Dirt Candy’s Zucchini & Pasta Noodles with Garlicky Yogurt Sauce

I celebrated a milestone birthday earlier this summer. Part of my birthday celebration was inspired by this dish. 🙂

The James Beard-nominated chef and owner of Dirt Candy in NYC, Amanda Cohen, was featured on Sara Moulton’s PBS series. She prepared a cocktail along with this zucchini dish from her menu. Dirt Candy is a very unique vegetarian restaurant and I knew the only way I could get my entire family to dine there was for a birthday meal. We went for a birthday brunch celebration and then spent the day enjoying NYC.

Cohen explained that although she is not a vegetarian, she feels that a chef can be much more innovative when creating dishes without being limited by simply pairing sides with a protein. The brunch menu included a mushroom coffee cake on our visit. My son ate the whole thing! Our favorite dish was the Brussels sprout tacos, served with lettuce wraps and a platter of small bowls of topping choices. Delicious. We finished our meal with cucumber sorbet topped with a birthday candle. 🙂

The zucchini pasta recipe was adapted from Sara Moulton.com. I modified the proportions and the method. The saffron made the dish exceptional. I also made homemade Greek yogurt labneh to incorporate into the dish. The labneh recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit via epicurious.com, contributed by Tom Scherlitz.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

To Make Greek Yogurt Labneh: (Makes about 1 1/2 cups)

  • 2 cups plain 2% Greek yogurt
  • cheesecloth
  1. Line a large sieve with cheesecloth; set over a medium deep bowl.
  2. Place yogurt in sieve. Gather edges of cheesecloth to cover yogurt. Place in refrigerator and let drain for 2-3 days. (I let it drain for 48 hours.
  3. Gently squeeze out any excess liquid; discard liquid in bowl (yogurt will be very thick and resemble soft goat cheese).

For the Zucchini Pasta Dish:

  • 2 to 3 medium zucchini or 4 cups baby zucchini (I used 2 1/2 medium zucchini)
  • 6 T extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • pinch of saffron
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups labneh, recipe above
  • 1 to 2 pounds zucchini spiral noodles
  • 8 to 12 oz angel hair pasta
  • 1/4 cup minced cilantro
  • 1/4 cup chiffonade basil or mint
  • 2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup squash blossoms sliced thinly, optional
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. If using medium zucchini, slice in half and then into 1/4″ half moons. If using the baby zucchini , cut into rounds.
  2. Toss the cut zucchini with 4 T of the olive oil.
  3. Grill over high heat until the zucchini has developed char marks, about 3-4 minutes.  Set aside to cool.
  4. Meanwhile, cook the angel hair pasta according to the package directions. Drain, reserving 2 cups of pasta water.
  5. In a pan over medium heat add the remaining 2 T of olive oil, saffron and the garlic. Once the garlic becomes fragrant, about 1 minute, turn the heat to low and add the labneh and 1 cup of the reserved pasta water.
  6. Stir slowly, incorporating everything together.
  7. Toss the sauce with the zucchini noodles, the angel hair pasta, the herbs, the lemon juice, and the lemon zest.
  8. Adjust seasonings and then divide between 4 bowls.
  9. Sprinkle each bowl with the squash blossom ribbons, if using, as well as minced herbs, as desired.

Butter Chicken

This version of Indian butter chicken was lusciously creamy and subtly spicy. My entire house smelled like butter while it cooked- wonderful! According to the article, butter chicken was created in the early 20th century as a way to soften leftover tandoori chicken with tomatoes, butter, and cream. Genius.

I served it over brown Basmati rice along with warm naan on the side to soak up all of the sauce. We also had roasted asparagus.

The recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Rick Martinez. I marinated the meat for 3 hours, reduced the number of cardamom pods, and used the fenugreek leaves but omitted the fenugreek seeds.

