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.

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.

Za’atar Chicken Schnitzel with Israeli Salad

I made all of these sautéed chicken dishes months apart, but it seems right to share them at the same time. 🙂

My Austrian sister-in-law has traditional schnitzel with freshly made mayonnaise and cucumber salad for dinner every Christmas Eve. It is absolutely delicious. I loved this Middle Eastern variation.

This recipe was adapted from Bringing it Home: Favorite Recipes from a Life of Adventurous Eating by Gail Simmons with Mindy Fox. I substituted chicken thighs for chicken cutlets and cooked the dish in a 12-inch cast iron skillet. Perfect.

This schnitzel would also be wonderful served as a sandwich in a pita with hummus.

Yield: Serves 4

For the Israeli Salad:

  • 1 red, yellow, or orange bell pepper, cut into 1/3-inch cubes
  • 1/2 English cucumber, cut into 1/3-inch cubes
  • 1/2 small red onion, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint
  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 T fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp za’atar
  • 1 tsp sumac, optional
  • Kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

For the Schnitzel:

  • 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • Kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup panko
  • 1 1/2 T za’atar
  • freshly grated zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 5 boneless, skinless chicken thighs or 4 chicken cutlets, about 1 pound
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • lemon wedges, for serving

To start the salad:

  1. In a large bowl, combine the bell pepper, cucumber, onion, tomatoes, parsley, and mint.
  2. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

To make the schnitzel:

  1. Heat the oven to 200 degrees. Place an ovenproof platter or a baking sheet int he oven to warm.
  2. In a wide, shallow bowl, stir together the flour, 1 tsp salt, and a generous pinch of pepper.
  3. In another shallow bowl, whisk together the eggs and a pinch of salt.
  4. In a third shallow bowl, combine the panko, za’atar, lemon zest, and a pinch of salt.
  5. Place each piece of chicken between 2 pieces of plastic wrap. Using the flat side of a meat pounder or a rolling pin, gently pound each piece of chicken to 1/4-inch thickness.
  6. Pat the meat dry and season both sides lightly with salt and pepper.
  7. Dredge in the seasoned flour, shaking off excess.
  8. Dip in the eggs, letting excess drip off, then gently press into the panko mixture to completely coat.
  9. Transfer the chicken to a large plate.
  10. Heat the 1/2 cup of oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium to medium-high heat, until hot but not smoking. (I used a cast iron skillet over medium heat.)
  11. Fry the chicken in 2 batches, turning once, until cooked through and crispy, about 2-3 minutes per side.
  12. Drain each batch on paper towel-lined plates, season with salt, then transfer to the platter in the oven to keep warm.

To finish the salad:

  1. Add the 2 T oil, lemon juice, za’atar, sumac, and a generous pinch each of salt and pepper to the vegetable mixture.
  2. Toss to combine.

To serve:

  1. Serve the schnitzel with the salad piled on top (or vice versa!) with lemon wedges on the side.

Chicken Saltimbocca with Crunchy Pea Salad

I have several weeknight chicken dishes to share. I’m starting with this classic Italian dish.

This is a home-cooked version of an incredible restaurant dish, substituting chicken for veal. Saltimbocca translates to “jumps in your mouth,” the perfect description for this amazingly flavorful prosciutto and sage wrapped meat.

The recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Aaron Crowder, Katie Jackson, and Nick Perkins. I substituted chicken thighs for chicken breasts and used a combination of parsley and cilantro instead of fresh mint. We ate it with sautéed broccoli rabe and roasted potatoes. The chicken was crispy on the outside and moist and tender on the inside. Delicious!

Yield: Serves 4

  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken thighs or 2 (8oz) skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 3 large eggs, beaten to blend
  • 2 cups panko
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • Kosher salt
  • 8 sage leaves
  • 4 to 8 thin slices prosciutto (enough to wrap the chicken)
  • 2 cups vegetable oil
  • 4 scallions, very thinly sliced on a diagonal
  • 8 oz sugar snap peas, strings removed, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup parsley, cilantro, and/or mint leaves, torn if large
  • 2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 T fresh lemon juice
  • 1 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • flaky sea salt
  • lemon wedges, for serving
  1. If using chicken thighs, place a thigh on a cutting board between 2 sheets of plastic wrap. Gently pound as thin as possible without tearing the meat, about 1/4-inch thick. Repeat with remaining thighs. (If using chicken breasts, place a chicken breast on a cutting board. Holding a knife parallel to board and working along a long side, cut through center of breast until you are ½” from the other side. Open like a book and place butterflied breast between 2 sheets of plastic wrap. Gently pound as thin as possible without tearing meat—about 1/4″ thick and 8″ wide is ideal. Repeat with remaining breast.)
  2. Place eggs, panko, and flour in separate shallow bowls (cake pans or pie plates work great).
  3. Season meat lightly with kosher salt.
  4. Working with 1 piece of chicken at a time, press 2 sage leaves onto both sides of meat.
  5. Wrap 2 pieces of prosciutto around each cutlet to make a belt that holds in the sage. (I used about 2 1/2 pieces per thigh.)
  6. Dredge in flour, shaking off excess.
  7. Dip in eggs, letting excess drip back into bowl.
  8. Coat in panko, pressing lightly to help it adhere, then shaking off excess.
  9. Place cutlets on a rimmed baking sheet.
  10. Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high until very hot (an instant-read thermometer should register 350°–375°).
  11. Carefully lower 1 breast along the side of the skillet closest to you and let it slide into oil so it’s lying flat. (I cooked 2 thighs at a time.) Swirl oil in skillet carefully so that cutlet is submerged and cook just until bottom side is golden brown, about 2 minutes.
  12. Using tongs, carefully turn and cook until golden brown on the other side, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; season with kosher salt. Let sit 5 minutes. Repeat with remaining meat.
  13. Toss scallions, peas, herbs, lemon zest and juice, and olive oil in a medium bowl; season with kosher salt.
  14. Arrange chicken on a platter and top with pea salad. Sprinkle with sea salt; serve with lemons.

