Sheet-Pan Chicken Thighs with Caramelized Zucchini & Basil

This healthy and delicious summer meal was quick to prepare- a great combination. The recipe caught my eye after receiving some beautiful zucchini from a neighbor. Perfect.

I was also able to use my new Japanese mortar and pestle to crack the coriander seeds. Exciting! ­čśë The recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs, modified the roasting time and method, and served the dish over brown Basmati rice to absorb all of the wonderful pan juices.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 2 to 2 1/2┬ápounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (I used 8 thighs)
  • ┬ácoarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large zucchini (about 1 1/2 pounds), sliced into 1-inch rounds
  • 3 large or 5 medium garlic cloves, finely grated, passed through a press or minced
  • 2┬átsp dried mint or oregano
  • 1┬átsp coriander seeds, cracked with a mortar and pestle or the flat side of a chefÔÇÖs knife
  • 1/4┬átsp red-pepper flakes, plus more for serving
  • 3┬áT extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
  • freshly squeezed lemon juice from half of a lemon, plus lemon wedges, for serving, as desired
  • 1/2┬ácup torn or chiffonade fresh basil leaves, for serving
  • 1 cup brown Basmati rice
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. (I set my oven to convection roast with a racks positioned in the center and top third of the oven.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the rice. Bring the chicken stock to a boil and add the rice. Cover, reduce temperature to low and cook for 30 minutes or until cooked.
  3. Pat chicken dry with paper towels, and season all over with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper.
  4. Place zucchini on a parchment paper-lined, rimmed sheet pan, and season with a little more salt and pepper.
  5. In a small bowl, combine garlic, mint or oregano, coriander and red-pepper flakes. Whisk in oil.
  6. Add chicken to the pan with the zucchini pieces and pour garlic mixture over all, tossing until well coated.
  7. Spread chicken and zucchini in a single layer, and roast until chicken for 10 to 12 minutes. (I placed the chicken “skin side down.”)
  8. Remove pan from the oven and flip chicken over (to “skin side up”).
  9. Continue to cook until the chicken is cooked through and zucchini is browned and caramelized, about 10 to 12 minutes more, or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees on an instant read thermometer.
  10. Remove the pan from the oven and squeeze the juice from half of a lemon over the chicken and zucchini.
  11. To serve, fill a rimmed platter with the rice. Top with the chicken and zucchini followed by a drizzle of pan juices over the top.
  12. Garnish with basil and serve with more lemon wedges and red-pepper flakes on the side, as desired.

Farro with Roasted Tomatoes, Pesto & Spinach

I love a dish involving warm dressing and wilted greens. I am also in love with farro- and pesto. This full-flavored vegetarian dish was made for me! Loved it. ­čÖé

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Yasmin Fahr. I used homemade pesto, Campari tomatoes, and several of the modifications and options that were suggested in the original recipe for ingredient substitutions.

It was incredible as a summer dish but could easily be served in any season with all of the possible variations. It can be served warm, cold, or at room temperature. The dish could also be topped with a protein such as grilled chicken, scallops, or shrimp, if desired. We ate it for dinner with roasted CSA vegetables and a green salad. It would also be lovely for a special lunch or brunch. Fabulous.

Yield: Serves 4

  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1┬ácup farro, rinsed (I used Trader Joe’s “10 minute” Farro)
  • 2┬ápints (4 cups) cherry or grape tomatoes or 2 pounds of Campari tomatoes (12-14 tomatoes)
  • 1┬áred onion, peeled, quartered and cut into 1-inch wedges keeping the root intact (I cut a large red onion into 8ths)(can substitute shallots)
  • 2┬átablespoons olive oil, plus more for the farro
  • 1/4 to 1/2┬áteaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • 1/4┬ácup (4 T) store-bought or┬áhomemade pesto, plus more to taste (recipe below)
  • 1┬álemon, zested (about 1 tablespoon) and juiced (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 2┬ápacked cups baby spinach, arugula, Swiss chard (stemmed & chopped), or baby kale
  • 1┬á(4 oz) ball fresh mozzarella or burrata, torn into chunks, or 1/2 cup ricotta salata or feta, crumbled, optional (I used 4 oz crumbled feta)
  • 1/4┬ácup fresh flat-leaf parsley or basil leaves and tender stems, chiffonade or roughly chopped, for garnish
  1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. (I set my oven to convection roast.)
  2. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add the farro and adjust the heat to maintain a medium boil. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom, until tender and not too chewy, about 10 to 30 minutes. (I used Trader Joe’s “10-minute” Farro which cooked in 10 minutes)
  3. Meanwhile, on a parchment paper-lined, rimmed sheet pan, combine the tomatoes and onion wedges with the oil, making sure everything is well coated and glistening, then season with salt, pepper and the red-pepper flakes. Roast until the tomatoes blister and slightly deflate, 20 to 30 minutes.
  4. When the farro is done, drain, then pour into a serving bowl or back into the pot. Toss with some olive oil, then mix in the pesto.
  5. Add the lemon zest and juice, then stir in the spinach (or other greens). Set aside to cool slightly.
  6. Scrape the onions, tomatoes and their juices into the farro; season with salt and pepper as needed.
  7. Add the cheese, if using, then garnish with herbs and serve.

