Zesty Za’atar Zalmon

zatar salmonOK, sorry… couldn’t resist.  The actual name of this incredibly easy, incredibly complex-tasting meal is Mediterranean Za’atar Salmon but come on, where’s the fun in that?  Where’s the alliteration??  Seriously though, this is a stellar salmon dish.  Ha! See?  I did it again — Seriously Stellar Salmon… now that’s what this blog entry should have been titled!

All alliteration aside (sorry, I just can’t seem to stop!), this is a one-pan dish that is just different enough to make it interesting.  If you’ve never tried za’atar spice, you should!  I have a handful of recipes that I use it in and have never been disappointed.  The Za’atar gets used twice in this recipe.  It seasons the broth that is used to cook the couscous and it seasons the mayo which is spread on the salmon before cooking.  By the way, if you’ve never topped salmon with mayo before cooking, um, yeah…. it’s a very good thing.

The recipe comes from Kraft Food & Family. Now, don’t go looking down your nose at me or this recipe because of the source.  I’ve gotten some really killer recipes from the magazine.  They are always well-written, creative and definitely darn tasty.  They just need to work on their alliteration.

Mediterranean Za’atar Salmon

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1/4 cup mayonnaise

4 1/2 tsp. za’atar, divided

4 skinless salmon fillets

1 1/4 cup vegetable or chicken broth

1 cup Israeli couscous, uncooked

1 5-oz package mixed baby spinach and arugula salad greens (I actually used baby kale)

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

2 Tbsp coarsely chopped Kalamata olives

1/2 cup crumbled Feta cheese

Procedure:

  • Mix mayo and 1 Tbsp za’atar until blended.  Brush half the mayo mixture onto salmon fillets; place, mayo sides down, in a large skillet.  Brush remaining sides with mayo mixture.  Cook on medium heat 5 to 6 minutes on each side or to desired degree of doneness.  Remove fish from skillet and cover to keep warm.
  • Add broth and remaining za’atar to skillet; stir until blended. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Stir in couscous; cover.  Simmer on medium-low heat for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add all remaining ingredients except cheese; cook and stir 1 to 2 minutes or just until greens are wilted.  Top with fish and cheese and continue to cook, covered, 2 to 3 more minutes or until fish is heated through and cheese is slightly melted.

 

Weekly Winner: Conquering the Perfect Thigh – chicken, that is!

IMG_0853I love bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs,  but rarely am I able to prepare them perfectly. They are either underdone, overdone, flabby skinned or the skin rips off and sticks to the pan when I go to turn them over.  The struggle is real!! But still, I keep trying.  I’ve tried nonstick pans, I’ve tried broiling (to avoid turning), I’ve tried grilling … you name it, I’ve attempted it, with varying degrees of success but never anything near perfection.

So when I saw the recipe for One-Skillet Chicken with Buttery Orzo from Bon Appetit magazine, I was skeptical.  But as usual, I was drawn to the picture of perfectly bronzed, crispy-skinned chicken thighs.  I would give it one more try.  Can I just say…….. NAILED IT!

If I can do it, you can too.  I think the secret is the cast iron skilled and a cast-iron will not touch them for a good 7-8 minutes (I literally had to leave the kitchen so not to be tempted to poke around and mess with them).  Finishing them in the oven makes sure they get cooked all the way through.

One-Skillet Chicken with Buttery Orzo

Serves 4

Ingredients:

Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

6 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs (about 2 pounds total), patted dry

3 Tbsp unsalted butter, divided

1 fennel bulb, chopped, plus fronds, chopped

1 leek, white and pale green parts only, chopped

8 oz orzo

1/3 cup dry white wine

2-1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth, divided

1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 tsp finely grated lemon zest

