ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH WITH WALNUTS AND TAHINI SAUCE

I never imagined I would call a butternut squash dish “festive”, but it’s the word that came to my mind as I savored it. I blame it on the addition of pomegranate seeds. They turn any dish into a celebration, little jewels of the gastronomic world. Plus their slightly sharp taste complements sweets, complements veggies, meats, hard to imagine something that cannot be paired with these red beauties. Remember Fesenjan? Anyway, in this preparation, I roasted butternut squash as I’ve done many times, in coconut oil with paprika. To me, it’s a trio made in heaven. And no, I do not use smoked paprika for this anymore, I now prefer a milder flavor with the squash. Of course, do as your taste buds instruct you to.

ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH WITH WALNUTS AND TAHINI SAUCE
(inspired by several sources)

1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut in large cubes
1 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
walnut halves or large pieces
1/4 cup tahini
2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
pepper to taste
water if needed to thin sauce
fresh pomegranate seeds
light drizzle of pomegranate molasses for serving (optional)

Heat the oven to 400 F.

Place the pieces of butternut squash in a large bowl, drizzle with the coconut oil, mixing it very quickly because it solidifies fast. Season with paprika, salt, and a little pepper. Transfer the squash to a baking dish that holds the pieces in a single layer. Roast for 20 minutes, then add walnuts, mixing gently with the squash. Roast for about 10 minutes more, until the squash is golden, with edges turning slightly brown.

Meanwhile, prepare the tahini sauce mixing tahini, lemon juice pepper and pepper. If it seems too thick, add water until you reach a nice fluid consistency.

When the squash and walnuts are roasted, transfer to a serving dish, drizzle the tahini sauce all over, and top with fresh pomegranate seeds. If you have pomegranate molasses, consider drizzling a little bit on top, a nice additional contrast of color and flavor.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This could be a great side dish for Thanksgiving, for those trying to move away from the classics, or perhaps in need to increase the variety of vegetarian-friendly sides. Of course, it’s odd to mention Thanksgiving in December, but the color-scheme of this dish makes it hard not to. Come to think of it, roasted sweet potatoes would work wonders too replacing the squash. And dried cranberries could play the role of pomegranate. The tahini dressing is perfect to tie the whole thing together in a very luscious way. We enjoyed this hearty side dish with store-bought roast chicken. Admittedly, this could be considered a sin in the home of a food blogger, but we love the convenience of it, and our store does a pretty decent job preparing it. So, we make our life easy and often bring one home for our dinner.

Plan ahead and reserve some tahini sauce (as well as extra pomegranate seeds) in case you want to call it lunch next day… I did, and it was absolutely delicious, love the contrast of a cool sauce with the warm squash.

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MINI-FRITTATAS WITH BROCCOLI AND CHEESE

Another great recipe from Kalyn, who knows her way around a low-carb way of life. If you feel like taking a step back from the excesses of Thanksgiving, this is a very nice option for breakfast, brunch, or a light lunch.  I used my beloved tart pan, but  you can  make it in muffin tins, or even go for a single, larger pie type pan, increasing baking time a little bit.

MINI-FRITTATAS WITH BROCCOLI AND CHEESE
(slightly modified from Kalyn’s Kitchen)

2 1/2 cups broccoli flowerets (cut into small, bite-sized pieces)
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
6 T coarsely grated Parmesan cheese
8 eggs
1 cup cottage cheese
1 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp oregano
salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste

 Heat oven to 375F/190C.   Spray tart pan or muffin cups with non-stick spray.
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Place the broccoli pieces into a bowl, cover with cling wrap, and microwave on high for about 1-2 minutes, or until broccoli just starts to cook. Divide broccoli among the tart wells. Put a generous pinch of cheddar cheese on top of the broccoli, then add coarsely grated Parmesan on top of the cheddar.
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Put the cottage cheese into a fine-mesh colander, rinse with cold water, and let drain. Break eggs into a glass measuring cup with a pour spout, and beat with a fork until egg yolks and whites are combined. Add drained cottage cheese, thyme, oregano, salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Pour egg mixture over broccoli and cheese, dividing the eggs evenly among the tart wells.  Stir gently with the fork so ingredients are evenly distributed.
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Bake for about 30 minutes, or until eggs are firm and frittatas are starting to get slightly browned on top. Frittatas can be kept in the fridge for several days and microwaved to reheat.  Don’t microwave for more than about a minute or the eggs will get rubbery.
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ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

