Moroccan Chicken

Posted on: Friday, April 21, 2017

A few months ago, my friend, Annie introduced the idea of a monthly cooking club. Every month, a group of foodie friends and I get together at one of our homes to create a potluck dinner, focused on a specific cuisine. We’ve “traveled” to Vietnam and India, and our most recent “stop” was a TBD “destination” at my home. While Greek and Italian foods are always fun, I decided to choose a type of cuisine outside of my comfort zone: Moroccan.
Leading up to the dinner, I researched a bit about the region. Moroccan food combines Arab, Jewish and Berber influences and showcases a myriad of warming spices and complex layering. A common main dish usually includes dried fruits, stewed meats, hearty vegetables, rich spices, cooked in a tagine (an earthenware cooking vessel) and served over couscous. After finding some Ras el Hanout- a common Moroccan spice blend- at Boston Public Market, I decided to make a chicken dish featuring the pungent spice mix. I added dates, shallots and carrots and allowed the flavors to stew in the oven, accompanied with a side of fluffy couscous. I set my table with deep red, gold and ochre fabrics, assorted candles and mismatched glasses. As my friends rolled in with their aromatic Moroccan dishes (carrot and chickpea salad, lamb tagine with apricots, homemade naan, and pistachio cake), we enjoyed a taste of a Morocco in quiet Connecticut.
Moroccan Chicken with Dried Dates (adapted from Bon Appetit, 2009)

6 whole chicken legs, skin on

2 T salt
2 dozen baby carrots, halved
1 c shallots, peeled, and quartered
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 t dried thyme
1 t finely grated lemon peel
2 1/2 T ras-el-hanout
3 c low-salt chicken broth
1 c dry white wine
10 dried medjool dates, pitted and cut in half
2 t red wine vinegar
Couscous (prepared according to package directions)

Arrange the chicken legs on a rimmed baking sheet and liberally sprinkle each side with salt. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for a few hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a small mixing bowl, submerge the halved dates in hot water. Let them sit for about 15 minutes until they become slightly plumped. Drain the dates, and set aside until the end.
Heat 1 Tablespoon of EVOO in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of the chicken (3 legs) to the skillet and sear until golden, about 5 minutes per side. Once browned, place the legs in a heavy roasting pan and add the remaining chicken legs to the skillet to sear. Once all the chicken pieces have browned, sprinkle a dusting of ras-el-hanout on each chicken leg. Meanwhile, add another 2 Tablespoons of EVOO to the skillet and add the carrots, shallots, garlic, thyme, lemon peel, ras-el-hanout, chicken broth, and white wine. Bring to a boil, whisking up the browned bits.

Remove the skillet from the heat and pour the mixture over the chicken in the roasting pan. Place the roasting pan over the medium heated burner and bring to a simmer. Cover with pan with aluminum foil and place in the oven to cook for 1 hour. 

Transfer the cooked chicken, carrots, and shallots to a baking sheet. Pour the pan juices into the large skillet and spoon off any layer of fat from the surface. Heat the juices in the large skillet to medium-high until the mixture has reduced and thickened, about 15 minutes. Stir in the dates and red wine vinegar and cook until the dates are just heated through, about 3 minutes. Serve immediately with a side of couscous. Serves 6.

Looking forward to our next themed dinner! Where will we go next?

Butternut Squash, Sausage and Caramelized Onion Pasta Bake

Posted on: Monday, April 3, 2017

A new apartment means new reasons to entertain. Since moving into a new city dwelling a month ago, I have been updating recipes and sifting through my cookbook collection. This past weekend, I invited a few friends over for an impromptu dinner. While still settling in and a bit crazed, “make ahead” and “one-dish” were echoing in my head.