For the Marinade:

  • ½ cup whole-milk Greek yogurt
  • 4 garlic cloves, grated
  • 1 tablespoon fenugreek leaves, optional
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs

For the Sauce and Assembly:

  • ½ cup (1 stick) cultured or unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 3-inch cinnamon stick
  • 3 to 5 green cardamom pods
  • 1 whole clove
  • 2 teaspoons fenugreek seeds, optional
  • 2 medium onions, sliced
  • 2 serrano chiles, split lengthwise (seeded, if desired)
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 garlic cloves, grated
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon fenugreek leaves, optional
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 2 28-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • chopped cilantro, Brown basmati rice, and naan, for serving

To Make the Marinade:

  1. Whisk yogurt, garlic, fenugreek leaves, if using, ginger, and salt in a medium bowl.
  2. Add chicken and toss to coat.
  3. Cover and chill at least 1 hour and up to 3 hours.

For the Sauce and to Serve:

  1. Melt 4 T butter in a large wide pot over medium heat.
  2. Cook cinnamon, cardamom pods, clove, and fenugreek seeds, if using, stirring, until slightly darker and fragrant, 1–2 minutes.
  3. Add onion and chiles, season with salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is golden and beginning to caramelize, 8–10 minutes.
  4. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, until very fragrant and ginger starts to turn golden and sticks to bottom of pot, 2–3 minutes.
  5. Add fenugreek leaves, if using, garam masala, paprika, and turmeric and cook, stirring, until very fragrant, about 1 minute.
  6. Add tomatoes, breaking up into pieces with a spoon, and cook until brick red and most of the liquid is evaporated, about 1 minute.
  7. Using a potato masher or large spoon, smash tomatoes and continue to simmer, uncovered, until sauce is the consistency of a thick ragù, 40–50 minutes.
  8. Discard cinnamon stick (leave other whole spices).
  9. Transfer mixture to a blender and purée until smooth. (I used a Vitamix.)
  10. Cut remaining 4 T butter into pieces. Add butter and cream to blender and purée until creamy; season with salt.
  11. Return sauce to pot and bring to a simmer. Meanwhile, preheat broiler.
  12. Arrange chicken in a single layer on a wire rack set inside a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet.
  13. Broil until chicken starts to brown in spots (it will not be cooked through), 7–8 minutes per side.
  14. When cool enough to handle, cut into ¾” pieces.
  15. Add chicken to simmering sauce, cover, and cook until chicken is cooked through, 8–10 minutes.
  16. Top chicken and sauce with cilantro. Serve with rice and naan alongside.

Note: Butter chicken can be made 3 days ahead. Let cool; cover and chill.

Vinegar Chicken with Crisp Roasted Mushrooms

It’s all about the sauce for me, and it’s all about the sauce in this dish. I try to adapt most skin-on chicken recipes to use my go-to protein, boneless, skinless, chicken thighs, but the skin is essential in this preparation.

This recipe was adapted from the New York Times, contributed by Alison Roman. I used red wine vinegar and stock in the sauce and also added garlic. We ate it with a giant green salad instead of the lemon-dressed lettuce in the original recipe but I included the gem lettuce option below.

I served this tangy chicken and roasted mushrooms with crusty sourdough baguette (to soak up the sauce), roasted potatoes, and a dollop of Greek yogurt. Amazing!

Yield: 6 servings

For the Chicken:

  • 3 1/2 to 4 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken (use any combination of legs, thighs or drumsticks, or breasts halved crosswise)(I used 8 bone-in chicken thighs)
  • Kosher salt and ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 medium red onions, cut into 1-inch wedges
  • 8 large garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar or white distilled vinegar
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock or water
  • 1/2 bunch thyme, plus leaves for garnish

For the Roasted Mushrooms:

  • 2 pounds mixed mushrooms, such as shiitake, maitake, button, chanterelle or oyster, torn into large pieces or quartered (I used 24 oz cremini mushrooms and 10 oz button mushrooms, quartered)
  • 3 T olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Lemony Salad Greens with Sumac & to Serve:

  • mesclun salad greens or 2 to 3 heads Little Gem lettuces, ends trimmed, quartered lengthwise
  • 2 T fresh lemon juice
  • 1 T finely grated lemon zest
  • Kosher salt and ground pepper
  • sumac, for sprinkling
  • Olive oil, for drizzling
  • crusty bread, for serving
  • Greek yogurt, labneh, or sour cream, for serving
  1. Dry chicken with paper towels and season chicken with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. (I used a large and wide enameled cast iron pan.)
  3. Working in batches, add chicken skin-side down and cook until skin is golden brown and releases easily from the pot, 7 to 10 minutes. Using tongs, turn chicken to brown on the other side, another 4 to 8 minutes, depending on what cut you’re using. As the chicken browns, transfer it to a large plate.
  4. Add onions and garlic to the pot and season with salt and pepper. Cook, without moving them so they have a chance to brown, 4 to 5 minutes.
  5. Add vinegar and stock/water, then use a wooden spoon or spatula to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot.
  6. Bring to a simmer and return chicken to the pot, skin-side up, nestling all the pieces in there. (They don’t need to be totally submerged.) Scatter thyme around and place the lid on top. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook at a gentle simmer until chicken is cooked through and tender, with an internal temperature of 165 degrees, 20 to 25 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, roast the mushrooms. Heat the oven to 425 or 450 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  8. Toss mushrooms with olive oil on a parchment paper-lined, rimmed baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. Roast, tossing once or twice, until the mushrooms are deeply browned and crispy on the outside but tender on the inside, 15 to 20 minutes depending on the type of mushroom and strength of your oven. (I roasted potatoes in the same oven.)
  9. If serving the salad, toss Little Gems with lemon juice and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper and arrange on a large platter. Sprinkle with sumac and drizzle with olive oil before serving. (I served the chicken with green salad instead.)
  10. Remove chicken from heat and season the cooking liquid with salt and pepper as needed.
  11. Transfer chicken, onions and thyme to a large serving platter, spooning cooking liquid over the top, or alternatively, serve directly from the pot, with the mushrooms and salad alongside you like. Add toast and something creamy if you choose.

Additional Suggestions to Complete the Meal:

  • Bread: Slice any good, crusty loaf of your choosing about 3/4-inch thick and toast until golden brown. Rub with a cut garlic clove and drizzle with olive oil. Garlicky or spicy bread crumbs would also be welcome if you’re feeling carb-inclined. I served the dish with sliced sourdough baguette.
  • Something creamy: Chicken loves more fat, especially this very tangy chicken. A bowlful of any seasoned creamy ingredient like sour cream, full-fat yogurt or labneh sprinkled with chives is excellent for spooning onto or underneath the chicken, over lemony lettuces and onto toast. I served the chicken with a dollop of Greek yogurt.
  • Quick pickles: For a quick, light pickle, toss thinly sliced vegetables such as radishes or fennel with a little thinly sliced shallot and season with a good splash of vinegar, salt and pepper.

Sheet Pan Za’atar Chicken with Garlicky Yogurt

Yes! I have many more weeknight chicken dishes to share. This one uses the genius technique of incorporating pan juices to create an incredible sauce with za’atar, coriander, and citrus.

This wonderful dish was reminiscent of a deconstructed gyro. It would also be incredible served with tomatoes, cucumbers and naan or pita. I served it with green salad, roasted potatoes, and asparagus.

The recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Aaron Crowder, Katie Jackson, and Nick Perkins. I used a sheet pan, substituted boneless, skinless chicken thighs for bone-in, and modified the proportions in the sauce. Fabulous!

