One-Skillet Chicken Thighs with Buttery Orzo

I had saved this recipe a couple of months ago just waiting for my CSA box fennel to arrive. As soon as I saw it on my list of veggies to expect, I knew exactly what I was going to make. 🙂 I love how the orzo is cooked like risotto in this dish- the results were amazing.

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appetit, contributed by Claire Saffitz. I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs instead of bone-in. I also increased the amount of fennel and used a sweet onion instead of a leek. We ate it with sautéed collard greens as well as sautéed yellow summer squash, also from my CSA box, of course. Easy, fresh, and delicious.

Yield: 4 to 5 servings
  • coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 5 to 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, patted dry
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 fennel bulb, chopped, plus fronds, chopped (I used 1 1/2 bulbs)
  • 1/2 Vidalia onion or 1 leek, white and pale green parts only, chopped
  • 8 ounces orzo
  • ⅓ cup dry white wine
  • 2Âœ cups chicken stock, divided
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  1. Preheat oven to 400°, preferably on convection.
  2. Season the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides.
  3. Heat 2 T butter in a medium cast-iron skillet (I used a 10-inch skillet) over medium-high.
  4. Nestle chicken, skin side down, in skillet in a single layer with no gaps (if you can’t quite fit them all, wait until chicken shrinks slightly, then puzzle in the remaining pieces). Cook until meat is opaque around the edges, about 4-5 minutes.
  5. Turn chicken browned side up and transfer skillet to oven; bake, uncovered, until chicken is cooked through, about 4 additional minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate.
  6. Set same skillet over medium; combine chopped fennel bulb and leek/onion in skillet and sprinkle in some salt and pepper. Cook, tossing occasionally, until leek is looking golden around the edges, about 5 minutes.
  7. Add orzo and cook until pasta is darkened (it will take on a brown hue) to a nice nutty brown in spots and toasty smelling, about 3 minutes.
  8. Pour in wine and cook, stirring, until liquid is evaporated, about 1 minute.
  9. Add broth Âœ cup at a time, stirring constantly and letting broth absorb before adding more, until orzo is tender and broth is mostly absorbed but pan is not dry, 10–15 minutes.
  10. Remove skillet from heat, taste and adjust seasoning. Mix in lemon juice and remaining 1 T butter, then chopped fennel fronds.
  11. Nestle and pile chicken on top and finish with lemon zest.
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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
  • ⅓ cup loosely packed cilantro, finely chopped
  • ⅓ 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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Orecchiette with Greens, Mozzarella & Crispy Chickpeas

I love a recipe that gobbles up the greens from my CSA share. I have made this dish a couple of times using whatever combination of greens I had available. Recently, I used turnip greens, kale and spinach but I have also used chard and baby collard greens in the past. The classic combination of basil, tomatoes, and mozzarella was a nice complement to the sautéed greens as well.

This quick dish was adapted from a Food and Wine staff favorite recipe, contributed by Marcie Turney. I doubled the recipe, decreased the red pepper flakes, and increased amount of fresh mozzarella. SO delicious.

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

  • 1 pound orecchiette
  • vegetable oil, for frying
  • 1 15 oz can chickpeas, drained and patted dry
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • coarse salt and ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 pound greens such as Swiss chard, kale, turnip greens, spinach, stemmed and leaves coarsely chopped (or more, as desired)
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 16 large basil leaves, torn or chiffonade
  1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the orecchiette until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium, deep skillet, heat 1/4 inch of vegetable oil until shimmering. Add the chickpeas and cook over high heat until crisp, 4 minutes. Transfer them to a paper towel–lined plate, sprinkle with the cumin and coriander and season with salt and black pepper. Discard the oil and wipe out the skillet.
  3. Add the olive oil, garlic and crushed red pepper to the skillet. Cook over moderately high heat until fragrant, 30 seconds.
  4. Add the tomatoes and cook until softened, 3 minutes.
  5. Add the greens and cook, stirring, until wilted, 5 minutes. Season with salt and black pepper.
  6. Add the pasta and 1/2 cup of reserved cooking water to the skillet and cook over moderate heat, stirring until incorporated.
  7. Add the mozzarella and basil and toss. Add more pasta water, if necessary.
  8. Spoon the pasta into bowls, sprinkle with the chickpeas and serve.

