As a lover of all things related to food and cooking, I am especially pleased when I discover something new, at least new to me. In the tradition of herb and olive oil based sauces like pesto and chimichurri, chermoula is a sauce that originates from Morocco and other North African countries. It is a tangy blend of fresh herbs and spices, lemon and olive oil.
It is traditionally used to season fish but pairs equally as well with chicken or grilled vegetables. It can be both a dry spice mixture or more commonly, an herb sauce. I used it both ways in this recipe. First, as the rub for the chicken and then as the sauce to serve with the chicken. If you like, preserved lemon peel or a pinch of saffron would be a welcome addition to the mix. If you don’t like cilantro, either change the proportions of cilantro and parsley or eliminate it altogther. Traditionally, like pesto, this was made in a mortar and pestle but a mini food processor makes quick work of the recipe. I cooked these indoors on a grill pan, if I were cooking on an outdoor grill I would prefer whole chicken pieces. Friendly to many diets, chermoula is a sauce worth discovering.
Grilled Chicken Breasts with Chermoula Sauce
Ingredients for marinated chicken
4 pieces boneless, skinless chicken breast
4 T fresh-squeezed lemon juice
4T olive oil
1t ground cumin
1t ground coriander
1t garlic powder
1t sweet paprika
Ingredients for the Chermoula Sauce
2 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1/2 c coarsely chopped cilantro
1/4 c coarsely chopped parsley (flat is my preference, but curly works too)
1 T + 2 t freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 t sweet paprika
1/2 t ground cumin
1/4t cayenne pepper (optional)
1/8t saffron threads (optional)
4 -5 T olive oil
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
Trim all fat and sinew from chicken breasts. Place chicken breast between two pieces of plastic wrap and with the flat edge of a mallet, pound to an even thickness, season generously with kosher salt. Whisk together lemon juice, olive oil and spices to make the marinade. Put chicken pieces inside a Ziploc bag or plastic container with a snap-tight lid, pour marinade over and let chicken marinate in the refrigerator 4-6 hours, turning bag occasionally.
To make the chermoula sauce, put chopped garlic, chopped cilantro, chopped parsley, lemon juice, sweet paprika, and ground cumin, cayenne and saffron (if using) in food processor and pulse to combine. Add the 4 T olive oil and pulse just enough to get it mixed in, then taste to see if you want the other tablespoon of oil and add it if you want a milder sauce. (Don’t over-process; the mixture is not supposed to be smooth.) Add salt and pepper to taste.
To cook the chicken in a grill pan, spray grill pan with nonstick grill spray or brush with oil and preheat grill pan to high (you can only hold your hand there for a few seconds at that heat.) Let chicken come to room temperature while the pan heats.
To get criss-cross grill marks, lay the chicken top-side down at a diagonal across the grill pan and let it cook until well-defined grill marks are showing, about 3-4 minutes. It’s okay to lift a corner to check. Turn the chicken so it’s going the opposite way at an angle to the grill grates and cook about 3-4 more minutes. Then turn chicken over and cook 4-5 minutes on the second side, or until chicken is firm but not hard to the touch.Serve chicken hot, with Charmoula Sauce spooned over.
As the old song goes “see you in September”. It was time to say good bye to the spinach in our garden. Spinach does not like warm weather and temperatures have soared into the 90+ vicinity the last several days. So before it all bolted or went to seed I picked the remaining spinach.Then the plants could be pulled out of the ground and the space could be used to plant something else.
Most of the time we enjoy fresh garden spinach with dinner just sautéed with a little olive oil and garlic. It cooks down so quickly that a large bowl full of uncooked spinach soon becomes a very small plate of cooked spinach. I decided for the last hurrah to make a crustless spinach and mushroom quiche. It would make a nice light lunch and breakfast for the next day.
A quiche essentially is a savory custard that is baked in a piecrust. A custard mixture is a liquid, usually milk or cream and combined with eggs and baked until it sets. I used fresh spinach but frozen spinach or bagged spinach would work as well. Just remember to squeeze out all the water or the custard will be too wet. Eliminating the crust saves time and calories too. Spinach and feta are a natural combination, but any cheese with good melting qualities will work, mozzerella, cheddar and parmesan to name a few.
A minor disaster occurred about fifteen minutes into baking my quiche, the power went out. We weren’t having a storm or bad weather at all, it just went out long enough (five minutes) that I had to reset all the clocks in the house and the oven, though still warm, had to be brought back to temperature. I didn’t take the quiche out of the oven, I just adjusted my baking time to make certain the custard was cooked. The top was a little too brown but still tasted good.
