Breaded Sage Chicken with Easy Roast Vegetables

I got the idea to make this recipe from my sister Yasmin who isn’t a big fan of using breadcrumbs.  Fortunately for me, she bought a great quality bag from Eataly to use for her chicken parmigiana recipe, and she happily gave me what was leftover (which was most of the bag).  I think breadcrumbs are a fantastic thing to have on hand for anyone looking to pull a quick and easy meal together.

Breadcrumbs add loads of flavor to anything they coat, and they are delightfully simple to work with.  Just toss whatever you’re eating – porckhops, chicken thighs, fish fillets – with a little bit of egg or oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, coat with breadcrumbs and cook in an oiled skillet until done.  Breadcrumbs go particularly well with lemon juice.  For another suggestion on how to use them check out my recipe for breaded hake with peppery lemons.

This recipe was an automatic winner for me also because it includes one of my favorite foods to cook in the winter,  the sweet potato.  Can I just say, my sweet potato only cost .69 cents from the expensive “gourmet” grocery store down the street, which kind of makes me feel like I’m cheating someone when I eat it.  Inexpensive, packed with flavor, AND really good for you?  Impossible!

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Herbed Asparagus Frittata with Seared Salmon and Feta

 

Another recipe to celebrate the warm weather season, highlighting the deep and plentiful flavor of green asparagus which has popped up on almost every bistrot menu around Paris.  This year more than ever I’m learning to embrace the seasons, which bring along with them the adventure of learning to cook with what nature gives you.  Asparagus is a great ingredient to experiment with because it can be eaten in so many forms, whether puréed in a soup, tossed in a spring salad, or incorporated with eggs as is done here.  If you are left with extra asparagus spears while making this recipe, I suggest tossing the rest of the asparagus with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roasting in a 220°C/400°F oven.  Once cooked you can top with slivers of parmesan and lemon juice, or balsamic vinegar.

The pairing of green asparagus and eggs is effortless and harmonious, and by tossing pan-seared salmon into the frittata you include enough protein and energy to make this meal for a healthy lunch or dinner.  Fresh herbs such as chives, cilantro, or parsley add brightness and a strong summer flavor.  If you decide to add a cheese such as feta, be prepared for a very particular tang with a slightly salty aftertaste.  Other cheeses that would work equally as well would be goat cheese, ricotta, or perhaps blue cheese for the strong-hearted.

I would definitely pair this frittata with a white wine with hints of spices, such as the Californian J Russian River Valley Pinot Gris.  For dessert, you could chop up two nectarines and slice a few ripe cherries, and toss them with 1 tablespoon honey, a drizzle of oil, and a handful of sliced fresh mint.  If you prefer to finish this frittata in the oven, instead of flipping it over and cooking the other side, place the (ovenproof) skillet under the broiler for 2-3 minutes, until set.

Herbed Asparagus Frittata with Seared Salmon and Feta – serves 1

1 salmon filet, about 6 ounces/185 grams
1 tablespoon olive oil plus 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided
1 pinch cayenne pepper
2 eggs plus 1 egg white
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1 tablespoon heavy cream
2 tablespoons crumbled feta
3-4 stalks asparagus, woody stems removed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 lemon

1. Wash and pat dry the salmon fillet. Rub all over with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper.
2. Heat a small 8-inch/20-cm skillet over medium heat. Add salmon filet, and cook for about 2-3 minutes on all four sides until cooked through. Remove salmon from heat, and with a fork gently break the fish apart into small, bite-size pieces.
3. In a small bowl, combine the eggs, herbs, heavy cream, and a pinch each of salt and pepper (and cayenne pepper if you like things spicy). Whisk together with a fork. Add in the salmon bits and feta cheese, and combine gently.
4. Heat the teaspoon olive oil in the same skillet over medium heat. Add asparagus bits to the pan and cook until tender but still crunchy, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
5. Add the egg mixture to the pan; swirl the pan around to coat evenly. Let eggs cook over medium heat, occasionally tilting the pan to one side and pushing the eggs to the center of the pan to let the runny parts reach the bottom of the skillet.
6. Place a large plate over the skillet and invert the frittata onto the plate. Gently slide the frittata back onto the skillet to heat the runny side. Cook until frittata is set, about 2 minutes longer. Serve on same large plate and sprinkle with lemon juice.