As I opened my newly organized pantry doors and looked out the window to a typical New England spring day of sleet and cold, a hygge-inspired dish of warm, cheesy pasta and sausage seemed necessary. To balance the salty, nutty Bechamel sauce, I added some butternut squash for sweetness, caramelized onions for depth and zing, and chopped parsley and lemon juice for freshness. I baked everything in my big cast iron dish with a simple salad, crusty Iggy’s bread and lots of vino.
Butternut Squash, Sausage, and Caramelized Onion Pasta Bake

1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 t dried rosemary
1 lb cavatappi pasta
1 lb Italian sausage (I used sweet but could use spicy for a kick), casings removed
2 cloves minced garlic
5 T unsalted butter
1 yellow onion, sliced thin
2 c milk (1% or 2% are fine)
1/4 c all-purpose flour
1/8 t fresh nutmeg
1 c grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1 1/3 c grated Provolone cheese
1/2 c chopped fresh parsley
1 T lemon juice (half a lemon)
Salt and pepper throughout

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

On a lined baking sheet, toss the butternut squash cubes, rosemary, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ t black pepper and a generous drizzle of EVOO. Roast for 40-45 minutes until the cubes are tender and lightly browned.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook as directed. Drain and return the cooked pasta back to the large pot. 

In a large shallow pan, heat 1 T EVOO over medium heat. Add the sausage, breaking it up with a wooden spoon until it starts to brown, about 3-5 minutes. Remove the sausage and add it to the large cooked pasta pot.

In the same shallow pan, reduce the heat to low and add 1 T butter and 1 T EVOO. Add the onions, season with salt and pepper, and cook about 20 minutes until they become golden and lightly caramelized. Add the chopped garlic and saute for 1 more minute. Once lightly caramelized, add the onions and garlic to the large cooked pasta pot.

At this point, the butternut squash should be nearly finished roasting. Remove the pan from the oven and add the butternut squash cubes to the large cooked pasta pot.

Reduce oven heat to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

To make the Bechamel Sauce, bring the shallow pan back up to medium heat. Add 4 T butter. Once melted, whisk in ¼ c flour and continue to whisk until smooth. Gradually, drizzle in the milk while whisking. The sauce will be quite thick at first, but will thin out as you add more milk. Once all of the milk is added, add the nutmeg and season with salt and pepper. Let simmer for 5-7 more minutes.

Add the Bechamel to the large pasta pot. Add ⅔ c Parmigiano and 2/3 c Provolone, fresh parsley and lemon juice. Pour the pasta mixture into one large, 17-inch cast iron skillet or one 9x13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmigiano and Provolone. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the cheese is melted and pasta around the edges are slightly golden and crispy.

Feel free to make this ahead of time! After you pour the pasta into the baking dish, cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate. When ready, just sprinkle with the grated cheese and pop into the preheated oven.

Be Bold Blueberry Cockail

Posted on: Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Happy International Women’s Day! Since the 1900s, the holiday has been a global celebration of women’s achievements and a call for gender equality. We’ve witnessed some significant, historic shifts this year, and wanted to toast everyone’s courageous, unifying efforts … in the form of a cocktail.

Inspired by this year’s theme, #BeBoldforChange, we concocted a fierce, punchy, purple-hued cocktail using fresh blueberries and ginger beer. Dating back to the days of the suffrage movement, purple symbolizes justice and dignity. The addition of citrusy lime adds a touch of green, symbolizing hope. Here's our bold take on a classic to commemorate this day!
Be Bold Blueberry Cocktail

1/2 c fresh blueberries (plus more for garnish)
1 t granulated sugar
1/3 c water (to submerge the blueberries)
1 lime, wedged (plus 2 more wedges for garnish)
1 (12 oz) bottle ginger beer
3 oz vodka

In a small sauce pan, simmer the blueberries, sugar and water for 6-8 minutes or until the sauce has thickened and the blueberries burst. Remove from heat and let cool. Once cooled, sieve the liquid into a small bowl.

Fill two glasses with ice. Add 1 Tablespoon of blueberry syrup and a squeeze of lime juice to each glass. Add 1.5 oz vodka and half a bottle of ginger beer to each glass. Vigorously stir with a spoon or cocktail stirrer and serve with a lime wedge on each.  
"There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish." - Michelle Obama