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Happy Mother’s Day & Cooking for a Junior Girl Scout Cook Badge

Happy Mother’s Day! I wish all of the mom’s out there a beautiful and relaxing day. ❀ While Mr. BrookCook and my kids take care of me and the cooking today, I have time to share a special mother-daughter cooking project.

In order to earn a Junior Girl Scout Cook Badge, my daughter (with my help) had to cook a complete breakfast, a healthy dinner, and a delicious dessert. Understandably, she wanted to make meals that she wanted to eat! This was actually a great opportunity for her as she is harder to please when menu planning. It was a lesson in itself to see how much time and work is required to put together an entire meal. 🙂

We made Blueberry Cornmeal Muffins for breakfast with fruit salad on the side. She loved cutting all of the fruit herself. For the “healthy” dinner, she prepared a No-Boil Macaroni and Cheese (recipe below) with Simple Caesar Salad. Healthy enough, right? She loved it so much we have already made it again.

We made a Lemon Meringue Pie, using a store-bought pie crust, for dessert. Not only did she make the pie, she typed out the recipe to share with her Girl Scout Troop. A big project! She did a great job and I was very proud of her. I hope that she continues to enjoy cooking more and more in the future. ❀

No-Boil Macaroni & Cheese (adapted from Bon Appetit)

Yield: 8 Servings

For the Pasta:

  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 T coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or more, to taste
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 2 cups shredded extra-sharp white cheddar, divided

For the Topping:

  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 2 T chopped flat-leaf parsley
  1. Preheat oven to 400°, preferably on convection.
  2. Melt 1/4 cup butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.
  3. Add flour; cook, whisking constantly, for 1 minute.
  4. Whisk in milk and 3 cups water.
  5. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook, whisking often, until a very thin, glossy sauce forms, about 10 minutes.
  6. Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Remove sauce from heat.
  7. Toss pasta and 1 1/2 cups cheese in a 13x9x2-inch or other shallow 3-quart baking dish. Place on a rimmed baking sheet.
  8. Pour sauce over (pasta should be submerged; do not stir) and cover with foil.
  9. Bake until pasta is almost tender, about 20 minutes.

For the Topping:

  1. Melt remaining 1/4 cup butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add garlic, panko, and parsley and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

To Finish the Dish:

  1. Remove foil from dish. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese, then panko mixture.
  2. Bake until pasta is tender, edges are bubbling, and top is golden brown, about 10 minutes longer.
  3. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.

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Cheesy Chicken Enchilada Skillet

Somehow, we seem to always have a conflict with a having timely Cinco de Mayo feast. This year, my son has his Swim Club Dinner Dance (at an Italian restaurant, by the way), so, we had our feast early. This way, there is also time to have a second feast. Good planning, right?

This quick and easy, crowd-pleasing dish was perfect for our early Cinco de Mayo celebration. It would be perfect for a Mexican-inspired weeknight meal any other day of the year too. We enjoyed it with chips and guacamole, of course. 😉

This recipe was adapted from Epicurious.com, contributed by Anna Stockwell. I reduced the oven temperature, and increased the proportions as well as the pan size. Great.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings
Total Time: 30 minutes
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 1/2  teaspoons kosher salt
  • 24 oz (1 1/2 jars) medium red salsa (I used Trader Joe’s Garlic Chipotle Salsa)
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 6 corn tortillas, torn into quarters
  • 6 cups shredded cooked chicken (from 1 rotisserie chicken)
  • 1 to 2 cans (15.5-ounce each) black beans, drained, rinsed (I used 1 1/2 cans)
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend
  • cilantro, for garnish, optional
  1. Preheat oven to 425°F, preferably on convection.
  2. Combine salsa, sour cream, and 6 T water in a large bowl; stir to combine. Fold in tortillas, chicken, and beans until thoroughly coated.
  3. Heat oil in a 12″ ovenproof skillet over medium. (I used cast iron.)
  4. Add onion, garlic, cumin, and salt and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes.
  5. Transfer onion mixture to the chicken and bean mixture; reserve hot skillet. Fold to incorporate evenly.
  6. Return mixture to reserved skillet and transfer to preheated oven until warmed through, about 5 minutes. Mixture should be bubbling on the edges.
  7. Remove skillet from the oven. Sprinkle cheese evenly over the top.
  8. Return skillet to oven and bake until cheese is lightly browned, melted and bubbling, about 7 to 10 minutes.
  9. Top with cilantro, if desired.

