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!
- Asparagus, 1-2 bunches
- Herbs de Provence (can find in Trader Joe’s for a great deal)
- Salt and pepper
- Olive oil
- Preheat an oven to 425 degrees
- 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
- 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
- Toss the asparagus with enough olive oil to coat, a big pinch of salt, pepper and herbs de Provence — Remember to season aggressively!
- Using a microplane or part of a box grater, add the zest of 1 lemon to the asparagus
- Squeeze the juice from half of that lemon onto the asparagus as well
- Roast the asparagus in the oven for 15-20 minutes until they’re tender and slightly crisp
- Garnish with some fresh chopped parsley, and a squeeze of lemon
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!
- 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)
- Heat the stock in a saucepan and add any flavorings you’d like to it such as herbs, lemon juice, spices etc.
- Sauté garlic in olive oil until fragrant and slightly brown. Season with salt and pepper
- 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
- 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
- Stir the rice, and once it’s absorbed the wine, start adding about a cup of broth to the rice and stir it around
- 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
- 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)
- 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
- 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.
- 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
So I’ve recently started offering small group cooking classes through my catering company, J2Food, and the theme for the first session was all about love. It was a few days before Valentine’s Day, and it was a couples-themed class, It’s a Date! And what can be more romantic than cooking for your loved one? Or, even better, cooking together. So as I was considering what we should make for the meal, I thought we should have all foods that not only taste delicious but also look amazing and can be made by any amateur chef (and easy to clean to boot!).
Chicken Marsala is one of my favorite dishes to make for guests and even crowds. It sounds and tastes very complex, but is actually very simple to make and very impressive in its presentation and flavors. It’s a recipe that I teach all of my cousins when they go to college so that they have at least one quality trick up their sleeve to throw down. This dish is also great for a quick weeknight meal. Serve it over some herbed egg noodles, with creamy garlic mashed potatoes or even with a fresh arugula salad. Enjoy and let me know how yours turns out!
- Chicken breasts, boneless – while I often opt for the more forgiving chicken thighs, it’s very traditional to use chicken breast in this recipe for texture and size
- Mushrooms, halved – I like Cremini (mini portobellos), but button mushrooms or any variety are good to use. Sometimes I like to use a mix of mushrooms…you can never have too many
- Bottle of Marsala wine – I would definitely use real Marsala wine (usually found in the dessert wine section near the Madeira or sherry). Resist the urge to use Marsala cooking wine found in the grocery store since those are loaded with salt and MSG.
- Chicken stock
- Salt and pepper
- Dried herbs – whatever your favorite flavors are (we used rosemary, thyme, and oregano)
- Fresh parsley, chopped
- Garlic, 8-10 cloves chopped
- Olive oil
- Pound the chicken breasts out to about 1/4-1/2 inch thickness. Doesn’t need to be super thin since these are getting twice-cooked
- Add enough olive oil to a heavy-bottomed sauté pan to coat and start to heat on medium
- Mix a heavy pinch of dried herbs, salt and pepper into about 1.5 cups of flour — you may need more later on, so don’t be skimpy now
- Dip the chicken pieces into the seasoned flour mixture one by one to coat then add to the hot pan — How hot should the pan be? You should hear a small sizzle or see some small bubbles form around the edge of the chicken
- Cook the chicken pieces for 2-3 minutes per side so they both get a slight crisp and are golden to golden brown on each side
- Reserve partially cooked chicken for later to finish cooking
- In the same pan, add a heaping tablespoon of chopped garlic
- After the garlic has started to brown, add the mushrooms — it’s important that mushrooms have room to cook or they’ll steam instead of sautéing so don’t overcrowd the pan
- One the mushrooms have cooked, add a few spoonfuls of the flour mixture to the pan and stir to coat the mushrooms and so that all of the flour gets to cook off some
- After a couple of minutes, deglaze the pan with about half the bottle of Marsala — the pan should start to sizzle rapidly and this is the time for you to use your spatula/spoon to scrape up the good, crusty bits from the bottom of the pan. This is pure flavor…Yum!!!
- Add about 1 cup of chicken stock to the pan, and also season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste. Let the sauce mixture come up to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer and cook for a couple of minutes to get rid some of the sharpness from the wine and stock
- At this point, the floury mushrooms acted as our roux, and the sauce should be starting to thicken. Add the chicken back into the sauce and submerge.
- Cover the pan with a lid of tight aluminum foil and cook for another 20 minutes on simmer or medium-low heat. The chicken will get nice and tender and the sauce will thicken some more
- Once done, serve on a big platter with some risotto, egg noodles or mashed potatoes. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley
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.
- 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 juice
- 2 preserved lemons, chopped — can substitute 2-3 regular lemons, juices and zest grated. Can buy preserved lemons at most specialty food stores
- Cilantro (optional)
- Blend the spices and any other spices you like into a rub and divide in half
- Mix one half of the rub with olive oil to form a loose paste and Coat the chicken on all sides with it
- Sauté chicken in olive oil in a hot Dutch oven or deep pot on both sides until browned but not fully cooked through
- Remove chicken and set aside. You’ll come back to it
- In same pot add garlic and onions and cook until starting to brown
- Add carrots and onions and keep cooking
- Add more of the same spice mixture to the pot with the vegetables and heat until fragrant
- Add preserved lemon, lemon juice, saffron, (zest) and cook for a couple of minutes
- Add broth and make sure to scrape bottom of the pot for flavor bits — add just enough broth so that the liquid covers the ingredients
- Add olives to the pot and make sure to give everything a good mix!
- Add the chicken back in and stir all together — taste the liquid and adjust seasonings to your taste. Maybe add more lemon, salt etc
- Heat on medium high for 5-10 minutes, then cover and lower heat to medium low and simmer for about 45 min – 1 hour
- Add parsley and simmer for another 5 minutes on high uncovered
- 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!