Shortcut Chicken Fatteh

I have another rotisserie chicken dish to share. Rotisserie chicken meat is used as a shortcut to prepare this delicious Middle Eastern dish. I also used store-bought pita chips in the topping. It was very quick to pull together on a weeknight- fast, crowd-pleasing comfort food. 🙂

The topping was the absolute highlight. Quite often, the bread is layered in the base of this dish. This adaptation reverses the sequence in which the finished dish is plated so that the bread and nuts provide a crispy contrast to the brothy base. Great.

The recipe was adapted from everylittlecrumb.com. I used fresh herbs and pita chips in the topping. I also modified the method and proportions and made the lemon-garlic-yogurt sauce ahead of time to heighten the flavors.

Chickpeas and/or roasted eggplant cubes can be substituted for the shredded chicken to make a vegetarian version.

Yield: Serves 6

For the Chicken & Rice:

  • 1 rotisserie chicken, skin and bones removed, meat shredded
  • 4 cups chicken stock, divided
  • 1 cup white rice (I used Aahu Barah Basmati rice)

For the Topping:

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 loaves pita bread, cut into cubes (can substitute store-bought pita chips)
  • 2 cups yogurt (I used a combination of whole milk yogurt and fat-free Greek yogurt)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, crushed with a garlic press
  • 3/4 tsp coarse salt
  • freshly squeezed lemon juice from 1/2 lemon, or more, to taste

To Garnish:

  • paprika
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts or almond slivers, toasted
  • 3 to 4 T chopped parsley and/or mint
  • olive oil, for drizzling, optional
  1. Prepare the chicken by shredding the rotisserie chicken meat.
  2. In a sauté pan, warm the shredded chicken meat in 2 cups of the chicken stock; keep on low heat until serving so the chicken warms through.
  3. Cook the rice in the remaining 2 cups of chicken stock.
  4. To Make the Pita Chips: Toast the pita bread in the oven by placing in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet, and drizzling well with olive oil and tossing to combine. Bake at 350 F for 8-10 minutes or until crispy and golden brown, and set aside. (I substituted store-bought pita chips, broken into cubes.)
  5. Mix together the yogurt with the crushed garlic, salt, and lemon juice. Stir well to combine. (I made this in advance and kept it in the refrigerator.) Adjust the seasoning and amount of lemon juice, to taste, before serving.
  6. Assemble by placing the rice in the base of a deep serving dish. Pour some- or all of- the chicken stock over the top, and scatter the shredded chicken evenly.
  7. Dollop the garlic yogurt on top and smooth out, then top with the crispy pita chips.
  8. Garnish with paprika, chopped parsley and mint, and toasted nuts. Drizzle with olive oil, if desired.

Baked Rigatoni with Eggplant, Tomatoes & Ricotta

More eggplant! This dish is a great vegetarian alternative to a traditional baked ziti. A crowd-pleasing weeknight comfort-food pasta casserole. 🙂

This recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Jonathan Waxman of Barbuto in NYC. I used San Marzano tomatoes instead of beefsteak and modified the proportions and method. I loved that it incorporated pesto.

To make the dish more healthy, Waxman replaces the traditional béchamel sauce with eggplant. The original recipe even suggests using whole-wheat pasta, if desired. Don’t worry… it is still an indulgent baked pasta dish with butter and plenty of cheese. 😉

Yield: Serves 8

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°, preferably on convection.
  2. Butter a 9-by-13-inch ovenproof baking dish. (I used cooking oil spray.)
  3. In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the rigatoni until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain, then transfer to a large bowl.
  4. Toss the pasta with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.
  5. Meanwhile, in a large non-stick skillet or sauté pan, heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil. Add half of the eggplant and season with salt and pepper. Cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the eggplant to the pasta. Repeat with another 1/4 cup of olive oil and the remaining eggplant.
  6. Add the onion, garlic and remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the skillet. Cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is lightly golden, about 5 minutes.
  7. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until they have broken down and thickened to a sauce consistency, 7 to 8 minutes.
  8. Stir in the 4 tablespoons of butter.
  9. Add the tomato sauce to the pasta and eggplant along with the pesto and ricotta; season with salt and pepper and toss well.
  10. Transfer the rigatoni to the prepared baking dish. Top with the mozzarella and Parmigiano-Reggiano and bake for about 20 minutes, until bubbling and golden on top.
  11. Let the pasta stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Braised Harissa Eggplant