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs or 4 chicken legs (thigh and drumstick; about 2½ lbs total)
  • 1 or2 medium red onions, cut into 1″-thick wedges
  • 2 heads of garlic, halved crosswise, plus 2 cloves
  • 1 to 1 1/2 lemons, quartered, seeds removed
  • Kosher salt
  • ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1½ cups plain whole-milk Greek yogurt
  • 1 1/2 T za’atar
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest or 1/2 T lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp finely grated lime zest or 1/2 T lime juice
  1. Preheat oven to 325°, preferably on convection.
  2. Pat chicken meat dry with paper towels. Arrange chicken, onions, halved garlic heads, and lemon on a rimmed sheet pan or in a 13×9″ baking dish; season liberally with salt and pepper (remember to season both sides of chicken).
  3. Pour in oil and toss everything to coat.
  4. Turn garlic cut side down and nestle it in so it is in contact with the baking dish.
  5. Roast, “skin side down,” rotating pan halfway through, for 20 minutes if using boneless meat. Roast until meat is almost falling off the bone (if using bone-in meat), 50–60 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, finely grate 1 garlic clove into a small bowl. Add yogurt, a big pinch of salt, and 1 Tbsp. water and mix well. Set aside yogurt sauce.
  7. Remove baking dish from oven and transfer onions, garlic, and lemon to a plate. If using boneless, skinless meat, flip the chicken meat to roast on the opposite side.
  8. Increase oven temperature to 425° and continue to roast chicken until skin is golden brown, 10–15 minutes more.
  9. Transfer chicken to a cutting board and let rest 10 minutes. Set aside pan with juices.
  10. Finely grate remaining garlic clove into another small bowl. Add za’atar, coriander, lemon zest juice, and lime zest juice.
  11. Pour reserved juices in pan into za’atar mixture until you’ve reached an oily consistency (about 3T). Mix in a pinch of salt.
  12. Spread reserved yogurt sauce over a platter and arrange chicken on top.
  13. Scatter onions, garlic, and lemon around the chicken; drizzle with za’atar oil.

Rocket Soup (Shorbat Jarjir)

This soup was absolutely heavenly. It was a purée of all of my favorite greens with added silkiness from a single potato. Perfection!

This recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Yasmin Khan, author of Zaitoun. I weighed all of the greens, added fresh lemon juice, and increased the garlic. I also incorporated my homemade turkey stock but vegetable stock could be easily substituted to make a vegetarian version. The original recipe recommends the use of spicier, mature arugula. I was upset that I didn’t make a double batch. Next time! 🙂

Yield: 4 servings

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated fresh nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 medium russet potato, chopped into 1/2-inch dice
  • 4 cups homemade chicken or vegetable stock
  • 7 ounces arugula (I used wild baby arugula)
  • 5 1/4 ounces fresh spinach (I used baby spinach)
  • 1 ounce cilantro sprigs (about 1/2 packed cup)
  • freshly squeezed juice from 1/2 a lemon
  • plain whole-milk Greek yogurt, for serving
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium. (I used an enameled cast iron pot.)
  2. Add onion and garlic, and cook, stirring often, just until tender, about 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in turmeric, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and allspice; cook, stirring often, 2 minutes.
  4. Add potato and stock, and bring to a simmer. Cook until potato is tender, about 10 minutes.
  5. Reserve a handful of arugula for garnish. Add spinach, cilantro, and remaining arugula to pan. Bring to a simmer over medium, and cook 10 minutes.
  6. Working in batches, transfer soup to a blender. (Alternatively, use an immersion blender to purée the soup.) Secure lid on blender, and remove center piece of lid to allow steam to escape. Place a clean kitchen towel over opening. Process until smooth.
  7. Incorporate the fresh lemon juice.
  8. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed, and divide among 4 bowls.
  9. Top each serving with a generous spoonful of Greek yogurt, some of the reserved arugula, and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.

Baked Cinnamon Sugar Donuts

My daughter is obsessed with donuts- specifically donuts with pink icing and sprinkles. Her new bicycle bell is a life-size pink frosted donut with sprinkles! 🙂

I must say that she was quite pleased with this cinnamon sugar variation. When we debated over whether or not they were too heavily coated with cinnamon sugar, both of my kids informed me that such a problem was not even possible. 😉

This recipe is from Sally’s Baking Addiction. Using my mini donut pans, this recipe made 12 donuts. I substituted 1/2 cup of buttermilk instead of a combination of yogurt and milk and I reduced the amount of butter in the topping. They made a very special breakfast.

