Cooking Under Quarantine — Moroccan Chicken Tagine

For our next episode of Cooking Under Quarantine, we’ll be making one of my favorite Fall dishes — Moroccan Chicken Tagine. While my version of this classic Moroccan dish isn’t actually cooked inside of a tagine pot, but it echoes a lot of the flavors that I love when I ordering tagines at Moroccan restaurants — a little bit sweet, salty, sour, savory and the protein is always fall apart tender. It’s very comforting as the weather turns colder, and is also great to make in the slow cooker! So follow along with Chef Jon, and let us know how yours turns out.

Cooking Under Quarantine, Moroccan Chicken Tagine!

Ingredients:

  • 1 chicken cut into 8 pieces or 1-2 lb package of boneless chicken thighs
  • 5-6 carrots chopped into chunks
  • 2 medium onions, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup of pitted green olives
  • 1 cup dried apricots
  • 4-5 garlic cloves
  • Spices: smoked paprika, turmeric, salt, pepper, cumin, cinnamon, coriander, Ras al Hanout (Moroccan spice blend)
  • 1-2 cups of chicken broth
  • 1/2-3/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 preserved lemons, chopped — Can buy preserved lemons at most specialty food stores, but can also substitute 2-3 regular lemons, juices and zest grated
  • Parsley or Cilantro (optional)
  1. Blend the spices and any other spices you like and add a couple tablespoons of olive oil — enough to form into a rub and coat the chicken on all sides with it, Let the chicken marinate for at least 15 minutes in the spice rub
  2. Sauté chicken in olive oil in a hot Dutch oven or deep pot on both sides until browned but not fully cooked through
  3. Remove chicken and set aside. You’ll come back to it later
  4. In same pot add garlic and onions and cook until starting to brown (approx 5 min)
  5. Add carrots and keep cooking
  6. If you have extra, season the veggies with more of the spice rub and heat until fragrant
  7. Add preserved lemon and olives to the pot
  8. Add broth and lemon juice to veggie pan to deglaze the pan, and make sure to scrape bottom of the pot for flavor bits — add just enough broth so that the liquid covers the ingredients
  9. Add aprocots to the pot and make sure to give everything a good mix!
  10. Add the chicken back in and stir all together — taste the liquid and adjust seasonings to your taste. Maybe add more lemon, salt, etc
  11. Heat on medium high for 5-10 minutes until the liquid begins to simmer, then cover and lower heat to medium low and simmer for about 45 min – 1 hour
  12. Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro and/or parsley then spoon over couscous or serve in a bowl with sides of your choosing.

I love to serve this dish with some lemon couscous, herb roasted tomatoes and some crusty bread to mop up all the delicious sauce. It’s always a big hit and perfect for leftovers!

Cooking Under Quarantine — Curry In A Hurry!

Ingredients:

  • Boneless chicken breast or thighs (Substitutes: tofu), 1-2 lb, cut into chunks
  • Curry paste (green or red), 2-3 heaping tbsps
  • Fish sauce, 1 tbsp
  • Coconut milk, 1 can or 1.5 cups
  • Scallions, 1 bunch
  • Garlic, 2-3 tbsp or to taste
  • Onions, 1-2 small onions or 1 large onion
  • Carrots, 3-4 carrots
  • Bell pepper, 2 bell peppers
  • Potato, 2-3 potatoes
  • Peanut oil (or vegetable or canola — something neutral)
  • Thai chilies, Sambal Olek (chili paste) or other hot pepper (optional)
  • Cilantro (optional)
  • Rice (optional)

Directions:

