’, I made the brave decision that I was going to do the unthinkable, and try a new chicken recipe. A whole chicken cooked in a mixture of milk, lemon zest, cinnamon, garlic and sage. One that I’ve heard praise for time and time again. It can’t hurt, right? Trying new things is good… or so they say.
It’s difficult for me to admit, but this chicken is really good. Like, really, really good. Probably on par, though entirely different in taste and texture, than Kellers roast chicken. It’s moist, fragrant and literally bursting with flavour from the savoury lemony sage sauce. There will always be room for both of these chickens on my plate.
If, like me, you mean serious business when it comes to Sunday Suppers, I urge you to invite this chicken to the table with you and your family. It’s rustic and stunning in appearance, exquisitely delicious, and, like all perfect Sunday dishes, goes extremely well with a big bowl of creamy, buttery mashed potatoes.
Milk Braised Chicken with Lemon Sage and Garlic
recipe adapted from Jamie Oliver’s Chicken in Milk
Even if the idea of lemon zest curdling the milk makes you squeamish, please please try it as written before making adjustments. The curdled bits of milk turn a caramel brown and are delightful beyond words.
1 1.5-2kg whole chicken
salt and freshly ground pepper
3/4 cup butter
1/2 stick cinnamon
Big handful of fresh sage leaves
Zest of 2 lemons
10 cloves of garlic, skin on
3 cups of milk
Preheat oven to 375.
Season your chicken all over with salt and pepper. Melt butter and a good splash of olive oil in a big pan over high heat and brown chicken on all sides until golden brown. Take care to brown it well as this will create beautiful flavour later on. Discard (or save!) the drippings.
Once browned, add the chicken to a snug fitting pot (one with a lid). Add the rest of the ingredients. Cook in preheated oven, covered, for 1 hour basting with juices every so often. Remove lid from pot and cook for another 1/2 hour uncovered.
When cooked through, pull the meat from bones and serve with pan juices on the side or poured over. We serve the chicken with skillet glazed carrots and, my ultimate Sunday comfort food, mashed potatoes.
Sheryl Crow & Comfort Food [Mustard Tarragon Chicken Pot Pie]
It’s 1996. I’m 10 years old. I’m sitting in the family room of the house I grew up in, watching the newly released music video for Sheryl Crow’s If It Makes You Happy. My older sister is sitting beside me while my parents rhyme off rules for the first time they leave us home alone. And we’re eating Swanson’s Frozen Chicken Pot Pies.
I will always associate chicken pot pie with feelings of nervousness (the monsters were still living under the bed at that time), excitement, and Sheryl Crow. Always.
As a result of many frozen chicken pot pies as a little person (I know. So hard done by. Someone call Child Services.) I never had any interest in trying them as an adult, much less taking the time to make them at home. Silly me. What was I thinking? Everything tastes better when it’s homemade. Except maybe beer or wine. I’ll let the pros do that for me.
It’s still cold and snowy (and then rainy. and then snowy…) in Ottawa and feels like it’s going to be this way for a while longer before we see any signs that Mother Nature wants to ease up. It seems to be wearing thin on a lot of the city and everyone is dealing with the winter-will-never-end cold/flu/allergies as a result. Allan and I are included in this sorry bunch, unfortunately. Not sleeping well, constantly congested and sneezy/sniffly, coughy. All those fun things!
I don’t care if you’re Tony Little (you know? Tony Little. The Gazelle guy. Jeez!) or you body is a temple or if you’re trying to lose 10lbs before your 20 year high school reunion… when you’re sick, you need comfort food. End of story. If you deprive yourself of that God given right, I bet you anything you will be sick for longer. It’s a proven fact… (…probably?).
These little pot pies are not necessarily something you want to make on a weeknight, but rather, on a day when you have some time to strap on your apron, turn on some Billie Holiday, and really enjoy the process. Had I not been going away this weekend, I might have followed my own advice. Instead, I rushed to get them done on a Tuesday. I maintain that it’s all for you guys. It makes me feel better.