Yield: 8 standard size donuts or 12 mini donuts

For the Donuts:

  • 1 cup (125g) all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup (65g) packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) buttermilk (or skim, 1%, 2%, or whole milk, almond milk, soy milk, or coconut milk), at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (60g) yogurt or sour cream (nonfat, low-fat, vanilla, plain, Greek or regular yogurt), at room temperature (I used another 1/4 cup of buttermilk)
  • 2 T (30g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

For the Coating:

  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4-5 T unsalted butter, melted

To Make the Donuts:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C), preferably on convection. Spray a donut pan with non-stick spray. Set aside.
  2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  3. Whisk the egg, brown sugar, milk, and yogurt together until smooth. Add the melted butter and vanilla, whisking until fully combined.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Do not overmix. The batter will be very thick.
  5. Spoon the batter into the donut cavities—I highly recommend using a large zipped-top bag for ease. Cut a corner off the bottom of the bag and pipe the batter into each donut cup, filling 2/3 to 3/4 of the way full.
  6. Bake for 9–10 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. Allow to cool for about two minutes and transfer to a wire rack set on a large piece of parchment paper or on a large baking sheet.
  7. Bake the remaining donut batter and transfer to the wire rack. Allow donuts to cool down until you can handle them.

To Coat with Cinnamon Sugar:

  1. Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a medium bowl.
  2. Brush the melted butter, on the top or on the top and bottom, as desired; dunk into the cinnamon sugar mixture coating all sides.
  3. Donuts are best served immediately.

Notes:

  • Leftovers keep well covered tightly at room temperature for up to 2 days.
  • You can freeze the donuts for up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and warm up to your liking in the microwave, usually a few seconds.

Punjabi Chickpeas with Potato (Chole or Chana Masala)

The freshly mixed masala spice blend in this recipe was wonderful. I absolutely love full-flavored vegetarian meals like this traditional dish- and this is such a delicious version. It was heavenly and rich served with a dollop of whole milk Greek yogurt on top.

This recipe was adapted from Milk Street: The New Home Cooking by Christopher Kimball. (another successful dish!) We ate it with brown Basmati rice and warm naan.

Yield: Serves 4

  • 1 large red onion
  • 4 T sunflower, canola, grapeseed or other neutral oil, divided
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 3/4 pound russet potatoes (about 2 medium potatoes), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 T finely grated fresh ginger
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely grated
  • 1 T tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • two 15 1/2 oz cans chickpeas, drained
  • 1 T lime juice, plus lime wedges, to serve
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro leaves, plus more to garnish
  • chopped fresh tomatoes, thinly sliced Serrano chilies, and whole-milk Greek-style yogurt, for serving, as desired
  1. Using a food processor or the large holes of a box grater, grate the onion, then transfer to a mesh strain and drain.
  2. In a small bowl, stir together 1 tablespoon of the oil with the coriander, cardamom, paprika, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, cayenne, 1 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
  3. In a 12-inch skillet over medium-high, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil. Add the cumin seeds and cook, shaking the pan, until the seeds are fragrant and darken, 30 to 60 seconds.
  4. Add the drained onion and cook, stirring frequently, until the moisture has evaporated, 1 to 3 minutes.
  5. Add the potatoes, reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions begin to brown and a fond forms on the bottom of the pan, 6 to 8 minutes.
  6. Add the ginger, garlic, and tomato paste, then cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
  7. Clear the center of the pan, then add the spice paste tot he clearing and cook, mashing and stirring until fragrant, about 15 seconds.
  8. Stir in the vegetables.
  9. Add the water and bring to a boil, scraping up all of the browned bits.
  10. Add the chickpeas and return to a boil, then cover, reduce heat to low and cook until the potatoes are tender and the oil separates from the sauce at the edges of the pan, 13 to 15 minutes.
  11. Off the heat, stir in the lime juice and cilantro.
  12. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
  13. Serve with lime wedges, chopped tomatoes, chiles, and yogurt, as desired.

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