>Cauliflower in a Spicy Peanut Sauce

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spicypeanutcauliflowercropped
After making cauliflower soup with porcini mushrooms and parmesan, I had a leftover half of a cauliflower head and was looking for an entirely different way to prepare it so I wouldn’t feel like I was on cauliflower overload.  My recent craving for a peanut dish led to the birth of what you see here, which is a cinch to make and comes together extremely quickly.  It only requires 5 ingredients, thereby completing its blissful ease.
I used coconut milk, but I imagine coconu water would taste great also and would certainly be lighter.  You may just need to let the sauce simmer and reduce a little longer.  Serve over some sticky white rice or steamed vegetables such as green beans and carrots.  However you eat it, I hope you enjoy!
Cauliflower in a Spicy Peanut Sauce – serves 1
1/2-head of cauliflower
1/2-cup coconut milk
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon peanut butter
1 pinch cayenne pepper/red pepper flakes
1.  Bring a pot of water to a boil; cook the cauliflower until tender, about 20 minutes.
2.  Meanwhile, heat the remaining ingredients along with a pinch of salt and pepper in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook until just starting to boil and ingredients are fully combined, about 5-7 minutes.
3.  Once cauliflower is ready, drain and add to skillet with sauce; toss to combine and serve, spooning over any remaining sauce.

>(Slightly) Spicy Hummus

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I think I re-discovered how much I love hummus when I made this last batch.  It’s versatile, elegant, and light while still providing a creamy and rich taste.  I prepared it three different ways: for lunch with some oil-packed sundried tomatoes, marinated artichokes, and pita chips; on a serving platter as a dip alongside some black olive tapenade when I had some friends over (as pictured above), and in a sandwich with the black olive tapenade and more sundried tomatoes.  I imagine this would taste great in a sandwich with falafel.

Making hummus requires little work and can be fun and experimental, as long as you’re ready to continually taste it until it’s made to your satisfaction!  Personally, I don’t like to add garlic to my hummus, because I think it can be overpowering and can diminish the natural taste of the chickpeas.  However, I’ll include garlic as optional in the recipe because it’s entirely up to you if you want to add it or not. 
Also, I’ve made hummus with both fresh chickpeas and canned, and I tasted no difference between the two versions; if they taste the same, why go through any extra work? I say using canned chickpeas is A-OK.  One final note:  I made a decent amount for one person (2 cups) because it’s a great food item to have around whenever you feel like whipping up a quick snack, lunch, or dinner.  Enjoy!
Hummus – makes about 2 cups
1 16 to 18-oz. can chickpeas/garbanzo beans
3 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons hot paprika, or a combo of hot and sweet
2 teaspoons allspice (or quatre-epices)
1 lemon, halved and juiced
salt
fresh ground pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced (optional)
2 teaspoons cumin (optional)
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper (optional)
1.  In a blender, place all the ingredients (but only 1/2 of the lemon juice) and blend until combined. 
2.  Taste, and adjust the seasoning however you’d like by adding additionnal oil, tahini, lemon juice, or spices.
3.  Sprinkle with additional paprika if you would like. 

>Falafel

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My appreciation for falafel certainly changed after I tried some in Paris at  l’As du Fallafel, a.k.a. the purveyor of tiny balls of heaven wrapped neatly in a pita.  It’s a well-known establishment in this city, and one that at least in my humble opinion merits all of the high praise it receives.  A no-nonsense, hustle-and-bustle kind of joint that has tourists and residents alike enamored.



I have never seen l’As du Fallafel empty; at any time of day, be it 11 AM, 4 PM, or midnight, there is always someone devouring the enormous pitas.  And I am not exaggerating, the pita’s are enormous!

This pita pictured here is the Falafel Special, the cheapest and most popular one on the menu (6 euros).  It’s a hefty meal, stuffed with all sorts of treasures like red and white cabbage, fried eggplant, tomatoes, pickles, cucumbers, spicy red sauce, a thick and creamy tsatziki sauce enveloping everything like a wonderful and edible blanket; and of course, tiny fried balls of spiced chickpeas, all wrapped in one of the thickest pitas I’ve ever seen.