I must admit that we have been a little bit frazzled lately during our adjustment to the “back to school” schedule. Especially me. :/

This is the first of several quick weeknight dinners (aka “back to school dinners”) that will hopefully help others in the same situation out there. This recipe was adapted from Mediterranean Every Day by Sheela Prakash, via Food 52.com. I modified the proportions. It gobbled up my CSA box! 🙂

My husband and son ate it over grilled chicken thighs and rice to make it a little bit more hearty. I absolutely loved it served simply over rice.

Yield: Serves 2 to 4 (4 with grilled chicken)

  • 2 tablespoons (45 milliliters) extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 (about 3/4 to 1 pound, or 340 to 454 grams, total) eggplant cut into 1/2-inch (1-centimeter) cubes
  • Kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 large yellow onion or 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tablespoon (7.5 grams) harissa, plus more as needed
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3/4 to 1 pound (340 to 454 grams) plum tomatoes, or Roma tomatoes, chopped (I used a large (3/4 pound) CSA tomato)
  • 1/2 (7.5-ounce, or 212.5 grams) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 bunch (about 4 ounces, or 114 grams) lacinato kale, stemmed, leaves torn into bite-size pieces
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • rice, couscous, quinoa, or bread, for serving, as desired
  • grilled chicken thighs, for serving, as desired
  1. Heat 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of olive oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the eggplant, season with salt and pepper, and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, until browned in spots but not completely tender. Transfer the eggplant to a large bowl and set aside.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of olive oil to the pot.
  4. Add the onion and sauté until softened and translucent,3 to 5 minutes.
  5. Add the garlic, harissa, cumin, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  6. Stir in the tomatoes, chickpeas, and eggplant and bring the mixture to a simmer.
  7. Simmer, uncovered, until the eggplant is meltingly tender and the tomatoes have broken down into a thick, chunky sauce, 25 to 30 minutes.
  8. Stir in the kale and cook until the leaves are bright green and tender, 2 to 3 minutes.
  9. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice.
  10. Taste and season with additional salt and harissa, as needed.
  11. Serve over rice, couscous, quinoa, or bread with or without grilled chicken, as desired.

Grilled Vegetable & Fresh Ricotta Sandwiches

One of our absolute favorite dinner sandwiches is filled with garlicky grilled eggplant and feta cheese. After seeing this recipe, I kept thinking about making this version on freshly baked sourdough bread. I loved the idea of slathering the bread with fresh ricotta cheese too. Yum!

The recipe was adapted from SaraMoulton.com. I used my favorite recipe for fresh ricotta and served the sandwiches on homemade sourdough bread. I added garlic and grilled the vegetables instead of roasting them as well. We ate them with creamy cucumber-avocado salad on the side. It was an amazing vegetarian meal.

Yield: 4 servings

  • 1 small to medium eggplant, sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds
  • 2 medium to large zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds
  • 6 to 8 Campari tomatoes or 6 plum tomatoes, sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds
  • 3 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 large garlic cloves
  • fresh ricotta cheese (see Note)
  • 8 slices of no-knead sourdough bread, crusty bread, or whole grain bread
  1. The evening before serving the meal, start the homemade sourdough bread process, if using. Bake the bread the day of the meal. (Alternatively, use another crusty bread or whole grain bread.)
  2. Place the vegetable slices in a single layer on a cutting board or rimmed baking sheet; season with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. Crush the garlic cloves with a garlic press and spread the garlic over the top of the eggplant slices. Let rest a minimum of 30 minutes (the longer the better).
  3. Meanwhile, prepare the fresh ricotta cheese. I made it according to the recipe but simmered the mixture for approximately 5 minutes, until it was visibly curdling. I strained it for about 15 minutes and omitted the addition of lemon zest. (The longer it is strained, the thicker the consistency.) Set aside.
  4. Brush both sides of the eggplant and tomato slices with olive oil. Toss the zucchini slices with olive oil.
  5. Grill the vegetables separately until slightly charred and tender; grill the eggplant directly on the grates and grill the zucchini and tomato slices using a grill basket. (Alternatively, the vegetables can be roasted on parchment paper-lined, rimmed baking sheets in a 425 degree oven for about 25 to 30 minutes, flipping halfway through.)
  6. Divide the warm ricotta among 4 slices of bread and top with the hot vegetables and remaining 4 slices of bread. Cut the sandwiches in half and serve.