  1. Chop some potatoes into 1/2 inch pieces, toss with a little bit of oil, salt and pepper, and roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes on 450
  2. While that’s going, cut your chicken into medium-sized chunks — you can also use already sliced chicken or chicken tenders, but I think it’s fun and rustic to DIY
  3. In order to get a good sear on the chicken, you should heat your wok or sauté pan until it’s very hot, then throw the chicken in with a little bit of neutral-flavored oil like canola
  4. While the chicken is browning, mince your garlic, scallions and chop your other veggies (onion, peppers, carrots
  5. Once the chicken is cooked, but not cooked to death, take out and reserve for later,  and toss veggies into the hot wok starting with the garlic to perfume the pan
  6. Once you’ve sweated the veggies, add the scallions and deglaze the pan with some fish sauce (or soy sauce)
  7. Add a few heaping spoonfuls of curry paste and make sure that it gets evenly distributed so that it gets incorporated throughout the dish
  8. After cooking the curry paste into the veggies for a few minutes, add your coconut milk and mix thoroughly, and this would also be the time to add some sambal olek chili paste or dried chilies if you like a spicy curry. Can skip this if you want.
  9. Simmer for a few minutes, then add the chicken back into the pan along with the roasted potatoes which should be done at this point. This would also be a time to add other starchy ingredients you might be using: roasted squash, pumpkin, sweet potato, tofu, etc.
  10. Simmer uncovered for about 10-15 min so that curry thickens up
  11. Serve immediately over noodles or rice and garnish with cilantro and Thai chilies, or put it in the fridge and eat it the next day. So delicious as leftovers — Yum!

Enjoy and let me know how yours turned out!

Cooking Under Quarantine — Cajun Comfort!

Cooking Under Quarantine is back! In this episode, we’re making Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya.

I ate Jambalaya for the first (and certainly not the last!) time while visiting New Orleans. New Orleans is the kind of city that foodie dreams are made of, and I love it. In the past, I’d visit about once a year with friends and we’d spend a long weekend eating delicious cajun food, drinking, spending time at the pool, then rinse and repeat.

So, when I thought of what to make next in this series, the choice was easy. Jambalaya is a hearty rice-based dish with meat and/or seafood, tomato, veggies and a little cajun kick. This comforting one-pot dish comes together in under an hour and is super versatile and adaptable for cooks of any level. So follow along with Chef Jon and let us know how yours turned out!

Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya

Ingredients:

  • Boneless chicken breast or thighs, 1-2lb
  • Andouille sausage (or another kind of smoked sausage), 4 links
  • Onions, 1 big or 2 small, chopped 
  • Carrots, 2, chopped 
  • Bell pepper, 2 chopped 
  • Scallions, 1 bunch
  • Can of crushed tomatoes, 28oz can
  • Tomato paste, small can
  • Cajun seasoning, 2-3tbsp
  • Gumbo file, 2 tsp (optional)
  • Rice, 1 cup
  • Chicken broth (or vegetable broth), 1-2 cups
  • Garlic, 5-6 cloves
  • Favorite brand of hot sauce

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil frying pan with at least a 1 inch lip, and sauté sausage for at 7-10 min until browned but not 100% cooked through
  2. Remove sausage from pan and set aside for later.
  3. In the sausage fat, start to sauté your veggies. Season with salt and pepper 
  4. Add garlic once veggies are soft and sauté until starting to brown
  5. Make a well in middle of pan by pushing veggies to the sides, and add chicken
  6. Once chicken has browned, add 1-2 spoonfuls of tomato paste as well as Cajun seasoning
  7. Add rice to pan and toast for a couple of minutes
  8. Add crushed tomatoes and broth and give the pan a few big stirs so everything is mixed up well. Also add sausage back into the pan
  9. Cover and cook for 20-25 min depending on what kind of rice you’re using — stir pan every 5-10 min but don’t mess with it too much. Add extra liquid if needed
  10. Garnish with chopped scallions and add hot sauce

Enjoy y’all!

Let’s Talk Tuna — Tuna Pasta Puttanesca

While everything is going on, even a quick run to the grocery store has become a great feat. So, it seems like a great time to use up those items in your pantry. Something that I almost always have in my cabinet? Canned tuna.

Now, I too love a great tuna sandwich, but tuna salad gets boring after a while, amirite? Enter “Tuna Pasta Puttanesca” — this hearty, comforting pasta dish pulls double duty as not only a delicious dinner, but also uses up ingredients you might not have even remembered you had! Tomatoes, olives, capers, and our star ingredient, TUNA, make this easy meal a crowd pleaser and it’s packed with protein so will feed about 4 or 2-3 very hungry people!