Needless to say I think there’s an undefinable and intensely satisfying taste that comes with falafel, and I actually have been making a healthier version for the past couple of years which I’ve adapted from a Moosewood recipe and is a great alternative to this deep-fried original. The good news for anyone who would like to do the same: it is extremely easy to make.  Essentially, you combine all of the ingredients together in a food processor, form them into little balls, and fry them lightly in a skillet.  Sounds good to me! 


When I made this at home, I ate it with sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, pickles, and sundried tomatoes, and I served it with harissa (a spicy red sauce) and a quick home-made tahini sauce (1/2 cup tahini, 1 tsp. lemon juice, pinch salt, and 1 tbsp chopped parsley mixed together).  I think it would go wonderfully as well with some hummus or thick yogurt-dill suace.  However you eat it, I am confident you’ll enjoy the rich chickpea flavor!


Falafel – serves 1-2
1 7-oz. can chickpeas
1/2 onion, minced (you can wrap the other half in foil and save it for another day)
1 garlic clove, minced
3 tbsp chopped parsley
2 pinches cumin
1 small pinch cayenne pepper
1 pinch salt
1 teaspoon turmeric
3 tbsp flour
2 tbsp vegetable oil


1.  Pour everything (except the flour and vegetable oil) into a bowl or food processor, and mash or process until everything is combined together and pasty.
2.  Add flour and mix until combined – the paste should be able to form easily into little balls at this point – if not, add more flour by the tablespoon-full.
3.  Form into 4 balls of about 1 1/2-inch diameter
4.  Heat oil in a large skillet until it’s smoking hot; add falafel balls, flatten slightly with a spatula, and cook until golden, about 10 minutes on each side. 


Bon week-end a tous!

>Ratatouille

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My first dinner guest arrived in Paris last night! My aunt Elizabeth decided to spend the night in Paris (she was coming from her hometown of Brighton, England) and as soon as she told me she was coming, my mind started racing, trying to think of various dinner options to prepare for her.
Because my aunt is a vegetarian, my choices were thankfully narrowed down. I browsed through The New Moosewood Cookbook (by Mollie Katzen, Ten Speed Press, Berkely California; 1977), and as soon as I saw a recipe for ratatouille, I knew I had to make it. I also love the animated film with the same title, featuring a talking French rat, so I took it as fate and went out to buy my groceries.

When I arrived back home, groceries in hand, I dove in to work, dicing up the vegetables and hoping that the meal would come together nicely. And if the picture of the ratatouille doesn’t do it justice, I hope my words can. The silkiness of the eggplant combined with the mild spice of cumin and chili powder create a smoky sensation in your mouth, leaving a nice aftertaste that changes in heat and dimension as time goes on. It’s so good, I dreamed about it last night!

Serve it with a nice salad (I made mine with butter lettuce, basil, cherry tomatoes, and a dressing of olive oil, white wine vinegar, dijon mustard, chopped shallots, salt & pepper), and please, I beg of you, serve this dish with a fresh baguette; nothing tastes better than dipping a piece of bread in the sauce, finishing the meal off perfectly.

The dish requires a bit of prep work to cut the vegetables and herbs, but it comes together so easily and you only need one large skillet to make it. It’s so yummy, and if you’re making it for one person, even better – you’ll have leftovers which taste so good for lunch or dinner the next day.

Merci à tous, et je vous souhaite un très bon dîner !

To make the ratatouille, you’ll need olive oil, 2 garlic cloves, 2 medium onions, 1 small eggplant, salt, basil, thyme, 1 small zucchini, 1 bell pepper, 1 7-oz can tomato sauce, fresh parsley, cumin, chili powder, and cayenne pepper.

Chop up the garlic, onions, 1 1/2 tsp basil, and 1 1/2 tsp thyme, and cut the eggplant, zucchini and bell pepper into small cubes (try to make them around the same size so they cook at the same speed). Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, add the onion and garlic, and saute over medium heat until onions are slightly golden, about 5 minutes.

Add the eggplant, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp. chili powder, and cayenne to taste, and stir. Cover and cook for 15-20 minutes ,stirring occasionally.

Add the zucchini, bell peppers, black pepper, and tomatoes. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes more, or until the zucchini and bell pepper are tender.

You can serve it right away, or serve it cold – it’s delicious either way! I’ll be in Deauville for the next two days, and am hoping to get some new inspiration for French cooking. I’ll be sure to keep you posted!