Falafel Spiced Roasted Tomatoes and Salmon

Shortly after telling my husband I was working on a recipe for Falafel Spiced Tomatoes and Salmon, I served him the above dish. He poked around the plate and looked at me with a sad face. “Where are the falafels?” he asked. I explained that “falafel spiced” was a qualifying adjective for the roasted tomatoes. There are no actual falafels in this recipe. The tomatoes are roasted in the same spices that are used in the making of falafels. He was pretty impressed with the fact that I was able to name the correct part of speech.

This recipe is inspired by a Joshua McFadden recipe for Falafel Spiced Tomatoes and Chickpeas on Flatbread, that I bookmarked in August of 2015 and have been meaning to make for the past 3 Septembers when heirloom tomatoes are at their most glorious. Given that we are smack in the middle of January, I decided to use rainbow grape tomatoes and just roast them with the falafel spices (garlic, sumac, ground cumin and corriander and red pepper flakes).

I started the salmon fillets, skin side down in a hot pan with melted butter, to get the skin really crispy. Baste the flesh with the melted butter once or twice, then transfer pan to hot oven to finish cooking.
The tomatoes are so flavourful, that I kept the seasoning on the salmon simple, just salt and pepper. Something green on the plate will make you feel virtuous! I went with sauteed green beans and some toasted salted almonds. Some chopped mint, parsley and cilantro, if you like it, are also welcome.

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Braised Pomegranate Chicken with Israeli Couscous

Apologies to all who tried to access my blog over the last few days and were unable to connect. I’ve had some technological issues, something about exceeding the allowable CPU’s and plugins not properly updated. Sadly, my skill-set does not extend to understanding the issues much less fixing them. I turned my problem over to the talented Hillary Little, and put my talents to work on problems I can solve.

I spent the better part of the week perfecting pomegranate braised chicken. I already have one pomegranate chicken recipe on the blog, and while it’s very delicious, it’s been in my weekly dinner rotation for over 7 years now and I’m bored with it. The chicken is braised in a tomato based sauce, enhanced with some pomegranate molasses. I really wanted a more vibrant, pronounced pomegranate flavour.

In my quest to perfect pomegranate chicken, I made it several times this week. In round one, I loaded up on pomegranate molasses in the braising liquid. The finished sauce was way too bitter. Strike one. I also had the brilliant idea of making it a one pan dish and added the uncooked Israeli couscous to the pan, with the browned chicken and braising liquid.  By the time the chicken was done, the couscous was too mushy. Strike two.

In round three, I used less pomegranate molasses and added some white wine and chicken stock to round out the braising liquid. It was better than round one, but the pomegranate flavour was really muted. Strike three.

A quick web search revealed an epicurious.com recipe that cleverly used pomegranate juice as the braising liquid. Wish I’d thought of that! As the chicken braisedin the oven, the juice reduced down to a thick, rich, sweet-tart sauce. Exactly what I was trying to achieve.

I started with bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs. I really wanted the extra flavour that braising on the bone would bring. Season the chicken liberally with salt and paprika and put it in the skillet on high heat, skin side down. Leave it alone for a good 5-8 minutes to give it a chance to really get brown. There’s flavour in the brown. 
Remove the chicken and pour off some of that rendered fat. Saute the onions until light brown. Cumin and cinnamon add great depth of flavour and ground pistachios add body and texture to the sauce.
 I used a combination of pomegranate juiceand chicken stock for the braising liquid. Vegetable stock or water would also be fine. 
Israeli couscous is the perfect starch to sop up all that braising liquid. I added tons of fresh mint and Italian parsley to give it a lively herbal note. Toasted chopped pistachios and pomegranate seeds added crunch. A squirt of lemon juice and big glug of extra virgin olive oil brought it all together.

Click here to print recipe for Braised Pomegranate-Pistachio Chicken Thighs.

Click here to print recipe for Israeli Couscous with Pomegranate and Pistachio.

 

 

 

 

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Tuscan White Bean and Farro Soup

3 bowls 2We’re not really a big game-playing family. The one and only time I ever played a board game with my husband was early on in our relationship. We were on the same team for a friendly game of Trivial Pursuit. The category was sports and leisure and it was a baseball question, the only sport I know anything about. I got so excited that I knew the answer, I shouted it out. Unfortunately, it was the other team’s question. My husband declared a moratorium on game playing with me after that.