A delicious way to say good bye for the summer!
Spinach and Mushroom Crustless Quiche
I cup of fresh sliced mushrooms (white, cremini etc.)
8 cups of fresh spinach or 1 box frozen chopped spinach
1T olive oil
1t chopped garlic
4 large eggs
1 cup of milk, cream or half and half
1/2c feta cheese, crumbled
1/3c grated parmesan cheese
1/2c shredded mozzarella cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 350F degrees. If using fresh spinach, cook it down in a large sauté pan and drain in a colander. Squeeze out the rest of the moisture in a clean dish towel. I cooked whole leaves so at this point I chopped it. If using frozen chopped spinach, thaw in microwave and drain well.
In the same pan, heat the olive oil and add the chopped garlic. Sauté garlic until it starts to brown slightly then add the mushrooms. Sprinkle a little salt and a grind of pepper over the mushrooms and sauté until they have released all of their moisture and no more water remains on the bottom of the skillet. This should take about five minutes.
Lightly grease or spray with nonstick spray a 9 inch pie pan or quiche dish. Evenly spread the spinach over the dish, scatter the mushrooms over the top, then sprinkle the feta over.
In a medium bowl whisk the eggs. Add the milk, parmesan and a grind of fresh pepper. Pour the liquid over the ingredients in the dish.
Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese over top. Place the dish on a baking sheet, this will make it easier to transfer the dish in and out of the oven. Place dish in the oven and bake until the quiche is golden brown and a tester comes out clean. This will take between 45 minutes to an hour, starting checking at 45 minutes.
Allow quiche to cool a bit, cut into slices and serve. It’s also good cold!
In this salad of my own design, strawberries and avocado are combined not once, but twice, in the salad as well as the dressing that tops it. Juicy sweet strawberries are in season locally and are the perfect contrast to smooth creamy avocados. I combined chopped strawberries with avocado oil to make a dressing that compliments the salad perfectly.
Avocado oil has a mild nutty flavor and is high in monounsaturated “good” fats, vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids. It has a high smoke point (500 F) making it well suited for frying but I haven’t tried that yet.
The greens, fresh from our garden are in their third planting now. I used Lolla Rosa and Oak leaf lettuces along with some arugula and mâche. French feta is one of my favorites, it’s creamier and milder than other varieties, a mild blue cheese would be interesting as well. I topped my salad with walnuts, almonds or pistachios would be good choices as well.
This salad is a combination of vibrant flavors, colors and textures. Add some roasted chicken and you have a great lunch or light supper.
Strawberry Avocado Salad
Salad greens-I used a combination of oak leaf and Lolla Rosa with a little arugula, mâche and cress, enough to fill the plate or bowl of your choice
2c strawberries, hulled and quartered
1 avocado, cut into chunks
1/2c creamy goat cheese, I love French feta
1/2 c coarsely chopped walnuts
Strawberry-avocado dressing (recipe follows)
Freshly ground pepper
Strawberry Avocado Dressing
1c roughly chopped strawberries
3T lime juice
2T balsamic vinegar
1T(more or less) of agave sweetener or honey
1/2c avocado oil
Directions for Dressing
Combine all ingredients in a blender until smooth.
Directions for Salad
Place salad ingredients on a plate or toss in a bowl. Add dressing to taste. Season with freshly ground black pepper.
You know that quinoa has become part of the mainstream vocabulary when it shows up in a beer commercial during a football broadcast on television. Sure, the guy eating the quinoa burger refers to it as “kwee-noh” and his friend who is looking on asks,”what is that, a loofah?” Enough people “get it” to make this a funny commercial.
Quinoa, pronounced “KEEN wah” is showing up these days in everything from whiskey, to chips, chocolate bars and yes, burgers. Quinoa is an edible seed or a pseudo-grain, because it is cooked and used in recipes like a grain. It is closely related to beets, chard, spinach and even tumbleweeds. Quinoa is unique because it is a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids and provides “good” fat along with fiber, potassium and iron. Since it is not a grain, quinoa is well suited for gluten free diets.
Even though most quinoa is sold prerinsed, it is a good idea to rinse it before proceeding with your recipe to remove any remaining saponin, a bitter coating that protects the plant from insects. Submerge the quinoa in a bowl of cold water, swish it around and drain it in your finest strainer. Like rice, the cooking ratio is 2:1 liquid to grain.
