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.

Peruvian Roasted Chicken with Spicy Cilantro Sauce

I have a lot of kitchen gadgets- a LOT- but until recently, I didn’t have a good pair of kitchen shears. I was thrilled to be able to halve this chicken with my new shears. Just like all of the chefs on television. 😉

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I used ancho chile powder instead of pasilla chile powder, used dried aji amarillo powder instead of paste, increased the amount of garlic in the marinade, and lowered the roasting temperature.

I incorporated my CSA cilantro into the incredible creamy green sauce. I served the chicken on a bed of sautéed CSA leeks and greens (collard and turnip) with roasted CSA potatoes on the side. It was a celebration of my vegetable share. 🙂 Spectacular.

Yield: 4 servings

For the Chicken:

  • 10 garlic cloves, finely grated or minced
  • 3 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon aji amarillo paste or another chile paste such as sriracha or sambal
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice (from 1/2 of a lime)
  • 1 teaspoon aji panca paste or 1 teaspoon pasilla or ancho chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 (3 1/2- to 4 1/2-pound) chicken, halved (see Note) or 4 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken parts
  • extra-virgin olive oil, as needed

For the Sauce:

  • 1 cup cilantro leaves and tender stems
  • 3 to 4 jalapeños, seeded and diced
  • ¼ cup/1 ounce crumbled feta cheese (I used sheep’s milk feta)
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 ½ tablespoons lime juice, more to taste
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano or basil
  • ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt, more to taste
  • ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ½ tablespoon aji amarillo or other chile paste (I used aji amarillo powder)
  • ½ teaspoon honey
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • lime wedges, for garnish
  1. For the marinade: In a large bowl, whisk together garlic, soy sauce, aji amarillo paste, lime juice, aji panca paste, mustard, cumin, pepper and salt.
  2. Add chicken halves, turning to coat them all over with marinade. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to 12 hours. (I marinated the chicken for 10 hours.)
  3. Heat the oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection roast. Remove chicken from marinade and pat dry with paper towels. Arrange skin-side up on a parchment paper-lined rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with oil.
  4. Roast until skin is golden and chicken is cooked through, tenting with foil after 30 minutes, for 35 to 45 minutes (if using chicken parts, remove the breasts after 25 to 35 minutes), or until the internal temperature is 145 degrees. Remove from oven and let sit, loosely covered with foil, for 10 minutes before serving.
  5. While chicken is roasting, make the sauce. In a blender, blend cilantro, jalapeños, feta, garlic, lime juice, oregano, salt, mustard, aji amarillo paste, honey, and cumin until smooth. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in oil until mixture is emulsified. Taste and adjust the seasonings with salt or lime juice or both.
  6. Carve the chicken and serve with the sauce and lime wedges on the side.

Note: To cut a chicken in half, use a sturdy pair of poultry shears to cut lengthwise through the breastbone. Turn over and cut again, along the backbone. If desired, cut along the other side of the backbone and remove it.

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Skillet Graham Cake with Peaches & Blueberries

I have been looking for an excuse to make this skillet cake since last summer. Graham crackers… peaches and blueberries… streusel topping… and baked in a cast iron skillet? Irresistible. I finally had to make it after having too many ripe peaches on the counter. 😉 What an excuse!

This recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Chicago chef Stephanie Izard. (I have loved her since she won Top Chef.) The cake is baked on the grill in the original recipe. Delicious!