As I’ve mentioned before, I am not the greatest with dough or dough-related recipes. I have a heavy hand and a tendency to think recipe quantities are merely ‘suggestions’ which is not true when it comes to baking or dough. Being precise in your measurements is extremely vital for doughs to turn out flaky and tender. That being said, I followed this one exactly and it turned out a perfect crust. The best I’ve ever made. (horn = tooted). As for the pie filling, it’s creamy, rich and packed with chicken, vegetables, mustard and tarragon. Don’t miss out on this one, folks. It’s a home run. And will slap the sickness right our of your body. And if you’re not sick, it might just slap you right in the face. Saucy little pies!
Mustard-Tarragon Chicken Pot Pie
Adapted from The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook
2 sticks unsalted butter (try to use a goodish butter here)
2 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
3-6 Tbsp ice water
Cut up the butter into very small pieces and place in the refrigerator or freezer while you work with the other ingredients.
Place the flour, salt and sugar in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter pieces and pulse until mixture forms coarse small crumbs, about 10 – 15 seconds. Add 3 Tbsp ice water to the mixture and pulse until dough comes together a bit and holds together when you pinch the dough between your fingers.
Pour the dough out onto a cutting board and shape into a ball without over working the dough. Divide into 2 pieces and shape each into a flat round disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour.
2 large (3-4 small) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup heavy cream
4 carrots, peeled and medium diced
1 zucchini, medium diced
5 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 large yellow onion, chopped
5 Tbsp flour
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup cognac
2-3 tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped
2-3 tbsp Dijon mustard (I use 3, but I like it mustardy)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp water
Preheat the oven to 350. Place the chicken in a baking dish in a single layer. Pour the cream over the chicken and bake for 25-40 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken breasts.
Remove the chicken from the cream, reserving the cream for the sauce. Once the chicken has cooled, cut it into 1 inch pieces.
Boil a medium pot of water and add the carrots. Cook until almost fork tender, 7 minutes. They will finish cooking in the oven with the pies.
Melt the butter in a wide sauté pan, add the onions and cook until translucent. Sprinkle in the flour, stir and cook 5 minutes, but do not brown. Slowly add the broth to the onion mixture, whisking until the sauce smooths out and thickens. Add the cream, cognac, tarragon, and mustard. Taste and season appropriately with salt and pepper.
Add the chicken, zuchini, and carrots to this sauce and mix gently. Pour mixture into a 2 quart casserole, soufflé dish, or large ramekins for individual pot pies.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Roll out the pastry dough so you have a circle of dough large enough to go over the edges of your bowl. (I made them fit IN the ramekins and they shrunk, so bigger is better if you like flaky dough.) Press down the pastry edges, folding them as necessary. Beat together the egg and water and brush over the top of the pastry to give a nice glossy finish to the crust. Cut a few steam vents in the pastry and bake for 25 minutes until golden brown.
If you’re looking for a wine to pair with this, I have just the one for you. Claire, who is the endlessly talented wine blogger over at Foodieprints, suggested I try a Chardonnay (very specifically, anAu Bon Climat chardonnay, though I was unable to find it so settled for a Menage a Trois variety) to cut through the vinegar in the mustard and help bring out the cream and tarragon. I have never really been too saavy when it comes to pairing wines, and don’t often have ‘the perfect match’. But this… this was something. This wine, which I likely would not drink on it’s own, was the wine for the pot pies. It made every bite feel complete, balancing all the flavours and elevating them to a new level. If you haven’t visited FoodiePrints before, I urge you to do so. If not for the well composed, informative and witty posts from Don and Jenn, then for the seemingly infinite wine wisdom of Claire.
Classics Made Easy [Vermouth Poulet Provencal]
Despite my sometimes bitter, sometimes-sort-of-anti-social behaviour, I really do enjoy a good visit with certain people. I also enjoy cooking for those chosen few when they come over. But I am notoriously bad at doing both of those things at the same time.
There is nothing worse than being in the middle of a very serious, very emotional conversation, and having to say “Oh! Hold that thought, I have to go check the roast” …or stir the stew, or put the potatoes in…! I dread saying it, but it’s the difference between serving your good old pals a tasty dinner, or a slab of drywall. Which is more offensive?
That aside, I also seem to have a hard time remembering to add ingredients to dishes when I’m trying to talk and cook at the same time. I’m often seen rushing into the kitchen, 20 minutes after having put a dish in the oven, to add spices, garlic, herbs etc that had slipped my mind while talking about the newest restaurant or what shoes I want to buy for spring.