Note: Making fresh ricotta can have varied results- sometimes it has large curds, sometimes it has small curds and occasionally it has no curds. If this should happen to you, don’t panic, just add another tablespoon of fresh lemon juice and the curds will appear.

Ina Garten’s Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

Ina Garten uses the genius idea of roasting all of the vegetables in this lasagna filling, as well as using no-boil lasagna noodles, to remove the excess liquid that often makes a vegetable lasagna too watery. Perfect comfort food.

This recipe was adapted from Make It Ahead: a Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten, via The Kitchn, contributed by Emma Christensen. I used a mandoline to slice the eggplant and zucchini. I also increased the garlic and goat cheese, modified the technique, and used the noodles without pre-soaking them.

It was very cheesy and indulgent so we gobbled it up with a giant green salad. 😉

Yield: Serves 10

  • 1 1/2 pounds eggplant (1 medium/large), unpeeled, sliced lengthwise 1/4-inch thick using a mandoline
  • 3/4 pound zucchini (2 medium/large), unpeeled, sliced lengthwise 1/4-inch thick using a mandoline
  • 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 T dried oregano
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 12-14 ounces no-boil lasagna noodles (I used Trader Joe’s)
  • 16 ounces fresh whole-milk ricotta
  • 10 ounces creamy garlic-and-herb goat cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, lightly packed
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 4 1/2 cups, 40 oz, bottled marinara sauce (I used Trader Joe’s Italian Marinara with Barolo Wine)
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella, very thinly sliced (I used pre-sliced and cut them in half)
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F preferably on convection roast.
  2. Arrange the eggplant and zucchini in single layers on 3 sheet pans lined with parchment paper. (I had 1 2/3 trays of eggplant and 1 1/3 trays of zucchini.)
  3. Brush them generously with the olive oil on both sides, using all of the oil.
  4. Sprinkle with the oregano (I crush it in my hands), 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper.
  5. Roast for 25 minutes, rotating after 15 minutes.
  6. Sprinkle the garlic evenly over the vegetables, and roast for another 5 minutes, until the vegetables are cooked through.
  7. Remove all 3 trays from the oven and lower the temperature to 350°F, preferably on convection.
  8. Combine the ricotta, goat cheese, eggs, basil, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed.
  9. Spread 1 cup of the marinara in a 9×13×2-inch baking dish.
  10. Arrange a third of the vegetables on top, then a layer of the noodles (6 noodles per layer), a third of the mozzarella (9 1/2 pieces per layer), and a third of the ricotta mixture in large dollops between the mozzarella.
  11. Repeat twice, starting with the marinara.
  12. Spread the last 1 1/2 cups of marinara on top and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of Parmesan.
  13. Place the dish on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper, cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
  14. Remove the foil and bake an additional 30-35 minutes, until the lasagna is browned and bubbly.
  15. Allow to rest for 10 minutes and serve hot.

Make-Ahead: Assemble the lasagna completely and refrigerate for up to 1 day or freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost (if necessary) and bake before dinner.

Roasted Shrimp with Salsa Calabrese

Did I mention that I met Bobby Flay this summer? It’s true! It was fun but really not that exciting. 😉 He came to our mall for the 10th anniversary of his first “Bobby’s Burger Palace” restaurant. I stood outside in a huge line in 90+ degree heat with my kids and friends for the opportunity to meet him. I think that I waited so long to share this news because the photo of me with Mr. Flay is terrible. I was also too shy to ask him to write to “the brook cook” in my new Bobby Flay cookbook. Ugh. Overall, we all had good time, I bought a great cookbook, and we got free milkshakes. 🙂

Now seems like the time to share this dish because it’s from his “Fit” cookbook, healthy and tasty. Perfect for the season of resolutions and dietary changes.