Tuna Pasta Puttanesca

Ingredients:

  • 1lb of pasta (traditionally made with Spaghetti, but you can use any pasta)
  • 28oz can of crushed tomatoes or your favorite jar of tomato sauce
  • 1 tbsp dried basil
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp of minced garlic or 3-4 cloves finely chopped
  • 1 tin of anchovies in oil
  • 1 small jar of capers, halfway drained
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup of olives — your favorite kind
  • 2-3 tbsp of tomato paste
  • 2 cans of tuna fish
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • 1-2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Directions:

  1. Put a pot of water (at least 6-8 cups) on medium-high heat to start heating up.
  2. In a flat sauté pan (with at least a 1/2 inch lip), add some olive oil and put over medium heat until the oil starts to shimmer.
  3. Add the anchovies 1-2 at a time to the oil, so they start to “melt.”
  4. Once the anchovies start breaking down, add the garlic and use the back of your spoon to spread out.
  5. Once the garlic starts to brown, add all the herbs and red pepper flakes until you begin to smell the aroma of the herbs coming off the pan.
  6. Add the tomato paste and break up with your spoon.
  7. After 3-4 minutes, add the capers and olives, including half of the caper brine.
  8. Let this cook for a few minutes until there is only a little bit of liquid left, and it is mostly solid and mixed in with the tomatoes.
  9. Add the can of crushed tomatoes and give this a big stir to blend everything.
  10.  Once this mixture comes to a simmer, reduce heat to medium-low.
  11.  In the meantime, your water should have come to a boil — make sure it’s a rolling boil!
  12.  Add a big handful of salt to the water — this step is needed to not only season the pasta but also help the sauce come together later from the starch that comes off the pasta.
  13.  Add the pasta to the water and give it a swirl.
  14.  Add the tuna to the tomato mixture and mix it into the sauce.
  15.  Cook pasta for about 10 minutes, stirring every so often to separate strands/pieces.
  16.  Once pasta is al dente (still has a slight bite), add it directly to the saucepan along with a little bit of pasta water (make sure you reserve some more pasta water for later), and bring the heat to medium/medium-high.
  17.  Toss pasta in the sauce and heat through for a few minutes so the flavors can come together.
  18.  Serve yourself a big bowl of Tuna Pasta Puttanesca — you did it! Yum!

Cooking Under Quarantine

For the last couple of years, I’ve been heavily focused on my catering company, J2Food. While the current public health crisis is going on, there are less parties and events happening, but people have still got to eat, right?!? And since we’re all stuck inside, why don’t we cook together? Enter in our new cooking series — “Cooking Under Quarantine.” Each episode will feature delicious and easy-to-make recipes that you can make at home with accessible ingredients. Perfect for chefs of all levels!

For our first episode, we’re cooking up a classic chicken dish to celebrate Shabbat (Friday night). This delicious Chicken Marsala is an easy, one pot dish that comes together in under an hour! So, it’s also great for a weeknight dinner that you want to make a little more special. This recipe is also great for veal cutlets or even tofu or a meaty fish to make it vegetarian.

Have ideas for future recipes you’d like to see? Email us at jonsmoveablefeasts@gmail.com or info@jsquaredfood.com.

Bon Appetit from our kitchen to yours! Now, let’s get cooking! Follow along with the video below, or check out the recipe here.

Herb Roasted Asparagus

We could all use a little more green in our lives, right? But eating a salad can sometimes be a bit boring. Something I can never get tired of though–roasted vegetables. It’s amazing what a little heat and seasoning can do to ordinary veggies to make them spectacular.

Asparagus is one of my favorite vegetable side dishes. It’s the perfect accompaniment to a heavy meat dish, to complete a weeknight meal, or even to be the star of the dish. Try it topped with a poached egg and hollandaise for a healthier take on traditional eggs benedict. Yum! This recipe for Herb Roasted Asparagus is so easy and comes together in no time at all. Plus, asparagus just seems so elegant and impressive–no one needs to know how easy it was to make!