Luckily, in the case of company, I have a few one-pot dishes in my repitoire that make it easy to prep, pop in the oven and pour a glass of wine before my guests’ buns even hit the sofa. The only issue with these is they get a little lack-lustre and when you’ve made them some 50 times. And whenever I feel tired of the usual suspects or need a little inspiration, I go back to the basics and try to start over.
I don’t tend to cook many classically french dishes, which is disappointing considering I love French food, and the dishes themselves are usually quite basic. Seems I’ll have to start. And there is no time like the present, is there?
Poulet Provencal [roasted chicken with olives and tomatoes], a notoriously classic French dish, is new to my kitchen. I’ve always had a special place in my heart for the ingredients of Provence, a region in southeast France most know for culinary specialties like bouillabaisse, ratatouille, pissaladiere, and the herb mix, herbes de Provence. It borders on the Mediterranean sea, and is influenced by Spanish, Mediterranean, and Italian flavors featuring a predominant use of olive oil, herbs, and tomatoes. The scents and flavours that these ingredients burst with are unforgettable and I can’t wait to explore the dishes of this region a little more.
While I strayed slightly from the authentic, as usual, I tried to stay true to the flavours of Provence in my twist on this classic chicken dish. It’s incredibly versatile and begs to be played with. That is, according to me. Don’t go talking to your good friend François about it. He probably won’t like that.
I added a little vermouth to the roasting pan which really paired well with the olives and fennel seeds and gave off an aroma I haven’t been able to stop thinking about all day today. You sexy, Vermouth, you! It’s not required to make this dish delicious, but I do think you should try it at some point.
3-4 chicken legs
3-4 medium tomatoes, cut into wedges
1 large onion, cut into wedges, leaving root ends intact
1 large zuchini, cut into large slices
1/2 cup brined green olives, whole
4 large garlic cloves, sliced
3 tbsp vermouth (optional)
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 tbsp herbes de Provence, divided
1 tbsp fennel seeds
Parsley for garnish (optional)
Citrus slices (optional, but are a nice balance with the rich salty sauce)
Preheat oven to 375.
Drizzle 1 tbsp olive oil in a large heavy pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the chicken legs, skin side down and cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Flip and repeat.
In a large roasting pan, add the remaining ingredients, reserving 1 tsp of both fennel seeds and herbs de Provence, and toss to distribute oil, vermouth and herbs. Nestle browned chicken into the vegetable mixture. Sprinkle remaining tsp of fennel and herbs onto the chicken.
Bake until chicken is cooked through and vegetables are starting to brown.
Serve with crusty bread to sop up the most delicious juices. EVER.
Soup and Stories [Tom Kah Gai]
Let me first start by telling you my laptop mysteriously shut down just as I was about to click “post” on a completely finished entry. For a second I thought my heart might pound right through the vein in my neck. Luckily Allan made me some tea and I calmed down. Otherwise the Bronson nightcrew might have found themselves a new laptop tonight.
Let’s try this again. You’re lucky I love you… I wouldn’t do this for just anyone.
I hurried to get through my dinner tonight so I could rush here (‘here’ being the couch…it was an awful long journey) and talk to you about soup. Tangy, sweet, spicy thai soup, to be more specific.
When I promised I would start being more adventurous in the kitchen in 2011, I had high hopes of testing my skills with varying cuisines, as well. One in particular being Thai food. I tend not to dabble in Thai because there are so many great restaurants in Ottawa that I’ve never had to. But, you know, sometimes I don’t want to leave my house (or my beloved sweatpants) to get a bowl of soup. What is a girl to do?
I was catching up on some Internetting Sunday morning and thought to myself, while vigorously rubbing my arms to rid them of the permanent goosebumps this weather has given me, that I could really use a bowl of Tom Kah Gai (Coconut Chicken Soup). Without appropriate company for a restaurant visit, it seemed I would have to roll up my sleeves and finally give Thai-at-home a try. Reluctantly.