The recipe is adapted from Bobby Flay Fit: 200 Recipes for a Healthy Lifestyle by Bobby Flay with Stephanie Banyas and Sally Jackson. I used graffiti eggplant instead of Japanese, grape tomatoes instead of plum, and increased the garlic. I made the dish a little more caloric by serving it over brown Basmati rice. Cauliflower rice would also be a nice option- or without rice as in the original recipe.

Yield: Serves 4

  • 2 graffiti eggplants or 4 Japanese eggplants, about 1 pound, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 12 grape tomatoes or 2 seeded plum tomatoes, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 8 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp to 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, to taste, preferably Calabrian
  • 5 T olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 T red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped, plus whole leaves for garnish
  • 1/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined (I used 21-25 count)
  • 1 tsp ground fennel
  • brown Basmati rice or cauliflower rice, for serving, optional
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the eggplant, tomatoes, bell pepper, onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, and 3 tablespoons of the oil, season with salt and pepper, and toss to coat.
  3. Spread the vegetables on a large, parchment paper-lined, rimmed baking sheet. Roast, stirring a few times, until soft and lightly golden brown, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes.
  4. Transfer the vegetables to a food processor and purée until almost smooth. Add the vinegar and 1/4 cup of water, and continue processing until smooth.
  5. Add the basil and the parsley and pulse a few times to incorporate while still leaving flecks of herbs. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and transfer to a bowl.
  6. In a large bowl, toss the shrimp with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and the fennel and season with salt and pepper.
  7. Spread the shrimp in an even layer on a large, parchment paper-lined, rimmed baking sheet. Roast, turning once, until pink and firm and just cooked through, about 8 minutes.
  8. To serve, spoon sauce over prepared rice, if desired, or in the bottom of a shallow bowl. Top with about 5 shrimp and garnish with whole basil leaves.

Note: The vegetable sauce can be made a day ahead and stored in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Lentil & Orzo Stew with Lemon & Coriander-Spiced Roasted Eggplant

Happy 2019! I have a few healthy “January” recipes to share before getting back to my belated holiday menu recipes. 🙂

This wonderful stew was hearty and healthy. The flavors in the dish were brightened with lemon zest and juice. I also loved that the roasted eggplant was seasoned with crushed coriander seeds- it made it a more special topping.

The recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Yewande Komolafe. I doubled the recipe, increased the garlic and eggplant, decreased the oil, and used green lentils and feta cheese. Excellent.

Yield: 8 servings

  • roughly 3 pounds eggplant (I used 3 medium eggplant), chopped into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 8 T olive oil, divided
  • 2 T coriander seeds, crushed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 medium carrots, finely chopped
  • 2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped
  • 4 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 10 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 2 cups dried lentils (green, black or brown)
  • 10 cups chicken or vegetable stock, or water (I used 4 cups homemade turkey stock & 6 cups chicken stock)
  • 1 cup orzo or other small pasta
  • zest and juice from 2 lemons, plus lemon wedges for garnish
  • ¼ cup shaved ricotta salata or crumbled feta, or to taste
  1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  2. In a large bowl, toss the eggplant with 1/4 cup olive oil and crushed coriander seeds until coated; season with salt and pepper. Arrange in an even layer on 2 parchment paper-lined large rimmed baking sheets and roast until eggplant is tender and golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes, giving the baking sheet a shake halfway through roasting to toss the eggplant pieces for even cooking.
  3. In a large stock pot, heat the remaining 4 tablespoons oil over medium. (I used a large enameled cast iron pot.) Add the carrot, onion and celery. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are softened, about 3 minutes.
  4. Stir in the garlic and tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until tomato paste begins to darken on the bottom of the pan, about 5 minutes.
  5. Stir in the lentils until coated. Pour in stock or water and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower to medium and simmer until lentils are tender, 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the type and age of lentils you use.
  6. Stir in the orzo and cook until softened, 8 to 10 minutes.
  7. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon zest and juice.
  8. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  9. Top with the roasted eggplant pieces and crumbled feta or large shavings of ricotta salata. Serve with lemon wedges for squeezing, as desired.

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