Ingredients

  • Asparagus, 1-2 bunches
  • Lemon
  • Herbs de Provence (can find in Trader Joe’s for a great deal)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil

Directions

  1. Preheat an oven to 425 degrees
  2. On a sheet pan, place a piece of parchment paper — while not necessary to cook, parchment paper prevents sticking and also makes for easy cleanup
  3. Cut or break off ends of asparagus spears — if using your hands, the fibrous ends will break off naturally. You won’t want to eat these since they’re very woody and tough, but they’re excellent for soups
  4. Toss the asparagus with enough olive oil to coat, a big pinch of salt, pepper and herbs de Provence — Remember to season aggressively!fullsizeoutput_4ba8
  5. Using a microplane or part of a box grater, add the zest of 1 lemon to the asparagusfullsizeoutput_4ba7
  6. Squeeze the juice from half of that lemon onto the asparagus as well 
  7. Roast the asparagus in the oven for 15-20 minutes until they’re tender and slightly crisp
  8. Garnish with some fresh chopped parsley, and a squeeze of lemon

 

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Creamy Asparagus Risotto

Risotto is one of those dishes that sounds super fancy–and it definitely tastes luxurious!–but is actually far easier to make at home than most people think. In fact, it doesn’t even need cream or milk to make it creamy. You just need to buy the right kind of rice and give it a little love and attention and you’ll be whipping up some restaurant worthy risotto in no time. Flavor it with your favorite mix-ins like roasted asparagus, caramelized onions, roasted butternut squash or more. Bon appetito!

Ingredients

  • Arborio rice, 2 cups — you must use arborio rice for this dish. Arborio rice has a super high starch content and this is what makes your risotto creamy and delicious!
  • Garlic, 5-6 cloves chopped
  • White wine, 1 cup
  • Chicken stock (or vegetable stock if you want to keep it vegetarian/dairy), 4 cups — if you wanted to do a super rich and earthy mushroom risotto, you could make some mushroom broth by rehydrating dried porcini mushrooms for a truly luxurious risotto dish!
  • Salt and pepper
  • Parmesan (or nondairy substitute such as nutritional yeast), optional but always worth it
  • 1 cup of Herb Roasted Asparagus (or your favorite mix-in)

Directions

  1. Heat the stock in a saucepan and add any flavorings you’d like to it such as herbs, lemon juice, spices etc.
  2. Sauté garlic in olive oil until fragrant and slightly brown. Season with salt and pepper
  3. Add rice and toss to coat. Sauté the rice so it gets nice and toasty. This will give it a wonderful and deep flavor later on
  4. Add about a cup of white wine of your choice — you can also use champagne, sparkling wine etc. Just make sure it’s something you like. If you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it! The flavor will just concentrate as it’s cooking
  5. Stir the rice, and once it’s absorbed the wine, start adding about a cup of broth to the rice and stir it around
  6. Every time the rice absorbs the liquid, it needs to be stirred. As it cooks and gets stirred, it will start to release its starches which creates the creaminess that is characteristic of risotto
  7. After about 18 minutes, you will have added several cups of liquid and the ride should be creamy and have expanded. Give it a quick taste for seasoning and to make sure the rice is al dente (should have a little bit of chew left)
  8. Now would be the time to add anything to the risotto like some roasted asparagus, maple roasted butternut squash if you wanted to go sweet, or anything you like
  9. Turn off the heat and add some nutritional yeast (if meat meal) to give it some umami or a cup of grated Parmesan cheese if a dairy meal and stir.
  10. Serve while still warm. To reheat, heat risotto into a saucepan with a 1/4 cup of water and stir until steamy and ready to inhale

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Cooking With Curry

I love coming up with new ways to cook with some of my favorite ingredients, especially comfort foods. To me, a big wok full of curry is super comforting and was one of the dishes I made all the time when I moved into my first solo apartment. It’s warm, earthy, spicy and makes me feel good all over. Plus, it’s amazing for leftovers! So, when Mama Lam’s, a local food vendor making and selling their own Malaysian Curry Paste that I had the pleasure of meeting at the annual Queens Taste, event contacted me about partnering up, I was excited. I couldn’t wait to try cooking with their homemade, Malaysian curry paste and curating a couple of dishes to use their product in.

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I decided to create a curry themed meal featuring Mama Lam’s Curry Paste two ways—a Pistachio Crusted Curry Salmon and a Curry Noodles with Crispy Tofu. Check out the recipes below and also watch my YouTube cooking demo here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PCoQ8uLQYU.

