Basics

Za'atar Lemon Chicken

Za’atar Lemon Chicken

 

Za’atar chicken is a paring born out of south eastern Europe and the Middle East. Za’atar is a centuries old seasoning mixture of ground dried hyssop leaves and flowers combined with ground sumac, ground  toasted sesame seeds, and sea salt. Za’atar’s flavor is as beguiling as is the regions where the herbs are grown. The distinctly minty flavor of the hyssop combined with the citrus like flavor of the sumac imparts a lovely earthy citrus note to grilled meats as well as vegetables and flat breads that make up the foundation of eastern Mediterranean and Middle Eastern meals.

Za’atar can be found in Middle Eastern shops and markets and, due to it’s increasing popularity with European and American cooks, Za’tar is more than likely available in your local supermarket as well.

That said many ready made za’atars may include other herbs, spices as well as chile. I much prefer sticking to the basics and mixing up my own za’atar ground and blended at home. Hyssop and sumac are readily available online. Proportions of ingredients when making your own Za’atar vary to suit your own tastes. 

As there are so many tasty applications for Za’atar  you will find yourself mixing up your own Za’atar at home as well as exploring store bought blends. 

Za’atar Lemon Chicken:

serves 4

  • 2 organic chicken breasts, skin on
  • 2 organic chicken legs, skin on 
  • 2 organic chicken thighs, skin on
    1 cup full fat fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely grated
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil plus more for drizzling
  • sea salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 medium shallots, peeled and thinly sliced lengthwise and halved
  • 2 lemons, thinly sliced into rounds
  • 2 tablespoons za’atar
  • fresh watercress as a garnish

Choose a mixing bowl that will hold all the chicken and marinade snugly.

In the bowl combine the yogurt, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, and salt and pepper. Stir until well combined. Add the chicken and press into the marinade until submerged. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 400 F / 220 c

Needed: a shallow roasting pan

Lightly oil the roasting pan pan with a little olive oil. Remove the chicken from the marinade, shaking off excess marinade, and placing the chicken pieces, skin side up, evenly distributed in the roasting pan.

Scatter the sliced shallots over the chicken and season generously with za’atar.

Place the lemon rounds on top of each piece of chicken and drizzle lightly with olive oil and season the lemon rounds with a light dusting za’atar.

Transfer the chicken to the oven and roast for 30 minutes. Test the chicken using a thermometer with an internal temperature of 165 degrees f. If the chicken is not quite done pop it back in the oven for another 10 minutes or more if needed.

Allow the chicken to rest for five minutes before plating as pictured. Drizzle with pan juices and serve garnished with fresh watercress as pictured.

For more information on sumac and another recipe you may enjoy: Sumac Roaster Chicken (click here)

 

Cornbread muffins with grilled corn, jalapenos, and cheddar

Corn muffins with grilled corn, jalapenos, and cheddar

 

Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix is as American as apple pie. It is just one of those staples that everyone has turned to in a pinch at onetime or another. Myself included during my art school days when cooking was limited to quick serviceable meals that had nothing to do with cuisine. That was to came along later in my life.

That said, Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix is a staple created by Mabel White Holmes back in 1930. The Holmes family still owns the company and he original cheerful blue and yellow packaging has remained mostly unchanged ever since. Whenever I see a box Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix on the shelf I just can’t resist picking one up! Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix has been a dependable partner for countless quick yummy corn muffin hacks I’ve whipped up over the years.

Summer is after all  about grilled meals and corn muffins are always a perfect comfort food accompaniment! The recipe that follows is a tried and true favorite of mine that requires very little time to make and these muffins are always a huge hit.

Corn Muffins with grilled corn, jalapenos, and cheddar cheese.

Makes 8 muffins

Grease a muffin tin with melted butter

preheat oven to 450 f / 245 c

Ingredients:

  • 1 box Jiffy Corn Muffin mix 
  • 1large organic egg
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons cultured buttermilk
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 cup grilled corn kernels 
  • 1or 2 grilled jalapenos, skin and seeds removed, and minced
  • ¾ cup coarsely grated cheddar cheese, divided

Place the corn muffin mix in a mixing bowl and make a well in the center. Add the egg and whisk briefly. Then whisk in the buttermilk  and salt. Fold the ingredients together just until they come together using a wooden spoon or silicone spatula.

Add the corn and jalapenos and fold them into the batter without over mixing. A few lumps are fine.

Then fold in ½ cup of the cheddar cheese and set the batter aside to rest for 15 minutes.

Fill each muffin cup ¾ full and top off with the remaining cheddar.

Bake for 15 or 20 minutes until the muffins are lightly golden brown.

Serve warm, with pats of butter (optional)

rench Apple Tart

French Apple Tart

 

Sometimes that impulse to bake something first thing in the morning can send you off on a tangent until you say to yourself” hold on” I just want a nice pastry to enjoy with my morning coffee!