Yield: Serves 10 to 12

For the Streusel:

Make the Streusel:

  1. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, beat all of the ingredients together at medium speed until crumbs form.
  2. Press together to form a large mass.
  3. Transfer to 
a bowl and break into clumps.
  4. Refrigerate until chilled, about 15 minutes.
Prepare the Fruit:
  1. Preheat an oven to  300° F, preferably on convection.
  2. In a medium bowl, toss the peaches with the blueberries, sugar, lemon juice and cornstarch.
  3. In a 12-inch cast-iron skillet, melt the butter over low heat. Remove from the heat.
  4. Scrape the fruit and any juices into the skillet.
Make the Cake:
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk both flours with the graham cracker crumbs, baking powder and salt.
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter with both sugars and the honey at medium speed until fluffy.
  3. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then beat in the buttermilk, oil and vanilla.
  4. Scrape down the side of the bowl and beat in the dry ingredients until just smooth.
  5. Spread the batter in the skillet in an even layer.
  6. Scatter the streusel evenly on top.
  7. Place the skillet on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes to 1 hour and 30 minutes, until 
a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean. (The cake is cooked off of the heat in a grill for the same amount of time in the original recipe.)
  8. Let the cake cool for 1 hour. Cut into wedges and serve with vanilla ice cream.

I’m bringing my special skillet cake to share at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #184, co-hosted by Jhuls @The Not so Creative Cook and Petra @ Food Eat Love. Enjoy!

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Charmoula-Spiced Salmon with Za’atar Roasted Vegetables

I am always thrilled to make a healthy and flavorful dish that incorporates TONS of vegetables from my CSA share. This recipe seemed to be created for the box I had just received which contained kohlrabi, baby bok choy, parsley, and cilantro. This dish was loaded with wonderful spices as well. It truly was one of the best salmon dishes I’ve ever prepared.

This recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Chef Jared Wentworth of Chicago’s Longman & Eagle. I used one large piece of salmon instead of fillets, grilled the fish instead of pan-cooking, modified the oven temperature, used potatoes and kohlrabi instead of beets, whole carrots instead of baby carrots, and modified the proportions in the sauce. It was beyond delicious!

For the Roasted Vegetables:
  • 1/2 pound red potatoes (5) or baby golden beets, scrubbed and quartered
  • 1-2 kohlrabi, peeled and cut into medium-pieces (I used 1 1/2)
  • 3 large carrots, halved lengthwise and quartered
  • 1/4 pound shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and quartered
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons za’atar
  • coarse salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 pound baby bok choy, chopped into ribbons (I used 9 heads)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
For the Charmoula
:
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed parsley leaves
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed cilantro leaves
  • 2 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 4 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 T fresh lemon juice
  • coarse salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
For the Salmon:
  • 1 1/3 pound whole wild salmon fillet (or four 5- to 6-ounce salmon fillets)
  • coarse salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper, optional (I omitted it)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
To Make the Vegetables:
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°, preferably on convection roast.
  2. On two large rimmed baking sheets, toss the beets or potatoes, kohlrabi, carrots and mushrooms with the olive oil and za’atar and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Roast for about 30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.
  4. Immediately transfer the vegetables to a large bowl and fold in the bok choy until just wilted.
  5. Stir in the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.

To Make the Charmoula:

  1. In a food processor, combine everything except the salt and pepper and puree until nearly smooth. (I used a mini-food processor.)
  2. Scrape into a medium bowl and season with salt and pepper.

To Make the Salmon:

  1. Season the fish with coarse salt and black pepper.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk the ground coriander and cumin with the paprika and crushed red pepper. Season the salmon with the spice mixture.
  3. Meanwhile, preheat a grill set to moderate heat.
  4. Place the fish on the hot grill skin side down and press gently with a spatula to flatten. Cook the fish over moderate heat until the skin is golden, about 3 to 4 minutes.
  5. Flip the fish and cook until medium within, about 3 minutes longer.
  6. Serve the fish topped with charmoula over the roasted vegetables. Serve extra charmoula on the side, as desired.

Note: The charmoula can be refrigerated overnight. Bring to room temperature before serving.

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Grilled Swordfish with Za’atar Salsa Verde

I love a fresh herb sauce. This Middle Eastern variation on a classic salsa verde brightened up the grilled fish. We ate it over brown Basmati rice with sautéed collard greens and green kale on the side.

