Beat the Heat with Watermelon Spears

Here’s how I’ve been amusing myself this week – making watermelon spears. This is a fantastic  kitchen hack. So much fun to do and eat. (Clearly, I am easily amused!)remove spear 2Start with a large oblong watermelon and if my mom is around, make sure you wash the skin very well. I must admit she’s right, since a quick cleaning will eliminate the chances of transferring whatever’s on the outside of your watermelon to the inside when you cut into it. Cut watermelon in half widthwise.Za'atar Chicken_1Stand one half, cut side down. Using a large sharp knife, cut into slices about 1-2 inches apart.slicing across 1Now, here’s where it helps to have large hands like me. Hold the top of the watermelon, so that the slices stay together and cut across the other way into slices. Like rows and columns on a spreadsheet.slicing across 2How cool is this?remove spear 1Like an edible game of Jenga. Go ahead, you’ll thank me later.Watermelon jenga

Za’atar Roast Chicken with Green Tahini Sauce

chicken all carved upYes, I admit it’s rather bold of me to suggest that you turn on the oven during this hellish heatwave, but stick with me here, and hopefully I’ll succeed in convincing you to do just that. It goes without saying that if you’re going to roast a chicken in the middle of July, it better be exceptional. This one comes from the master of Mid-East cuisine, Yotam Ottolenghi. Need I say more? This recipe was featured in the August 2014 issue of Bon Appetit magazine.

Start with a heap of thinly sliced red onions. onions You could roast a whole roast chicken or chicken pieces, but I like to spatchcock the chicken for a more impressive presentation. Basically this just means removing the backbone to flatten the chicken for quicker cooking. You could ask the butcher to do it, or simply use kitchen shears and do it yourself. I have included detailed instructions in the recipe.cutting out backbone

Prepare a marinade of garlic, sumac, allspice, cinnamon, salt, pepper and olive oil and mix withsliced onions and lemons . Give the chicken at least a two hours to soak up all the flavour.marinating chickenAfter marinating, generously coat the chicken with za’atar, transfer to a roasting pan and arrange some of the onions and lemons on top of the chicken so that they will get gloriously brown. ready for ovenWhile the chicken is roasting, prepare the green tahini sauce. Have you noticed that tahini seems to be popping up everywhere lately? It’s the new darling of the culinary world, and for good reason. It is really quite versatile. Molly made a tahini sheet cake with cream cheese frosting. Ottolenghi made tahini and halvah brownies.  If you need more inspiration, check out these amazing desserts.

Parsley for verdant freshness and vibrant colour, lemon for it’s pucker, and garlic for it’s punch, all make good playmates for tahini.Tahini Parsley dressingEpicurious.com suggested adding some toasted pita to this recipe. Once the chicken is cooked, remove it, along with the onions and lemons to a baking sheet. Toss some toasted pita bread in all those delicious pan juices. Place the chicken, lemons and onions back on top of the pita in the roasting pan and broil it until the skin gets crispy brown. pitaHeap it onto a serving platter, top with toasted pine nuts and serve the sauce on the side. Ready to eat 1

Click here to print recipe for Za’atar Roast Chicken with Green Tahini Sauce .

Ready to eat 2

Crisp Toffee Pecan Bars

on white platesWhen it comes to social media and tech savviness, I must admit I’m not exactly current. I have a twitter account with about 40 followers, but I’m confused about where I’m supposed to be leading them.  I do post on Instagram, but not very frequently. I check the spelling and punctuation of every text I send, which makes me a very slow texter. My kids usually abandon our text chats within the first few messages and just pick up the phone and call me because I am so frustratingly slow, compared to their lightening fast thumbs.

I try to keep up with all the cool kids and know the meaning of many internet acronyms. One meme that has been picking up steam as usage of social media skyrockets is FOMO. For the uninitiated, FOMO stands for fear of missing out. The Oxford Dictionary defines it as “Anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website.” It’s that little pang of envy you feel when you’re looking at vacation photos, amazing restaurant meals or parties of friends and family that you weren’t invited to.

But it looks like FOMO may be taking a back seat to JOMO – joy of missing out. According to The Huffington Post, “the term is a rebellion against saying yes to everything, and is about giving yourself the space to think and experience things without freaking out about what you ‘should’ be doing instead.”