 

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Comments: I absolutely love this type of recipe that I can  make in the weekend and then enjoy for lunch the following week. I prefer to warm them up in my little electric oven, because it gives much better texture than the microwave, but if you follow Kalyn’s advice and keep the microwave time short, it will still prevent the dreadful rubbery-egg-syndrome.
 .
Cottage cheese was – for me – an acquired taste. When I first moved to the US, I did not like it at all.  But for one reason or another I kept trying it and started to enjoy its unique texture and mild taste. Nowadays I can even eat it straight from a spoon, as long as it is crowned with a little shower of salt and coarsely ground black pepper. A little za’atar would not hurt either.  In this preparation, it offers a perfect creamy texture to the frittata.
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I love to pair these babies with some juicy tomatoes, but the time for that is unfortunately over…. Must wait for Spring, which obviously cannot come quickly enough for me (sigh).
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WHOLE-LEMON MARINADE: LONG OVERDUE

For years, and I mean many years, I’ve been trying to find a recipe from Mario Batali, one that I am sure I watched him prepare on live TV probably mid 90’s. Google searches, cookbook searches, nothing ever gave me the recipe I remember. At some point I started to doubt myself. Did I really see him make it? Maybe I dreamed the whole lemon (literally) thing.  Tired of this inner battle, I decided to come with a recipe myself. And I am here to tell you, it worked like a charm! I’ve made this marinade three times over a period of two weeks. Love it. If you are into citric flavors, consider this my gift to you…

GRILLED PORK TENDERLOIN WITH WHOLE-LEMON MARINADE
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

2 whole lemons, washed, cut in four pieces
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (or to taste)
2 teaspoons honey (or agave nectar, or maple syrup)
salt and pepper to taste
pork tenderloin, butterflied

Place all ingredients (except pork, obviously) in a food processor or blender. Blend until reasonably smooth. You will have the lemon pieces still pretty evident.  Don’t worry about it.

Add the meat into a bag, cover with the marinade and leave it for a few hours in the fridge or for one hour at room temperature.

Scrape most of the marinade off, season the meat lightly with a bit more salt and grill until cooked the way you prefer. We like our pork beyond medium-rare, so we go for a total of 16 minutes on a super hot grill.

Allow the meat to rest, cut in thin slices and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

A peek inside the blender

Comments: This is a hit of lemon like no other. I’ve used both food processor and blender to make it, not sure which one I prefer. They both worked well, I think the blender is easier to clean, but make sure yours can handle the job of dealing with a whole lemon. Our Vitamix doesn’t even blink. Not that a blender has eyes, but oh, well. Figuratively speaking. On the third time making this marinade, I used one lemon and one lime. You can see the specks of lime green in the photo above. It brightens up the flavor even more, but I advise you to start with lemons alone and see how you like it. As if you are cooking Mexican food, go for the Serrano first, to see if you can handle the  Habanero… 😉

I also used the exact same marinade on chicken thighs. The method is my default. Skin down on a roasting pan covered with aluminum foil for 45 minutes to 1 hour at 300 F, then flip the pieces over, remove the foil and increase the temperature to 400 F until the skin is all brown.  A final encounter with the broiler if you are so inclined.

We really love the intensity of the lemon flavor in this preparation. Quite evident, particularly in the pork tenderloin.  I know this will be in our constant rotation, as both types of protein (pork tenderloin and chicken thighs) are favorites, I make each once per week, almost without fail.  For the pork, I can make the marinade at lunch time, leave the meat in the fridge and have dinner ready in less than 30 minutes. Chicken thighs are usually a weekend thing, but come to think of it, if I adapt it for sous-vide, that too can be at our table on a weeknight. Stay tuned!