I did a little reading about the soup and it’s authentic ingredient list before heading out with Mr. GL to run some errands. In a perfect world, I would have ended up at T&T or Kowloon Market to ensure my ingredient list could be procured. But as luck would (and usually does) have it, my dreams of galangal and keffir limes were dashed when we ran out of time and needed to get home. I was left at my little Glebe Metro, which I adore on most days, but comes up short in the ethnic/obscure food department. This was a long story to basically explain that this soup is not a typical Tom Kah Gai. But you like stories, right? I thought so. (This is why writing a blog is the best. I just tell myself you’re all sitting there, wide eyed and fully engaged in my story telling. You’re my favourite audience!)
Never the less, the soup was made and enjoyed supremely. While not an authentic Tom Kah Gai, it was decievingly close in flavour and appearance. If you’re stuck for time and looking for a close resemblance, all these ingredients can be easily found at your local grocery store.
Tom Kah Gai (the Gouda Life way)
4 cups chicken/shrimp stock
1 can coconut milk (preferably not low-fat)
1 tsp granulated sugar
1-2 thai chilies, diced or 1 tbsp (or more) Sriracha sauce
1 tbsp lime zest
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into thin strips
2 portabella mushrooms, sliced thin
1 ripe tomato, diced
10 (approx) medium shrimp, peeled and de-veined
2-3 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tbsp fish sauce
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, rough chopped
In a large pot over medium heat, add the chicken stock, coconut milk, sugar and chilies. Whisk to dissolve the sugar. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the lime zest, chicken, mushrooms, shrimp and tomato. Stir occasionally until the chicken is cooked through, 7-8 minutes. Remove from heat, add the lime juice and fish sauce and stir well.
Ladle into bowls and serve with cilantro.
(un)Comfortably Spiced (Turkish Kebabs, Pomegranate Relish, Tahini Yogurt)
Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve officially branched out. Not too far, now. I’m not building cakes out of mashed potatoes and meatloaf or drinking turtle’s blood sakes. Oh no, I’m not branching out that far. Maybe twigging out would be a more appropriate phrase. I’m just slowly poking my head out of the hole that is my culinary comfort zone.
I grew up on a fairly ’plain’ diet. Somewhat bland, typically spice-free, keep-the-flavour-to-a-dull-roar type of diet. Mashed potatoes and chicken strips, hamburger helper, pasta with jarred sauce… you know the diet I’m talking about. I should mention, in case either of my parents are reading, that this was the type of food I chose to eat. I bet my dad would have loved if I were to sit down and ask for a big plate of liver and onions, as we so often joked about as kids.
As I’ve learned to cook, and become more comfortable with different flavours and textures, I’ve tried to incorporate a bigger variety of spices, vegetables, oils and vinegars to my food. However, I’ve done so in a very comfortable way that hasn’t forced me to stray from the foods I’m used to. Until now.
Eating healthily is not always exciting or flavourful, but if you learn to use spices in place of butter and salt, you’d be surprised at how much flavour you can get out of your food without any added fat/sodium.
My best friend, Amanda, is Lebanese and comes from a family with a very dedicated and talented mother who cooks extremely health conscious, fresh, delicious meals everyday. She has a giant garden that she cooks from in summer months and tends to preserve everything the season’s bounty has provided her with. I’ve been privileged, on more than one occasion, to eat her food and have never tried anything I didn’t like. I have to say that her steak tartare is one of the best I’ve had. Full of flavour and such a nice texture. She knows how to make the best of the spices and ingredients she has.
When I saw Ana Sortun’s recipe for a middle-eastern inspired dish in this month’s Bon Appetit, I knew if there was anytime to branch out and cook a style of cuisine I was unfamiliar with, it was now.
These kebabs are good. I’m not usually a huge fan of chicken breast but when soaked in a marinade of grated onion, baharat, oil and lemon juice, it becomes moist and full of flavour. The colourful pomegranate-pistachio relish and cooling tahini-yogurt sauce were the perfect accompaniment to the perfectly spiced chicken.
Turkish-Style Chicken Kebabs with Pomegranate-Pistachio Relish and Tahini-Yogurt Sauce
Recipe from Bon Appetit
1 1/2 tablespoons dried mint
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
3 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon Baharat seasoning
1 large garlic clove, pressed
1/2 cup plain whole-milk Greek-style yogurt
1/4 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
1 1/4 cups pomegranate seeds
2/3 cup shelled unsalted natural pistachios, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup coarsely grated onion
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons baharat seasoning
4 skinless boneless chicken breast halves, each halved lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 3 pieces
Warm pita breads (optional)
Using pestle or blunt end of wooden spoon, mash all ingredients and 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper in mortar or small bowl 2 to 3 minutes. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 week ahead. Cover and chill.