But, on a visit to see us in December, my youngest son started a game of tag, and it’s still going on. Sadly, he was playing tag with a wicked cold. He caught it first, passed it on to my husband, and now I am “it”, sneezing and coughing my way through January. Normally, when I’m sick, I lose my appetite, so I sort of got excited about being sick at the beginning of January. I figured this would be the perfect way to lose my December cookie weight. But this cold left me feeling ravenous. I couldn’t seem to eat enough to make me feel satisfied. I was craving carbs.one bowl 45°Soup seemed like the perfect remedy. Hot enough to soothe my sore throat and packed with lots of starchy things to make me feel full. This is my take on the classic Tuscan soup, Minestra di Faro Lucchese. (Farro soup in the style of Lucca). I used Mark Bittman’s New York Times recipe as my starting point and adapted slightly from there. mise en place I added a heaping tablespoon of tomato paste to the sauteed onions and celery, to really deepen the flavour of this soup. I also slipped in a big pinch of red pepper flakes. While spicy heat is not a typical addition to the classic recipe, my tastebuds were so dulled by my cold that I wanted the soup to really pack a punch of flavour. Plus, spicy food makes my nose run, so I figured that the soup would work to cleanse my sinuses. The final adaptation I made was the addition of a rind of Parmesan cheese to the simmering soup. I always save my rinds and keep them in the freezer in a zip-loc bag to add to soups and stews. serving soupThis soup does not fall under the “fast food” category. You need to soak the beans the night before. You could use canned beans, but I think that the texture would not be the same. The original recipe called for adding the farro and beans at the same time. I found that the beans needed at least 90 minutes of simmering to get tender, so I added the farro during the last 30 minutes of cooking, so that it would still retain some chew, the way I like it. I also waited and added the carrots at the end of the cooking time, rather than at the beginning with the celery and onions, so that they would not be too mushy.

Serve with lots of chopped Italian parsley and fresh basil for a hit of verdant freshness. Don’t forget the Parmesan cheese.

Click here to print recipe for Tuscan White Bean and Farro Soup.

1 bowl on grey napkin

 

Shaved Cauliflower Salad

4 plates of saladAnybody else out there taking a break from cookies this week? Yeah, I thought so. We are too. Personally, I don’t like to use the “D” word (diet). I just prefer to take a break from certain foods for a while if my eating habits have been unbalanced. December has a way of unbalancing us.  I don’t normally make New Year’s resolutions but this year I have promised myself to begin each day facing the bathroom mirror, flexing my arms and uttering the affirmation, “Damn, look at those chiseled arms!” 

This salad is sure to bring some balance back into your life. It is extremely flavourful and satisfying. The dressing is an umami bomb, containing both nutritional yeast and Parmesan. Nutritional yeast is not just for vegans. It adds a cheesy, nutty, savory flavour that can give any dish a zesty boost.

Now is the time to splurge on the green or orange cauliflower and those pretty artisan lettuces you see at the grocery store.cauliflower and lettuces-2I bought a 4 pack of Artisanal lettuces. The box contained sweet, crisp green little gem lettuce (the one that looks like mini romaine), mild and nutty red oak leaf lettuce and a zesty red tango lettuce. Arugula and some romaine hearts would be a fine substitute if that’s all you can find.

Whisk together some lime zest, lime juice, honey, dijon, nutritional yeast, parmesan and olive oil. dressing 2Cut your cauliflower into quarters, remove the hard core and thinly shave it. Use a mandoline or just a sharp knife and use this as a chance to work on your knife skills. I love my little knife sharpener. It’s so easy to use. slicing cauliflower

oval platter 2

Click here to print recipe for Shaved Cauliflower Salad.

one plate 2

 

Crispy Sweet Potato Wedges

on quarter sheet pan croppedCracking the code on making crispy sweet potato fries has been an elusive goal of mine for a while now. (Yes, I know I have lofty goals!) I have mastered regular fries, but sweet potato fries are a real challenge. Even when deep-fried, they only remain crispy for about a minute before they go limp. The issue, I have discovered, is that sweet potatoes are higher in sugar and lower in starch than Russett potatoes (the best potato for french fries, by the way).

Leave it to Cook’s Illustrated to figure out how to do it. Cornstarch is the secret ingredient. To counterbalance the low starch content, the sweet potatoes, are given a bath in a cornstarch-water slurry.

Start with peeled sweet potatoes cut in half lengthwise, and then into 3/4 inch wedges. cutting potatoes In order to ensure that the interior of the sweet potatoes become tender, they are blanched in salted boiling water with a teaspoon of baking soda. The baking soda makes the surface of the potatoes a bit sticky so that the cornstarch has something to grab on to. potatoes into waterpotatoes into slurry-2Initially, the cornstarch mixture will be quite thin. Keep stirring gently and the heat of the sweet potatoes will thicken the water-cornstarch mixture and coat the sweet potato wedges perfectly. That unsightly orange sludge coating the wedges will be converted into a shatteringly crispy exterior once fried.mixing slurryHeat oil to 325°F for perfect frying. oil tempYou’ll have to fry them in batches. fryingSalt them as soon as they come out of the oil. The first batch can stay warm on a rack in a 200°F oven while you fry the rest. saltingAdmittedly, these sweet potato fries take some work to prepare. Creamy and soft on the inside, and audibly crunchy on the surface, they are worth both the effort and the calories. These aren’t something you’ll prepare on a weekly basis, but for a special occasion, please reward yourself. They will be making an appearance on our new year’s eve table.

My photo shoot took over an hour and when I tasted the fries at the end, and they were still crunchy.  I like to serve the fries with a chipotle mayo dipping sauce and a sprinkle of dukkah. Take 1-2 chipotle chiles in adobo, remove the seeds and puree. I mix this into 1/2 a cup of Hellman’s mayo (light is perfectly fine, just don’t use the fat-free).fries in a cone

Click here to print recipe for Crispy Sweet Potato Wedges.

Click here to print recipe for Dukkah.