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Pistachio Crusted Curry Salmon

  • 4-6 salmon filets (skin on)Photo May 26, 4 41 17 PM
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped finelyPhoto May 26, 4 43 42 PM
  • 1/2 jar of Mama Lam’s curry paste
  • 1 tbsp Sambal Olek or another Southeast Asian chili sauce—Sriracha works fine.
    • I recommend not skipping this ingredient, even if you don’t like spicy food. The fish has a warming heat and it is very much tempered by the coconut milk and acidity of the lime juice
  • 1/2 can of coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 tbsp of ginger, chopped
  • 1 stalk of lemongrass, cut into pieces–you can also use 1/2 tbsp of chopped lemongrass from a tube. You’ll find this near the fresh herbs in the marketPhoto May 26, 4 42 29 PM
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 2 cups of roasted pistachios, shell removed
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1/2 tbsp of black pepper
  1. Create a marinade with the chili sauce, ginger, garlic, lime juice, coconut milk, lemongrass, oil, salt and pepperPhoto May 26, 4 48 24 PMPhoto May 26, 4 49 46 PM
  2. Marinade the salmon for at least an hour and up to 4 hours
  3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
  4. Crush the pistachios with either your hands or a mallet. A rolling pin works well too—this is very cathartic and a great way to take out your aggression. Ha!
  5. After the fish has soaked, dip the salmon into the pistachios and coat on sides and top with the nuts
  6. Place the salmon skin side down on a greased baking pan and bake for 20 minutes until the crust is set—The fish should be cooked through, but still a bit pink in the center and very moist. It will continue cooking for a few minutes once it comes out of the oven
  7. Garnish with fresh parsley or cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice over the topPhoto May 26, 7 48 29 PM (1)
  8. This fish is delicious served all on its own with a fresh salad or some roasted asparagus, but is even better with some Curry Noodles!

Curry Noodles with Crispy Tofu

  • 1 package of firm tofu, 14oz
  • 1 pound of broad rice noodles
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped
  • 2 yellow onions, chopped
  • 1 eggplant—chopped into bite sized pieces. I love to use Japanese or graffiti eggplant for this dish not only because of the beautiful color, but also because it has less water in it than an Italian eggplant, so it’ll be sweeter and stay firmer when cooked downPhoto May 26, 5 04 02 PM
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 tbsp of fish sauce
  • 1/2 jar of Mama Lam’s curry paste
  • 1 tbsp of Sambal Olek chili sauce
  • 1 bunch of scallions, chopped (reserve some for garnish)—also called green onion or spring onion in some supermarkets
  • 1 can of coconut milk—do not use reduced fat as the texture and thickness of the sauce will be off. Plus, coconut milk is a healthy fat
  • Vegetable or peanut oil—any high heat oil will do such as canola, corn, grapeseed oil, etc.Photo May 26, 7 14 11 PMPhoto May 26, 5 02 58 PMPhoto May 26, 5 05 58 PM
  1. The first step of this dish is to make the crispy tofu—who doesn’t like their tofu crispy?

  1. Tofu has a lot of water, which is why it usually tastes bland. In fact, the biggest mistake that most cooks make when handling tofu is not getting rid of the excess water. This will never work! Even if you just want to marinade the tofu you’ll still  need to do this stepPhoto May 26, 4 40 18 PM
  2. Put the tofu between two paper towels and press. Repeat this process 2-3 times, and then let the tofu sit between the towels for at least 20 minutes to really draw out the moisture
  3. Heat up your wok until it starts to smoke a little, then add the oil. It’s important that you don’t add your oil before this as you don’t want it to bubble up and burn youPhoto May 26, 7 14 05 PM
  4. Add the tofu to the wok and spread it out in a single layer—you should hear it sizzle. If there’s no sizzle, then your wok isn’t hot enough and your tofu will steam instead of crisp up
  5. Let the tofu cook on one side for a couple min, then mix it up and repeat this process a few times until it’s crispy on all sides. This shouldn’t take longer than 10 minutes or so
  6. Put your tofu on a plate and place aside for later on
  7. Heat your wok back up on the stove while you get the rest of your ingredients ready
  8. Add some more oil, then add the garlic, ginger and scallions—this is the holy trinity of Asian dishes!
  9. Let these sauté for a minute, then add the curry paste and heat through, followed by the onions, peppers and eggplant
  10. Let the veggies cook for a few minutes, then add the fish sauce, chili sauce and coconut milk and stir until it becomes a homogenized sauce
  11. Cook the curry for at least 10 minutes or longer depending on how thick you like your sauce—as it cooks the flavors of the salty fish sauce, spicy chilis, earthy curry and more will concentrate
  12. Meanwhile, drop the rice noodles into some salted boiling water—off the heat—and let soak for 5 minutes
  13. Add the par-cooked noodles to the curry and toss together in the wok
  14. Let the noodles and curry cook together as the noodles absorb the sauce and meld together into one cohesive dish
  15. Garnish with the crispy tofu, fresh cilantro, chopped scallions, and some chopped peanuts or pistachios if you’d like to tie the two dishes together even more
  16. Eat while still hot or add some sesame oil and have as a cold salad the next day for lunch. Yum!