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😉

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CHEESY LOW-CARB ZUCCHINI TARTS

After a week of fun and over-indulging a bit in Colorado, it was time to get back into a more attentive approach to cooking for a few days. For my body, nothing works better than controlling carbs. I respond quite well to it, and don’t find it that hard to do. Whenever I feel like reducing carbs, I think of Kalyn’s blog, her site is a great source of wonderful recipes. I had this one saved in my Pinterest board for a while, and  even got the exact same pan she used. It was too cute to resist. And I must tell you, it works great, very sturdy, I can see it will be around my kitchen for many many years, and maybe it will find its way into Greenlee’s home one day. If you don’t know, Greenlee is my 2 and a half-year old grand-daughter. Yeap, that’s how sturdy this pan seems. But back to the recipe. If you like omelettes and frittatas, this one is for you. And, of course, you don’t need to splurge and get the pan, use a large muffin tin, or you might even pour it into a pie dish, I suspect you can fill two regular size pans, although not too deeply. You might have to adjust the baking time a little. It is easy to judge when it’s done – just a little jiggly in the center, and getting a nice golden brown look on the surface.

CRUSTLESS LOW-CARB ZUCCHINI TARTS
(slightly modified from Kalyn’s Kitchen)

4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled and softened
3 small zucchini, julienned or cut with spiral cutter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tsp. Herbes de Provence
1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (or red pepper flakes)
salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup coconut milk (or heavy cream)
8 eggs, well beaten
6 T coarsely grated sharp white cheddar
1/4 cup sliced green onions, plus more for garnish if desired

Heat the oven to 375F/190C. Crumble 4 oz. of feta cheese into a large glass measuring cup or a bowl and let it come to room temperature.  Heat olive oil in a non-stick frying pan, add the zucchini, sprinkle with Herbes de Provence, Aleppo pepper, a little salt and black pepper to taste.  Cook the zucchini a few minutes over medium-high heat, just until it’s barely starting to soften.

Spray the tart pan with olive oil  and divide the cooked zucchini among the tart wells. Top with a generous tablespoon of coarsely grated sharp cheddar and a pinch of green onions. Then use a fork to stir the now-softened goat cheese and add the coconut milk (or heavy cream) and whisk well.  Beat eggs in another bowl and add to the goat cheese/milk mixture a little at a time, stirring until fully blended.

Fill each tart well with the feta-cheese and egg mixture, being careful not to fill too full.  Bake about 30 minutes, or until tarts are firm and lightly browned. Serve hot.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I am quite fond of frittatas and omelettes, but sometimes they can taste too eggy. I know, what kind of a statement is that?  But, there is such a thing as “too eggy,” at least for my taste buds. I find that using coconut milk mellows down quite nicely that flavor, making it more subtle, and the texture quite creamy. Heavy whipping cream does a similar job, but in my personal experience, coconut milk is the winner. The recipe makes six tarts, which means after Phil and I enjoyed two on a Sunday lunch, I still had four left. I kept them in the fridge for four days, wrapped individually in Saran wrap, and they were still excellent on the last day, warmed up for 60 seconds – exactly – in the microwave. I bet they freeze well too.

It is so nice to be able to have lunch at home, these tarts go well with just about anything.  Kalyn conceived them as breakfast items, but since I don’t normally have breakfast, they turn into a perfect lunch item.  Of course, the possibilities are endless as far as what other goodies to add… sun-dried tomatoes, Kalamata olives, maybe some prosciutto or diced ham. Just add whatever you like to the sautéed zucchini and proceed with the recipe.

Kalyn, thanks so much for your constant inspiration, and for “twisting my arm” (virtually at least) to get this great tart pan. Very nice addition to the Bewitching Kitchen

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MIMI’S STICKY CHICKEN, A CALL FROM MY PAST

Paleo-friendly, low-carb & delicious!