With resolve this simple French apple tart can be assembled and put into in the oven in no time. That said, I tend to keep several disks of pastry dough in the freezer. This is a habit that saves time and makes the prospect of baking pies and tarts so much more appealing.

The simplicity of this tart will have you returning to this recipe again and again.

 

 

 French Apple Tart

Ingredients:

  • 1 disk well chilled sweet pastry dough

  • 4 or 5 tart green baking apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced

  • 3 tablespoons salted butter, melted

  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

  • 1 tablespoon demerara sugar

For glazing:

  • 3 tablespoons orange marmalade, warmed and thinned with a splash of water

 

Preheat the oven to 400 f / 205 c with the rack set in the middle position of the oven

Needed: a 10 inch tart pan

Use your own favorite pastry dough for this recipe.

 

Roll the chilled pastry dough out to about12 inches in diameter. Fit the dough into the tart pan and press the dough onto the sides of the pan and trim the dough evenly around the top edge.

Arrange the sliced apples, slightly overlapping, beginning at the outer rim of the pan and working your way around the pan to the center.

When you are satisfied with the arrangement of the apples, pour the melted butter evenly over the apples.

Sprinkle the granulated sugar evenly over the apples and  scatter the demerara sugar over the top.

Transfer the tart to the preheated oven and bake for 45 to 60 minutes. Check on the tart as it bakes and turn it front to back if it is browning unevenly.

The tart is done when the apples have softened and are lightly browning to your liking.

Remove the tart from the oven and place on a cooling rack.

After about 10 minutes generously glaze the  tart with the marmalade glaze using a pastry brush.

Ideally serve the tart while still warm from the oven or reheat before serving.

 

Bon Appetit! 

Ajvar

 

Ajvar is a traditional roasted red pepper sauce/ puree favored throughout the Eastern Mediterranean, with regional variations across Lebanon, Syria, the Balkans, Turkey, and the Middle East. Ajvar is served with grilled meats, fish, kabobs, mezze plates, or just slathered onto a warmed pita bread.

Ajvar is a simplified Muhammara (see Recipe here),either of which I like to keep on hand to jazz up those meals that beg for a flavor boost.

Ajvar is available in in Greek and Middle Eastern shops and online, through rarely found on supper market shelves. So why not prepare Ajvar at home. The ingredients are all readily available and the recipe that follows will walk you through the process. Preparing the peppers and eggplant may seem a bit tedious, but it is all well worth the effort I assure you. The slightly sweet and smoky aroma wafting throughout the kitchen will be enough to spur you onward with the tasks at hand.

Putting up a jar freshly made Ajvar is one of those cook’s moments, a raison d’etre if you will and, I have to say, what makes cookery  so compelling.

So, with that thought in mind let’s get cooking!

 

Ajvar

makes 1 quart

  • olive oil as needed
  • 4 ripe red bell peppers
  • 1 ripe red jalapeno chile
  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 5 large garlic cloves, skin on
  • 2 tablespoons unfiltered apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt + more to taste

 

Rub the bell peppers, jalapeno, eggplant, and garlic with olive oil and place on a large baking tray.

Place the tray of vegetables under the preheated broiler and broil until the skins on the peppers, jalapeno, and eggplant blister and are are charred in spots. Turn all the vegetables and continue broiling. Remove the garlic as soon as it is lightly colored and set aside.

Continue broiling the reaming vegetables until all sides are charred and blistered.

Transfer all the broiled vegetables to a large bowl and seal tightly with cling film and set aside to cool.

When the vegetables are cool enough to handle you are going to peel away the charred skins and discard them. As tempting as it may be, do not rinse the vegetables under the tap as you work. Doing so will only wash away the flavor you have created during the broiling process.

Likewise be sure to reserve all the juices from the roasting pan as well as the juices collected as you remove the seeds from the peppers, chile, and eggplant. All these flavorsome juices will be added back into Ajvar later.

Cut the bell peppers and jalapeno in half. Remove all the seeds and membranes and discard them. Tear the bell peppers into strips lengthwise and place them in the work bowl of a food processor along with the peeled eggplant.

In a small bowl combine the jalapeno, peeled garlic, salt, and vinegar and mash together with a wooden spoon to form a paste and set aside.

Begin pulsing the peppers and eggplant in the processor until the mixture looks like a coarse puree.

Stop the machine and spoon the garlic chile mixture on top of the red pepper puree and pulse until the mixture begins to smooth out.

Place a wide nonstick fry pan over medium low heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. When the oil is hot add the Ajvar puree to the pan and stir for several minutes. Then add any reserved juices and stir them into the puree continue to simmer for 30 minutes, stirring from time to time to avoid any scorching.

Taste and add salt if needed.

Transfer the Ajvar to a sterilized jar and cool to room temperature. Add a thin layer of olive oil on top of the Ajvar and seal tightly with a lid and refrigerate.

The Ajvar will keep in the refrigerator for at least a month or more.

 

Serving

Serve as suggested as well as with j sandwiches, pasta, tacos or anything else that comes to mind.

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