Enjoy these dishes together with a Spicy Asian Cucumber Salad for a fabulous Southeast Asian inspired dinner at home.

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You can order Mama Lam’s delicious Curry Paste here: https://www.mamalams.com/shop-1/curry-sau

To watch the cooking demo for these recipes, click here or watch below.

Recipe: Morroccan Chicken Tagine

The other day, someone who I had met at a food festival asked me for the recipe for this Moroccan Chicken. They had eaten it at an event I had catered in Philadelphia a couple of months ago though my catering company, J2Food, and loved it. I don’t always give out some of my more secret recipes, but since she was so nice, I decided to write it up and post it here for all of you 🙂 This Moroccan Chicken dish isn’t actually cooked inside of a “tagine” pot, but it echoes a lot of the flavors that I love when I ordering tagines at Moroccan restaurants — a little bit sweet, salty, sour, savory and the protein is always fall apart tender. It’s very comforting in this winter weather, and is also great to make in the slow cooker! Let me know how yours turns out.

Ingredients:

  • 1 package of boneless chicken thighs
  • 1 large yellow or sweet onion
  • 5-6 carrots chopped into chunks
  • 2-3 medium onions chopped roughly
  • 1 cup of pitted green olives
  • 1 cup dried apricots
  • 3-4 garlic cloves
  • Spices: smoked paprika, turmeric, salt, pepper, cumin, cinnamon, coriander
  • Saffron, 2-3 threads
  • 3-4 cups of chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup lemon juicephoto-nov-20-6-45-21-pm
  • 2 preserved lemons, chopped — can substitute 2-3 regular lemons, juices and zest grated. Can buy preserved lemons at most specialty food stores
  • Parsley
  • Cilantro (optional)

Cooking Directions:

  1. Blend the spices and any other spices you like into a rub and divide in halfphoto-nov-20-5-52-19-pmphoto-nov-20-5-54-06-pm
  2. Mix one half of the rub with olive oil to form a loose paste and Coat the chicken on all sides with itphoto-nov-20-6-17-19-pm
  3. Sauté chicken in olive oil in a hot Dutch oven or deep pot on both sides until browned but not fully cooked throughphoto-nov-20-6-40-23-pm
  4. Remove chicken and set aside. You’ll come back to it
  5. In same pot add garlic and onions and cook until starting to brownphoto-nov-20-6-40-05-pm
  6. Add carrots and onions and keep cooking
  7. Add more of the same spice mixture to the pot with the vegetables and heat until fragrantphoto-nov-20-6-40-39-pm
  8. Add preserved lemon, lemon juice, saffron, (zest) and cook for a couple of minutesphoto-nov-20-6-45-06-pm
  9. Add broth and make sure to scrape bottom of the pot for flavor bits — add just enough broth so that the liquid covers the ingredientsphoto-nov-20-6-45-51-pm
  10. Add olives to the pot and make sure to give everything a good mix!photo-nov-20-6-56-01-pmphoto-nov-20-6-47-16-pm
  11. Add the chicken back in and stir all together — taste the liquid and adjust seasonings to your taste. Maybe add more lemon, salt etcphoto-nov-20-6-47-16-pm
  12. Heat on medium high for 5-10 minutes, then cover and lower heat to medium low and simmer for about 45 min – 1 hour
  13. Add parsley and simmer for another 5 minutes on high uncovered photo-nov-20-7-52-16-pm
  14. Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro then spoon over couscous or serve in a bowl with sides of your choosing

I served this dish with some braised collard greens, herb roasted tomatoes and some crusty bread to mop up the sauce. It was a big hit!