In this recipe from Fine Cooking magazine, nutty quinoa is combined with crisp summer vegetables, spicy arugula and a slightly sweet miso vinaigrette. I used red quinoa in this recipe but white or black would be fine too. I used the radishes from our garden. They have peaked now with the onset of the warmer weather. I also included Japanese turnips in the salad that we are harvesting now. Unlike the standard turnip, the Hakurei variety is pure white, very mild and sweet, even when raw. Don’t hesitate to add the pickled ginger, it brings just a little spiciness and acidity to the salad. This salad will be a welcome addition to picnics and potlucks all summer long.
Quinoa, Cucumber, Radish and Turnip Salad with Miso Vinaigrette
2-3/4 cups plus 1/3 cup lower-salt vegetable or chicken broth
3 Tbs. white miso
3 T seasoned rice vinegar
2 T soy sauce, preferably reduced sodium
1 T Asian sesame oil
1/2 cup canola or other neutral vegetable oil
2 T chopped sweet pickled sushi ginger
1 1/2c red quinoa, any color will do
1c Japanese baby turnips
2c cucumbers, cut into bite sized pieces
2c radishes, cut into bite sized pieces
2 packed cups of arugula
Put 1/3 cup of the broth and the miso, vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame oil in a blender; blend to combine. With the motor running, slowly add the canola oil to make a creamy dressing. Add the ginger and pulse a couple of times to very finely chop.
In a 2- to 3-quart saucepan, bring the remaining 2-3/4 cups broth to a simmer over medium heat. Add the quinoa, cover, turn the heat down to medium low, and cook until the quinoa is tender and the liquid is absorbed, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand for 3 to 5 minutes. Uncover and fluff with a fork. Let cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.
Toss the quinoa, turnips, cucumber, radishes, and greens together. Add 3/4 cup of the vinaigrette, toss, and serve, passing the remaining dressing at the table. (Save the remaining vinaigrette for other salads; it will keep for at least 3 days in the refrigerator.)
For an easy weekend supper, nothing comes together quicker than a chicken paillard. A paillard, (pi-YAR) is a boneless piece of meat, in this case, chicken that has been pounded flat and sauteed or grilled quickly. Actually the term paillard has fallen out of favor in the cooking world and has been replaced with the word escalope (es-kuh-LOHP). In English we would refer to it as a “scallop”, not of the seafood varety of course.
I couldn’t find the word paillard in The Food Lover’s Companion or in James Peterson’s exhaustive work, Glorious French Food. But everyone, from Rachael Ray to Daphne Oz of “The Chew” to Martha Stewart has recipes online for chicken paillards, so it’s worth keeping that definition under your hat.
Remove any tenderloins or extra fat before wrapping the breast in plastic wrap. Then pound out the meat with the flat side of a mallet to an even thickness. Pound from the fattest part of the breast outward to avoid tearing the meat.
Another French term is very important to this recipe, mise en place (MEEZ ahn plahs). Translated, this means “to put in place”. Start by reading the recipe all the way through, then check to see that you have all the ingredients necessary, or at least a reasonable substitute. I chose to use tarragon in this recipe, the original used dill. The tarragon in our garden is starting to fill in nicely and it’s anisey flavor is a natural with chicken dishes. All of the other ingredients should be measured out, prepped and ready to go, garlic sliced, lemon zested and juiced and vegetables cleaned and cut to size. In less than fifteen minutes of cooking time you can have a meal on your table that is easy and elegant.
Chicken Paillards with Asparagus, Lemon, Garlic and Tarragon
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, tenders removed
1/3c all purpose flour
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4c extra virgin olive oil
1/2c lower salt chicken broth or chicken stock
6 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 large lemon, finely grated to yield 1t zest and squeezed to yield 3T juice
1 lb. asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 medium orange or yellow pepper cut into 2-inch strips
2T chopped fresh tarragon
2T unsalted butter, cut into 3-4 pieces
Using the flat side of a meat mallet, pound each chicken breast between 2 sheets of plastic wrap to an even 1/4-1/2 inch thickness
In a shallow bowl, combine the flour, 2t salt and 1t pepper.
Heat 2T oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Dredge 2 paillards in the flour, shaking off any excess, and place in the skillet. Cook, flipping once, until lightly browned, about 4 minutes total. Transfer chicken to a plate and keep warm. Repeat with the remaining oil and paillards
Add the garlic to the skillet and cook over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, for about a minute. Add the chicken broth and lemon zest, scraping up any browned bits from the skillet. Add the asparagus, pepper, chicken and any accumulated juices. Nestle the chicken pieces into the liquid. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat to maintain a simmer. Cover and cook until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter or plates.
Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the lemon juice, tarragon and the butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon the vegetable mixture over the chicken and serve.