Procedure:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.  Rain salt and then some pepper all over chicken.  Heat 2 Tbsp butter in a medium cast-iron skillet over medium-high.  Nestle chicken, skin side down, in skillet in a single layer with no gaps. Cook until meat is opaque around the edges and skin is deep golden brown, 6-8 minutes.  Turn chicken skin side up and transfer skillet to oven; bake, uncovered until chicken is cooked through, 10-15 minutes.  Transfer chicken to a plate.
  2. Set the same skillet over medium; combine fennel bulb and leek in skillet and sprinkle in some salt and pepper.  Cook, tossing occasionally, until leek is looking golden around the edges, about 5 minutes.  Add orzo and cook until pasta is darkened (it will take on a brown hue) to a nice nutty brown in spots and toasty smelling, about 3 minutes.
  3. Pour in wine and cook, stirring, until liquid is evaporated, about 1 minute. Add broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and letting broth absorb before adding more, until orzo is tender and broth is mostly absorbed but pan is not dry, 10-15 minutes.
  4. Remove skillet from heat, taste and add more salt and pepper to your liking; mix in lemon juice and remaining 1 Tbsp butter, then chopped fennel fronds.  Serve chicken on top of orzo and finish with lemon zest

Weekly Winner: Silken, Spicy, Sumptuous … Swine!

IMG_0836So in my mind there is very little better than pig, noodles, and peanut sauce.  For me, that’s the trifecta of tastiness.  Guess what??  I found all of that in one recipe with some nice, bitter greens added to it.  Full disclosure, I didn’t have collard greens for this recipe so I substituted lacinato kale, which was awesome.  I’m guessing the collards would have been great as well.

This silky, spicy dish needs a hearty green and any would work just fine.   Peanut Rice Noodles with Pork and Collard Greens comes from Bon Appetit and is quick, easy and totally delicious.  Seriously, whichever green you like, buy it and make this dish!

Peanut Rice Noodles with Pork and Collard Greens (or Lacinato Kale)

serves 4

Ingredients:

  • Kosher salt
  • 12 oz. regular-width rice stick noodles
  • ¼ cup smooth natural peanut butter
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • 1 1½” piece ginger, peeled, cut into match sticks
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch collard greens, (or Lacinato Kale) ribs and stems removed, leaves thinly sliced

Procedure:

  • Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Remove from heat; add noodles. Let sit, stirring occasionally, until al dente, about 4 minutes (time may vary by brand). Drain and rinse under cold running water.

  • Meanwhile, whisk peanut butter, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, red pepper flakes, and 1 cup water in a medium bowl. (Sauce will look a little broken and lumpy.)

  • Heat oil in a large skillet over medium. Cook pork, breaking up with 2 forks, until nearly cooked through, about 5 minutes. Add ginger and garlic; cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add collard greens (or kale) and cook, stirring occasionally, just until wilted, about 2 minutes. Add sauce and noodles and bring to a simmer; cook, tossing occasionally, until sauce is reduced by half and coats noodles, about 3 minutes. Season with salt.

Weekly Winner: Apparently it is easy (and tasty) being green.

Parsley IMG_0835gets a bad rap. Actually, I take that back — parsley gets no rap at all — it’s totally overlooked and ignored.  That’s a shame.  This bright, verdant herb really adds a lot more than simple “curb appeal” to a recipe.

Take this salad for example:  Chicken & Cucumber Salad with Parsley Pesto.  The recipe comes from Cooking Light Magazine and if you’re looking for a hearty, healthy, very “green” salad, then this one is for you!

Chicken and Cucumber Salad with Parsley Pesto

Serves 6

Ingredients:

2 cups packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves (from one bunch)

1 cup fresh baby spinach

2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 Tbsp toasted pine nuts

1 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

1 medium garlic clove, smashed

1 tsp kosher salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

4 cups shredded rotisserie chicken

2 cups cooked, shelled edamame

1 (15-oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 cup chopped English cucumber

4 cups loosely packed arugula

Procedure:

  1. Combine parsley, spinach, lemon juice, pine nuts, cheese, garlic, salt, and pepper in bowl of a food processor; process until smooth, about 1 minute.  With processor running, add oil; process until smooth, about 1 minute
  2. Stir together chicken, edamame, chickpeas, and cucumber in a large bowl.  Add pesto; toss to combine.
  3. Place 2/3 cup arugula in each of 6 bowls; top each with 1 cup chicken salad mixture.