Many years ago I used to visit a cooking forum that is long gone. One recipe was a big hit with many of the members: Mimi’s Sticky Chicken. I admit the name is not very sexy, but once you’d read the many stellar reviews, you’d be inclined to disregard the sticky issue and give it a try. Over the years, that exact recipe has been published in websites everywhere, credit not always given to the author. So, without further ado, here you have the original link. I tried to find out Mimi’s whereabouts, but my search skills returned nothing.  As you can see in the link, she created this recipe in the early 80’s, and asked for full credit whenever someone talked about it. It’s only fair.  I used to make it quite often when I was dating Phil and during the early years of our marriage, as the kids absolutely loved it. For some reason, I forgot all about it. It’s been definitely more than a decade since I last had it on our table. But to compensate, I made it twice in the last month. HA!

MIMI’S STICKY CHICKEN
(modified from the original version found here)

2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 whole roasting chicken, about 3 pounds
1 shallot, cut in half
1 lemon, cut in quarters

Combine all spices  in a small bowl. Dry chicken very well, rub the spice mixture over skin and sprinkle a little inside the cavity.  Place in a bag or in a bowl, covered with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

Heat the oven to 250F. It is not a typo. It is a very low oven.  When ready to roast, stuff the cavity of the chicken with the shallots and lemon. Place it breast side down in a roasting pan (I like to use a small rack to keep it elevated, spraying the rack with olive oil to prevent the skin from sticking to it).

Cook for about 5 hours, or until the internal temperature reaches 155 F. Baste occasionally after the first two hours, with the liquid that starts to accumulate in the roasting pan.

If you like to crisp up the skin, carve the chicken in pieces and place under the broiler briefly. It will falling apart, so handle it gently.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Amazing how something we loved so much could end up neglected for years. Two things I’d like to bring up: first, if you don’t have time to refrigerate the bird overnight with the spice mixture, don’t worry, just go ahead with it right away. Second, if you are not around to baste the chicken, it won’t be a serious drawback. When ready to serve, baste a little with the roasting liquid, and go for that brief encounter with the broiler. On your first time making this recipe,  it would be nice to check the temperature and see if after 4 hours the meat is already approaching 155F. If it is, don’t leave it all the way to the five-hour mark. Once you get to know how your oven behaves, you can trust the timing a bit more. Make sure to always roast a chicken of similar size.

As I mentioned before, once the meat is cooked, it will be falling apart. Note in the picture below how the bone broke through the skin.


I also like to squeeze the roasted lemon all over the chicken right before serving, and sometimes will grab a fresh one to make sure to get that extra bite of acidity that goes so well with it.


Dinner is served: Mimi’s Sticky Chicken,
Pan-Steamed Broccoli, and Roasted Butternut Squash… 

 

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ZUCCHINI FRITTATA WITH ROASTED TOMATOES AND GOAT CHEESE

Sometimes inspiration for a meal comes from unexpected sources. My friend Denise sent me a message with a photo of her dinner and four simple words: you must make this. She got it in a publication from her grocery store in England, showcasing their seasonal fresh ingredients. It joined zucchini with roast tomatoes and goat cheese, and looked great.  I ask you, what’s not to love? To make things even more interesting,  the zucchini receives the spiralizer treatment, although you could obviously do a coarse shred or a fine slicing. Don’t let the lack of a spiral cutter stop you. I used my Tarte Tatin pan, which sits patiently in the pantry waiting for the opportunity to shine. It is simply perfect for this type of recipe, so if you own one, open your horizons beyond the classic French dessert.

ZUCCHINI, ROASTED TOMATOES AND GOAT CHEESE FRITTATA
(adapted from Lakeland, UK)

12 cherry tomatoes
1 tbsp olive oil
15g butter
1 medium shallot, sliced
1 large zucchini, spiralized (use green or yellow, depending on availability)
5 eggs
2 tbsp heavy cream
1 tsp herbes de Provence
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
125g goat cheese, crumbled
kalamata olives, pitted and halved, to taste

Heat the oven to 400 F (200 C).  Place the cherry tomatoes on a small roasting tray and drizzle over the olive oil. Cook for 10 minutes and set aside.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a round, non-stick 8-inch pan that can go in the oven,  brushing it over the entire base and up the sides to prevent the frittata from sticking. Cook the sliced shallot over a medium heat until softened. Add the spiralized courgette and cook for 2-3 minutes, until slightly softened.