Meyer Lemon Pizzelle

I love a crispy pizzelle! I was first introduced to these traditional Italian cookies by a friend who made them every year for our kids’ preschool Christmas celebration. They were so pretty and delicious that I put a pizzelle iron on my holiday wishlist. 🙂 Eating them with ice cream made me understand why my husband loves waffle cones too. This is a wonderful version with subtle lemon flavor.

This special dessert recipe was adapted from a Food 52 community pick, contributed by Hilarybee. I used lemon extract but may try orange next time. I also increased the amount of Meyer lemon zest and added salt.

The original recipe also recommends serving them filled with pastry cream or mousse or sandwiched with a little bit of lemon curd. Yum!

  • 3/4 cup plus 2 T granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature (I place them in a bowl of warm water)
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure orange or pure lemon extract
  • zest of 2 Meyer lemons
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp coarse salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
  1. Whisk to combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  2. Combine the sugar and eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on medium speed for 1 to 2 minutes until well incorporated. Note: The eggs must be at least room temperature; cold eggs will result in an unworkable batter.
  3. Slowly drizzle the melted butter into the mixture, while mixing on medium speed.
  4. Add the extracts followed by the zest.
  5. On low-speed, add the flour mixture 1/2 cup at a time. Alternate between medium and low-speed while beating in the flour. (I turn it to low while pouring in the flour; medium to incorporate the flour before adding more).
  6. The batter should have a satin sheen to it, but should be light and stiff. If your batter is too liquid, add more flour, a tablespoon at a time until the batter is stiff.
  7. Using a tablespoon scoop, place dollops of batter into the iron. The cookies take about 25-30 seconds in the iron.

Note: Fresh, hot cookies can be rolled or shaped into cups. I shaped them into cups by placing a hot cookie on the base of a juice glass and then topped it with an inverted glass prep bowl. The cookies cool very quickly and maintain the shape.

Meyer Lemon Breakfast Cake

I made this super moist and tender breakfast cake with my precious Meyer lemons. It could be made with regular lemons too, of course. I did think that the tangy glaze was a little over the top, so I modified the recipe to make half of the amount next time.

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, via The View from the Great Island.com. I incorporated whole wheat pastry flour in addition to cake flour and baked the bread on convection in a Pullman loaf pan. Special and tasty. 🙂

For the Cake:

  • zest of 1 Meyer lemon
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup cake flour or all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
For the Glaze:
  • 3/4 cups powdered sugar
  • freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice to thin, start with 1 tablespoon and add more as necessary
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Lightly butter (or spray with cooking oil spray) a Pullman loaf pan or 9×5 loaf pan and line it with parchment paper with long ends so you can lift the bread out later for glazing and slicing. Crease the ends so that they do not fold over onto the cake while it is baking.
  3. Remove the peel from the lemon with a vegetable peeler. A serrated peeler works best for this. You want to remove just the yellow part of the peel, with little of the bitter white part.
  4. Put the sugar and lemon peelings in a food processor and process until the peels are completely incorporated into the sugar.
  5. Put the lemon sugar and butter into a stand mixer and cream until light and fluffy ~ a full 5 minutes.
  6. Beat in each of the eggs, one by one, making sure each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next one. Continue beating for another 2-3 minutes.
  7. Whisk together the flours, baking powder, and salt and add to the mixer, alternately with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Finish mixing by hand, to make sure everything is thoroughly mixed, but don’t over beat.
  8. Turn the batter into the prepared pan, spread out evenly, and bake on the center rack for about 40 minutes in a Pullman pan, or up to 50-55 minutes in a standard loaf pan, or until fully risen and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out without wet batter clinging to it (moist crumbs are fine).
  9. Let the bread cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove, using the parchment paper handles, and let fully cool on a rack.
  10. Meanwhile whisk together the sugar with enough lemon juice to make a thick glaze. Spread the glaze over the cooled bread.

Meyer Lemon Martini

Every year I say that I am going to make something with Meyer lemons but always seem to miss them. I am happy to report that I was able to get them this year and put them to good use. 🙂

This recipe for this bright and fresh cocktail was adapted from Food Network.com, contributed by Scott Leibfreid. I’m a lightweight, so I drank mine over ice. It was simple, perfect, and minimally sweet.

Yield: 1 cocktail

  • 2 ounces vodka (I used lemon vodka)
  • 1 ounce Meyer lemon juice
  • granulated sugar on a small plate to coat the rim of the glass
  • 1-2 Meyer lemon slices, for garnish
  1. In a martini shaker, combine all ingredients except the lemon slices and sugar with a generous amount of ice.
  2. Shake vigorously for a few seconds.
  3. Rub the rim of the glass with a lemon slice and coat with sugar.
  4. Strain the libation from the ice into a martini glass.
  5. Serve over ice and garnish with a lemon slice, as desired.

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