Baci Sundae

Posted on: Monday, February 13, 2017

While studying abroad in Florence, I fell in love with Baci Perugina candies. I first opened one of the sparkly blue foiled wrappers at a mercato near my host home and was overcome by the dark chocolate coated mix of creamy and whole hazelnuts. The Baci (“kisses” in Italian) chocolates have been around since the 1930s, and have been symbols of affection for many Italians (each chocolate is wrapped with a tiny love note inside).
For Valentine’s Day, I was inspired to build a Baci-themed sundae. I recently discovered the craze of DIY chocolate shells by simply combining a chocolate bar and coconut oil. The way the melted chocolate turns into a crackly shell when drizzled over ice cream is sort of magical. I added a bit of flare to my chocolate shell with some hazelnut liqueur and generously drizzled it over rich vanilla ice cream with a sprinkling of toasty hazelnuts and a subtly sweet crunch of shredded coconut on top. Crack through the shell and enjoy!
Baci Sundaes with a Chocolate Hazelnut Shell

1 c (8 oz) chopped dark chocolate (I love Ghiradelli)
2 T coconut oil
1 T Frangelico hazelnut liqueur (optional)
Vanilla Ice Cream (I love Haagen Daz)
20 toasted hazelnuts, halved
1/3 c shredded coconut

Place the chopped dark chocolate and coconut oil in a bowl and microwave on high for 30 seconds. Stir in the Frangelico and then microwave again in 10 second intervals until the chocolate is smooth and glossy.

Scoop your desired amount of Vanilla Ice Cream into 2 bowls. Top with a generous drizzle of the melted chocolate sauce on top of each. Sprinkle the toasted hazelnuts and shredded coconut on top of the chocolatge. By then the chocolate should be almost firm. Crack in with your spoon and enjoy. Makes 2.

If you have leftover chocolate sauce, just pour it into a mason jar, cover tightly and refrigerate. When ready to use again, just reheat in the microwave and spoon. Or! Slice up some fresh bananas, dip them in the chocolate and place them in the freezer for a poppable dessert!

Greek Nachos

Posted on: Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Nachos are a must for Superbowl Sunday. The layered chips oozing with cheese and overflowing with toppings are the perfect nibbles while enthralled in the game.
To add a Greek flare to the traditional snack, I looked to my kitchen staples . Instead of tortilla chips, I grabbed Stacy’s Pita Chips to begin my layering. I sidelined ground meat for Loukaniko sausage, dolloped Tzatziki instead of sour cream, and subbed in some quick pickled green peppers instead of spicy salsa. The feta and Kasseri cheeses connected seamlessly like Brady passing to Hogan in the end zone. To finish, I sprinkled a medley of diced tomatoes, Kalamata olives and fresh mint atop the bubbling scape. The colorful Mediterranean myriad of red and white toppings atop a blue platter was an ode to our mighty Patriots.
Greek Nachos

1 green pepper, halved and thinly sliced
2 T red wine vinegar
1/2 t granulated sugar
8 oz plain Greek yogurt
1/4 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and grated
1 clove minced garlic
1 T lemon juice
1/2 t dried mint
1/2 t dried oregano
1 (18 oz) bag pita chips (homemade or I love Stacy’s)
1 c mild grating cheese (I used Kasseri, could use Monterrey Jack)
1 c crumbled feta cheese, (plus more for garnish)
3 links Loukaniko sausage, casing removed and diced
1 c diced tomatoes
2/3 c sliced Kalamata olives
1/4 c fresh mint leaves
2 shallots, diced
Salt and pepper throughout

Pickled Green Peppers: Mix the green peppers, red wine vinegar, big pinch of salt and sugar in a shallow bold and let marinate in the fridge- at least 30 minutes (and up to a day).

Tzatziki: In another small bowl, mix the Greek yogurt, grated cucumber, garlic, EVOO, lemon juice, dried mint, dried oregano, salt and pepper and let meld in the fridge.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. As the oven preheats, in a small skillet lightly fry the Loukaniko cubes. Once golden, pour onto a plate with paper towel to drain.

Assembly: On a large baking sheet, arrange a layer of half of the pita chips across. Cover with half of the cheeses, and half of the Loukaniko. Add another layer of pita chips and cover again with the remaining cheeses and Loukaniko. Sprinkle with the shallots and bake for 15 minutes or until the cheeses are bubbling and the chips are lightly golden. Next, top the warm nachos with the diced tomatoes, Kalamata olives, and Pickled Green Peppers (strained from the vinegar liquid). Dollop across with Tzatziki and sprinkle with the fresh mint leaves. Serves 4-6.
Go Pats!!

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