Whisk the eggs in a Pyrex cup, add the herbs the Provence and season with salt and pepper. Add the eggs to the pan with the crumbled cheese, and top with the roasted tomatoes and black kalamata olives.

Cook over a low heat for 10-15 minutes, until the frittata is beginning to set, but the top is still a little runny. Finish off under a hot oven until the top of the frittata acquires a golden color. Leave in the pan for 1-2 minutes before turning out onto a plate and cutting into wedges.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This goes for our regular rotation, for sure! I think I slightly overcooked the bottom of the frittata this time, but it did not compromise the flavor at all. From the original, I had three modifications. Used herbes de Provence instead of rosemary (a texture thing for me), added a little heavy cream to the egg mixture, and included kalamata olives as topping.  Because, as you might have heard years ago, I am a kalamata-cheerleader. We had a couple of very tiny slices as leftovers, and they were still quite amazing after a brief heating in our small electric oven, just to kill the cold from the fridge.

A very simple and flavorful dish, that you can modify to suit your taste with different veggies, herbs, and maybe adding some coconut milk instead of heavy cream. Yes, that could work quite well…

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ONE YEAR AGO: Playing with Pectinase

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CHICKEN KORMA-ISH

Chicken Korma is a classic Indian recipe, but due to the considerable amount of liberties I took with this classic, I must be upfront about it in the title, to avoid the Food Police coming after me.  For starters, I cooked it sous-vide. I know, what was I thinking?  But I tell you, the perfect texture is worth it. Perhaps you are familiar with the concept of velveting meat before stir-frying? It is widely used in Chinese cooking and does wonders for chicken breast, pork tenderloin, or shrimp, typical types of protein that will often dry up when submitted to the intense heat of the wok. Chicken Korma is not a stir-fry, but the improvement in texture offered by the gentle cooking in the water-bath made me think of velveting. To add insult to injury, I omitted several spices that make Korma a Korma. There you go. Rebel. My middle name. Inspiration came from this recipe at Anova Culinary, a great source for sous-vide cooking.

chicken-korma

SOUS-VIDE CHICKEN KORMA
(inspired by Anova Culinary)

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 shallot, cut into small dice
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 tablespoon Madras curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup Greek yogurt
1/3 cup cashews
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey
1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
Fresh cilantro, for serving

Set the sous-vide to 150°F (65°C).

Heat the oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. When the oil is shimmering, add the shallot and cook, stirring frequently, until softened and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste, salt, ginger, garam masala, curry powder, cinnamon, turmeric and pepper. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until aromatic, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool for 5 minutes.

Transfer the mixture to a food processor or blender. Add the cream, yogurt, cashews, lemon juice, and honey. Process until smooth, about 1 minute. Combine the pureed sauce with the chicken in a large zipper lock bag. Seal the bag using the water immersion technique and place in the water bath. Set the timer for 2 hours to 3 hours.

When the timer goes off, remove the bag from the water bath. Transfer the entire contents of the bag to a serving bowl and garnish with cilantro.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

served

Comments: We adored this recipe. Period. If you look at the original, you’ll notice I substantially reduced the amount of heavy cream. It was plenty rich this way already, and it had enough sauce in the bag to form a luscious sauce. Of course, if you prefer the extra richness given by more cream, go for it.  I also used fewer spices.  On my second time around, instead of cilantro I sautéed a few cashews until golden brown and sprinkled all over when bringing it to the table. Phil liked the second version even better, I cannot decide.  One thing is certain; this will go in our regular rotation of recipes. If you don’t have sous-vide, simply use a regular pan, saute the chicken pieces (you could velvet them before for better texture), then add the ingredients for the sauce and simmer very gently until cooked through.  Yogurt has a tendency to separate, something that might be a bit more likely cooking on the stove top. Indeed, that is another benefit of sous-vide, with such a gentle heat, the yogurt mellows down gently, without putting up a fight and curdling right in front of your eyes…

secondSecond time around… double cashews, ground in the sauce,
and sautéed for serving…


chicken-korma-from-bewitching-kitchen

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