As a proud introvert, I wholeheartedly embrace JOMO! Let’s hear it for staying home, binge watching Netflix and snacking on Crisp Toffee Pecan Bars.On black slab 2I discovered these cookies on The New York Times Cooking website. The dough is baked in a cast iron pan. Baking in cast iron allows for a degree of deep caramelization that just can’t be achieved on a regular baking sheet. If you don’t already have a cast iron pan, maybe this will convince you to invest in one.

Creator Charlotte Druckman gives you the option of adding  nuts or chocolate to the dough. Inspired by one of my favourite cookies, Skor Bars, I added pecans, chocolate and Skor bits!ingredientsPlace your empty cast iron pan in the oven while you make the dough.making doughGrease the hot pan very carefully with butter. buttering cast iron panPress dough into hot pan. Use the bottom of a measuring cup so you don’t burn yourself. pressing dough into panScore dough into wedges and let cookies completely cool in pan before removing.scoring warm barsThe edges will be deeply browned and crispy while the center is still nice and chewy. Pecans and skor bits contribute great crunch and chocolate is always welcome. A glass of milk might just be the best accompaniment to your JOMO experience.with a glass of milk

Click here to print recipe for Crisp Toffee Pecan Bars.

On black slab 1

One bar

Grilled Chicken and Nectarine Skewers with Peanut Coconut Sauce

on blue platterSomehow, when you put dinner on a skewer it just seems more festive. Local peach and nectarine season is right around the corner, so bookmark this recipe and celebrate the season.

The combination of peanut butter and coconut milk could skew a bit sweet and heavy, but lime juice and jalapeño provide the perfect balance. Cilantro adds a fresh-grassy herbal note, but  cilantro haters could certainly substitute Italian parsley. The marinade also includes Greek yogurt. If you keep kosher or just want a dairy-free marinade, I have discovered a great yogurt alternative – So Delicious Dairy-Free Unsweetened Coconut Yogurt. It provides the tanginess of yogurt without the dairy. Surprisingly, it does not taste overwhelmingly of coconut. peanut coconut sauceI used boneless skinless chicken thighs, as they are almost impossible to overcook. Don’t forget to soak the wooden skewers so they don’t burn. making skewersgrillingFor a casual dinner, wrap some warm pita around the skewer, pull the wooden stick out and to make a wrap. Serve extra sauce, lime, chopped peanuts and cilantro on the side. skewers on pita

Click here to print recipe for Grilled Chicken and Nectarine Skewers with Coconut –Peanut Sauce.

2 skewers

 

Cauliflower Chicken Fried “Rice”

bowl of riceCauliflower is the darling of the vegetable world this year. It is her chameleon-like qualities that make her such a popular girl. Sliced into slabs and roasted as “steak“, shaved thinly and served raw as slaw, boiled and mashed and served in “stuffed potatoes“, roasted whole so it resembles a “brain”, cauliflower crust pizza, and now, masquerading as fried rice.

Is this taking carb avoidance too far? I love fried rice, and had my doubts that cauliflower could step up to the plate and replace the rice in this classic dish. But Google “Cauliflower Fried Rice” and no fewer than 566,000 results pop up. I needed to see what all the fuss was about. IngredientsMaking the cauliflower “rice” couldn’t be simpler. Pulse cauliflower florets in the food processor, about 10 times and you’re done. You could also grate the cauliflower on the large holes of a box grater. Cauliflower beforeCauliflower after I used this recipe from chatelaine.com and adapted it slightly. Get all your ingredients chopped and measured before you start cooking, because this comes together quickly once you start the actual cooking.mise en placecookingIt genuinely looks like fried rice and it tastes delicious. I was worried that the flavour of the cauliflower would be overpowering, but with all the other ingredients, it wasn’t. Soy sauce and hoisin work together to add authenticity. While you know you’re not eating rice, it is still hits the spot. You can have a big bowl and feel satisfyingly full and healthy. I will be making this again very soon!rice for 3

Click here to print recipe for Cauliflower Chicken Fried Rice.

Big bowl of rice 2