This dish was adapted from Bon Appetit, contributed by Alon Shaya. I used homemade za’atar. I also used swordfish in lieu of red snapper, grilling instead of broiling, and modified the proportions in the salsa verde. Healthy and tasty. 🙂

Yield: Serves 2

  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts
  • 2 6-ounce swordfish steaks, patted dry
  • coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • â…“ cup loosely packed cilantro, finely chopped
  • â…“ cup loosely packed parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated or chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoons za’atar
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  1. Toast pine nuts in a 400 degree oven (I used a toaster oven.) or a dry small skillet over medium-low heat, tossing often, until golden and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Let cool. Coarsely chop, if desired.
  2. Heat a gas grill or broiler. Season fish with salt and pepper, then sprinkle with coriander.
  3. Drizzle 1 T oil onto one side of the fish, flip and repeat on the opposite side. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Grill fish until cooked through, about 3-4 min per side for a 1″ thick steak. (Alternatively, place fish on a small rimmed baking sheet and broil until cooked through, about 8–10 minutes.)
  5. Meanwhile, mix together cilantro, parsley, garlic, za’atar, red pepper flakes, and remaining 4 T olive oil in a mini food processor or small bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Stir lemon juice and pine nuts into salsa verde and spoon over fish.

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Coarse Mustard & Brown Sugar Glazed Pork Tenderloin

This simple (five ingredient!), mildly sweet, pork tenderloin dish was a quick and elegant meal. After marinating, it was ready to serve in 30 minutes. We ate it with roasted potatoes and a mound of sautéed greens on the side. Wonderful.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Marian Burros. It was first published in 1989 but recently republished as a classic.

Yield: Serves 6

  • 2 pork tenderloins (about 2 1/2 pounds total)
  • 6 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons whole grain mustard
  • 4 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 4 tablespoons dry sherry

  1. Pat the tenderloins dry with paper towels.
  2. Combine the remaining ingredients in a ziplock bag and shake to combine. Add pork tenderloins and turn to coat well with marinade. Marinate for 15 minutes or as long as overnight. (I marinated the meat for 6 hours with great success.)
  3. Drain pork of excess marinade and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Broil the tenderloins in the oven – about 10 minutes on one side, then turn, baste with marinade, and broil for approximately 5 additional minutes, or until the internal temperature is 135 degrees. (Alternately, heat a charcoal or gas grill to high; bank coals or turn off burner on one side.)
  5. Remove and lightly tent with foil. Let rest about 10 minutes before slicing into 1/4- to 1/2-inch slices.

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Harissa Marinade

This second belated grilling post I would like to share is a marinade which is simple to make and fabulously full-flavored. It’s hard to ask for more! 🙂

The first time I prepared it was for a farewell party for friends moving to Florida. I marinated chicken thighs and grilled them cubed, on skewers, so that it would be easier to eat them without sitting down. We served them alongside Palestinian Chicken skewers, using one of my all-time favorite marinades.

The second time, I marinated whole chicken tenders. Even easier! 🙂 Just as delicious too. This recipe was adapted from Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking by Michael Solomon and Steven Cook. In both cases, I served the grilled chicken with Tzatziki.

  • 1 1/2 cups roughly chopped yellow onions (I used 2 medium)
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup harissa (I used Whole Foods powdered harissa)
  • 3 T fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs or chicken tenderloins
  • bamboo skewers, soaked in water for 30 to 6o minutes
  • tzatziki, for serving, as desired (link above)
  1. Combine the ingredients in a blender or Vitamix.
  2. Puree until the mixture is smooth and as thick as a milkshake.
  3. Toss 2 pounds of skinless, boneless, chicken thighs cut into 1-inch chunks with the marinade in a 1-gallon ziplock bag.
  4. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or for up to 2 days.
  5. When ready to grill, wipe off the excess marinade, thread the chicken pieces on prepared skewers.
  6. Grill over direct heat until the chicken is lightly charred on the exterior and is cooked through, about 8 minutes total.
  7. Serve with tzatziki, as desired.

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