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Middle Eastern Night at Home

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The other night I was thinking about what to make for dinner on my way home, when I passed by one of the ubiquitous Halal carts. I don’t know why, but whenever I pass a Halal food cart, I always take a big sniff…it just smells so good! It immediately made me think of Middle Eastern flavors with lots of spices, citrus, and conversation. That night I made chicken shawarma for dinner with fixings, and instead of using store-bought dips, I decided to make my own–and it was so easy! Rustic lemon hummus consists of a quick trip to the pantry for most of the ingredients, and roasted eggplant babaghanoush will make your fellow diners think you’re a spice savant! Try these Middle Eastern spreads at home and you’ll never feel the need to head to the grocery the next time you want to eat some hummus.

Rustic Lemon Hummus

  • 1 can of chickpeas—canned chickpeas are super easy and always in my pantry, but dried chickpeas that you soak overnight are really the best for this recipe and will give you a cleaner flavor
  • 3 tablespoons of tahini paste
  • 2 lemons—juice of both, and the zest of one
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cumin
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon of paprika
  • Olive Oil
  1. Rinse the chickpeas off under cold water until you get rid of all of the gunk from the can off of the chickpeas
  2. In a food processor or blender–I only had my KitchenAid mixer available, so that’s what I used–add the chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice and zest, salt and pepper4
  3. Start to mix all of the ingredients on low to slowly break up the chickpeas until it becomes a thick paste5Photo Oct 15, 7 45 21 PM
  4. Add in the rest of the spices, and gradually add the oil as you increase the speed to mediumPhoto Oct 15, 7 47 05 PMPhoto Oct 15, 8 17 59 PM
  5. The hummus is done when it gets to your personal consistency preference—I like mine a bit chunky—great for pita chips!Photo Oct 15, 9 01 48 PM
  6. Spoon out into a bowl and eat with chips, pita, or use it was a topping for your favorite falafel. Hummus is also delicious as a spread or used in place of mayonnaise or mustard on sandwiches

Roasted Eggplant Babaghanoush

  • 1 large eggplant
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon of smoked paprika—this goes well with the roasted and charred eggplant, but regular paprika works just as well
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon of cumin—add the extra teaspoon if you don’t have smoked paprika. The cumin has a natural smokiness that can compensate
  • 4 garlic cloves, grated
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt
  • 2 teaspoons of black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fo fresh parsley, chopped
  • Olive Oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons of tahini paste
  • 1/4 of an onion, grated
  • Hot sauce (to taste)—I like mine spicy, but this dip is delicious mild as well
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees fahrenheit1
  2. Cut your eggplant in half lengthwise—Resist the urge to peel it at this point! The peel will not only help keep moisture in the eggplant flesh, but also hold it together in the oven.
  3. Use a fork or sharp paring knife to poke holes into the eggplant skin all over2
  4. Rub the flesh side with olive oil and season with 1/2 tablespoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of pepper, 1/2 tablespoon of paprika and 1/2 tablespoon of cumin
  5. Roast the eggplant for 20-25 minutes until the skin is charred and the flesh becomes slightly creamy and the outside if browned—you want the skin to get black10
  6. Once the eggplant has cooled a bit, but still hot, use a knife or fork to remove the charred skin—it should come off very easily
  7. Discard the skin and spoon the flesh into the bowl of a mixer or food processor11
  8. Pulse together the eggplant with the remaining ingredients until it comes together in a thick dip—feel free to blend it as much as you’d likePhoto Oct 15, 8 21 40 PM
  9. Serve similarly to the hummus, and garnish with a squeeze of lemon juice and extra parsley, and enjoy—One of my favorite ways to consume the eggplant is to make sabich, an Iraqi sandwich that consists of hard boiled eggs and fried eggplant on fresh pita bread. Babaghanoush would be a wonderful substitute for the traditional fried eggplant, and maybe add some salty feta cheese to give the sandwich a rich umami flavor22

All I know is that both of these spreads are absolutely delicious, and are perfect for any dinner party or even an afternoon snack. You can also feel free to customize your hummus and babaghanoush—substitute cilantro for the parsley for a more Mexican version, top your hummus with some mushrooms sautéed with zhatar spice, or make a festive zucchini version of babaghanoush and spread it on some thick toast and top with avocado. Yummy! I love to simply serve them with some homemade pita chips!