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Roasted Chicken Thighs over Herbed Pea & Spinach Puree

Another green sauce! The last one, for now… 🙂

This is a wonderful, quick and healthy dish. As a sauce fan, I loved the idea of serving the roasted chicken over a colorful and tasty vegetable purée.

This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart Living. I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs instead of bone-in, and reduced the oven temperature to accommodate roasting potatoes and asparagus simultaneously. I also incorporated pan drippings into the vegetable puree. Great.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 1 package (10 ounces) frozen peas
  • coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest, divided, and 1 T fresh lemon juice, plus wedges for serving, optional
  • 3 T freshly grated Pecorino Romano, divided
  • 3 T  extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
  • 1 cup (packed) baby spinach
  • 10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees, on convection roast.

  2. Cook peas in a small pot of boiling salted water 1 minute. Drain; transfer to a food processor.

  3. Add 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest, 1 tablespoon juice, 1 tablespoon cheese, and 2 tablespoons oil. Season with salt and pepper; process until texture is similar to hummus. Add cilantro and 1 packed cup spinach; puree.

  4. Pat chicken dry; season with salt and pepper.

  5. Stir together remaining 2 tablespoons cheese and 1/2 teaspoon zest.

  6. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add chicken; cook until browned, about 4 to 5 minutes. Spoon off fat and incorporate into puree, to taste. Discard excess fat left in the pan.

  7. Flip chicken and sprinkle with cheese mixture. Transfer to oven; roast until cooked through, about 15 minutes.

  8. Serve chicken over puree, with lemon wedges, if desired.

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Irish Soda Bread Muffins

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Soda bread is an essential start of the celebration in our house. 🙂

This recipe was adapted from King Arthur Flour. I loved the muffin adaptation- and the coarse sugar topping. I weighed the dry ingredients, reduced the baking time, and used turbinado sugar for the topping. Yummy.

  • 6 1/4 oz (177 g, 1 1/2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3 oz (85 g, , 3/4 cup) white whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/3 cup (2 5/8 oz) granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups currants (first choice) or raisins
  • 1/2 to 2 teaspoons caraway seeds, to taste
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup (8 oz, 227 g) buttermilk, yogurt, or sour cream
  • 6 tablespoons (3 oz, 85 g) butter, melted; or 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • turbinado sugar, for topping
  • butter and/or jam, for serving
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F, preferably on convection. Lightly grease a standard muffin pan with cooking oil spray; or line with papers, and grease the papers.
  2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar, currants or raisins, and caraway seeds.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk (or equivalent) and melted butter (or equivalent).
  4. Quickly and gently combine the dry and wet ingredients; honestly, this won’t take more than a few stirs with a bowl scraper or large spoon. As soon as everything is evenly moistened, quit; further stirring will cause the muffins to be tough.
  5. Using a cookie scoop, distribute the batter into the prepared pan, filling the cups about 3/4 full; the stiff batter will look mounded in the cups.
  6. Top with turbinado sugar, if desired.
  7. Bake the muffins for 14-15 minutes on convection, or up to 20 minutes in a standard oven, until a cake tester inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Remove them from the oven.
  8. Tip the muffins in the pan, so their bottoms don’t get soggy. Wait 5 minutes, then transfer the muffins to a rack to cool.
  9. Serve them plain, or with butter and/or jam.

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