March 27, 2014

Za'atar Chicken and Avocado Salad

 Za'tar Chicken and Avocado Salad

I love simplicity. Blue oxford shirts, straw brooms, cotton aprons, hardcover books, kindness (much simpler than clever). And sometimes, it's how I like my food. This week I've eaten a lot of POW! foods—spicy rice bowls and falafel burgers, so I was in the mood for something quieter tonight. I adore the flavor of white onion and avocado together–such a nice contrast of sharp and crunchy and creamy and rich. The chicken adds heft and the herbacious flavor of Za'atar (see note) is so good but doesn't overpower. Plus it's a fun word to say, "Za'atar, you rotten scoundrel!"

Note: Za'atar is a middle eastern spice blend traditionally made up of equal amounts of sesame seeds, thyme and sumac. You can make your own or find it at a middle eastern market or speciality spice store.

March 21, 2014

Chicken with Asparagus and Leeks

This is a quick meal — one of a very few I have up my sleeve and I think it looks like spring on a plate.  Crisp, delicate asparagus and leeks, cheery lemon zest and parsley, sunny egg noodles and tender dead chicken.

Whoops. Did that last one ruin it for you? Does it help to know that this particular chicken had free rein of her spacious yard, enjoyed an organic diet and was the unfortunate victim of a freak accident involving a puddle and a faulty electrical socket foolishly placed near the hen house so the farmer could recharge her phone? This bird didn't see it coming and didn't feel a thing. Well OK, I don't know about that, but buying organic does make me feel better about the carnivore in me that really enjoys a slab of meat a few times a week.

These are chicken thighs which I have been trying to love because the organic version is quite affordable, but really, I miss my breasts. Not MY breasts (well, I miss those too  — nursing two kids did a number on them) but the lovely white meat that comes from chicken breasts and has such mild flavor. You can use whichever you prefer.

March 16, 2014

Gorgonzola Walnut Arugula Pizza

Every so often we'll make pizza at home, sometimes with dough from a local joint and sometimes we make it ourselves. Today my teenager and I made it from scratch using a recipe from the Joy of Cooking which included 10 minutes of kneading (kneading dough always engenders an appreciation of professional bakers who must have seriously muscular forearms and hands). Our kitchen is on the chilly side, like the rest of the old house, so we proofed the dough in the oven. I learned this trick from a cooking class I took at the Mansion on Forsyth Park, a fantastic restaurant Savannah, Georgia in a gorgeous, decadent space that really makes you feel the swell of Savannah...darlin'.  You preheat the oven to it's lowest setting then turn it off and place your bowl of covered dough inside. The residual heat makes the dough rise nicely without putting it in harms way (i.e., agile dogs who will eat raw dough with an enthusiasm they usually reserve for pencils and shoelaces). 

This is my favorite way to top homemade pizza — onions caramelized with white wine, garlic, olive oil, pungent Gorgonzola cheese, crunchy walnuts, a handful of spicy arugula and squeeze of lemon just when it comes out of the oven. 

March 10, 2014

Everything Lemon Vinaigrette

Everything Lemon Vinagrette


I feel a bit sheepish posting this recipe—it's so simple—but it is one of my greatest hits, a recipe I get so many compliments on that I feel compelled to share. It improves nearly everything it dresses; salad, pasta, chicken, fish, crusty bread...your hand. I buy lemons in bulk largely due to this dressing.

Spring vegetables will be here soon along with other harbingers of the season (mud, jumbo bottles of windshield washer fluid and the celebratory stuffing of heavy coats, hats and gloves into the basement closet) and this is lovely on those too, particularly asparagus and artichokes.

A few words about juicing lemons. I have found through MUCH trial and error that the most efficient way to juice a lemon is with a sharp pointed wooden reamer and a small sieve placed over a bowl. You get the most juice out of the lemons with no seeds, minimal pulp and easy wash up. Beats any juicer gadget. Also, this dressing is best if it's emulsified - easy with a standard or hand immersion blender or you can go old-school and whisk the oil in slowly.

March 4, 2014

Buttermilk Mashed Cauliflower

Buttermilk Mashed Cauliflower

I'm a bit late to the party on this one. I blame the grumpy old man in me that occasionally pops up. Why wouldn't you want to eat potatoes? Mashed potatoes are one of the worlds great foods! Why are you trying to trick the children and fool your husband by passing off cauliflower as potatoes? Just serve the dang mashed potatoes! Well...Grandpa, that's not the point. Cauliflower tastes good, it's really healthy and it's fun to try something different.

So I finally did and now I get what all the fuss is about. Cooked and smoothed cauliflower is a very different animal from cauliflower on the veggie tray or roasted in the oven. Creamy and comforting - it won't fool anyone that's it's mashed potatoes, but holds it's own as a delicious side dish.

I simmered the buds in buttermilk to add some tang and richness. Don't be alarmed when you see the buttermilk curdle.  Those solids are like buttermilk cheese and will smooth out and enrich the end product.

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