For tahini yogurt:
Combine lemon juice, Baharat Seasoning, and garlic in medium bowl; stir to blend. Let stand 5 minutes. Whisk in yogurt and tahini. Season tahini yogurt to taste with salt. DO AHEAD: Can be made up to 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.
For pomegranate relish:
Mix all ingredients in medium bowl. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.
(the best way, in my opinion, to get the seeds out. Place a mesh sieve in a large bowl, cut pomegranate in half, face cut side down in your hand, rap on the back with a big wooden spoon until seeds are released. Great for anger management, too!)
Whisk first 4 ingredients in large bowl. Add chicken. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Marinate at room temperature at least 1 hour and up to 2 hours.
Preheat broiler. Thread 6 chicken pieces onto each skewer. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place on small rimmed baking sheet. Broil chicken until cooked through, 5 to 6 minutes per side. Arrange kebabs on platter. Serve with tahini yogurt, pomegranate relish, and warm pita breads.
Snowy Weekend Snacks
Finally, Friday has come! And it’s brought with it some big fluffy flakes and cloudy skies. My favourite weather (ok, aside from cloudy fall days). It calls for hot chocolate, sleeping in, and cuddling.
I wanted to share a quick snack recipe in case you were planning on taking advantage of this weather and staying in with some close friends and a bottle of wine.
As previously mentioned, I’ve been reading a lot of Jamie Oliver lately. I know I’m a little late to the Oliver game… but better late than never, right? I really appreciate his simple, straightforward recipes that typically contain less than 10 ingredients.
While I was wrapping gifts a few days before Christmas, I turned on the Food Network and watched as he turned a pile of slimy, unappealingly brownish-red livers into a smooth, creamy spread spiked with brandy. If I hadn’t already gotten into my pyjamas at 4pm (a regular occurrence at our house) I would have rushed right out to fill my cart with liver and red onions. Instead, I took a deep breath, told myself I would make them the next week and tried to continue on with my night without drifting away with thoughts of pate. (It wasn’t meant to rhyme! Honest!)
The pate is quick to make, can last up to a week in the fridge if you make the clarified butter to seal it, and is a really pretty, unpretentious dish to share between friends.
It’s important to note that I made this before I started trying to eat slightly better. Nothing like a layer of butter to stick to your thighs!
Chicken Liver Pate
recipe from Jamie Oliver
1 cup unsalted butter
handful of whole sage leaves
2 medium red onions, diced
2 cloves of garlic, rough chopped
2 sprigs of thyme, leaves picked
1 kg chicken livers, if possible organic/free range
1/2 cup brandy
sea salt and fresh ground pepper
1 baguette, sliced, drizzled with olive oil and baked until golden
bunch of watercress, arugula or other peppery green
To make clarified butter:
On a pan over low heat, add 3/4 of your butter and let it sit for 20-30 minutes until separated. The white stuff on the bottom is the whey. Skim the clear butter off the top and put in a separate pan over medium heat. Let it warm for a few minutes and add the sage. Cook until crispy. Set aside.
Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat until hot. Add onions, garlic and thyme leaves. Cook for about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally until just starting to colour. Add another splash of oil, your chicken livers and a pinch or two of salt and pepper. Cook on high heat for no more than 4 minutes. The livers should still be a little pink inside. You don’t want to overcook them since they get tough pretty
quickly. Add brandy to the pan and let the alcohol cook off for a minute or two. Pour everything into your blender/food processor and zip a few times until the livers are very smooth. Keep in mind, it will be pretty loose looking but will harden up in the fridge. Have a taste of the mixture, season to your liking and then, as Jamie recommends, add a little more since seasoning goes down when you chill the pate. Add your remaining 1/4 C of butter to the pate and give it another zip in the blender until it’s shiny.
Spoon the pate into one big dish, individual terrines, or however else you’d like. Top with your sage infused clarified butter, cover and place in the fridge for a few hours or until butter has become semi-opaque.
Get your bread, greens and pickles ready, and off you go! If you don’t want to eat right away, the pate will keep well in the fridge for up to a week.