For the Pesto: (Makes about 1 cup)

  • 2 loosely packed cups fresh basil leaves, rinsed and dried
  • coarse salt
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • 2 T toasted pine nuts or walnuts
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, or more to taste
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano
  1. Combine the basil with a pinch of salt, the garlic, the nuts, and about half of the oil in a food processor or blender.
  2. Process, stopping to scrape down the sides of the container if necessary and adding the rest of the oil gradually.
  3. Add more oil if you prefer a thinner mixture. (Sometimes I add a little bit of stock instead to achieve the same result.)
  4. Stir in the cheese.

The pesto recipe is from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman. The amounts can be modified to reduce the volume; only 1/4 cup of pesto is used in the farro dish.

Roasted Salmon with Lemon-Brown Butter Asparagus & Peas

This dish is a fresh and healthy springtime meal. It was also very quick and easy to prepare. I served the salmon and vegetables over rice, making it a complete meal.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Kay Chun. I used Meyer lemons and modified the method and proportions. Nice.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 2 pound salmon fillet, with or without skin (I used skinless)
  • 3 T extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 to 2 1/4 pounds asparagus, tough stems trimmed, stalks sliced 1/4-inch-thick on a slight bias (leave tips whole)
  • 6 T unsalted butter
  • 2 to 3 T freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste, plus wedges for serving (I used Meyer lemons)
  • 3 T drained capers
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 1/4 cup (4 T) coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley, plus more for garnish
  • white Basmati rice, for serving, optional
  1. Heat oven to 450 degrees. (I set my oven to convection roast.) Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil; lightly coat with cooking oil spray.
  2. Arrange the salmon “skin side-down” on the baking sheet. Rub the top surface of the salmon with 1 tablespoon of oil and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Roast the salmon in the preheated oven until medium, 10 to 15 minutes. (I roasted mine for 12 minutes on convection roast.)
  4. While the salmon roasts, prepare the asparagus: In a large skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil over medium to medium-high heat. (I used a 14-inch stainless steel skillet.)
  5. Add asparagus, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Transfer asparagus to a plate.
  6. Reduce heat (if set to medium-high) to medium and add butter to skillet. Cook, stirring, until foam subsides and butter is deep golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. (Be careful not to burn).
  7. Turn off heat and stir in lemon juice, capers, peas, parsley and cooked asparagus. Season with salt and pepper.
  8. Divide rice, if using, and vegetables among plates. Top with salmon and spoon over any remaining pan sauce.
  9. Garnish with parsley and serve with lemon wedges, as desired.

Shrimp & Grits with Garlicky Roasted Poblano-Jalape├▒o Sauce

Annually, we treat ourselves to Southern shrimp and grits over Easter weekend. This year, I served the special dish using purple “unicorn” grits from Millers All Day in Charleston, South Carolina. Festive!

This version was topped with a spicy and garlicky roasted poblano-jalape├▒o sauce which had a terrific balance with the rich, cheesy grits. The shrimp was also cooked in garlic oil. It was a great variation to try for the garlic and sauce lovers in my house. ­čÖé The recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Marc Meyer. I modified the method and proportions.

Yield: Serves 4

  • 4 cups water
  • 1/2 cup whole milk 
  • coarse salt 
  • 1 cup stone-ground white grits (I used stone-ground unicorn grits)
  • 2 ounces extra-sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded (1/2 cup) 
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter 
  • 1 jalape├▒o chile 
  • 1 poblano chile
  • 5 large garlic cloves, thickly sliced 
  • 5 T extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 2 T freshly squeezed orange juice (from 1/2 an orange)
  • freshly ground black pepper 
  • 1 pound shelled and deveined large shrimp, patted dry (I used 21-25 count per pound)
  1. Place oven rack in the highest position and set to broil. Place the jalape├▒o and poblano chiles on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Broil until blackened all over, about 3 minutes per side.
  2. Remove from the oven and wrap in the foil. Allow to steam and cool for 10 minutes, then rub off the skins. Stem and seed the chiles.
  3. In a large saucepan, bring the water to a boil with a pinch of salt. (I used an enameled cast iron pot.)
  4. Whisk in the grits and cook over moderate heat, stirring often, until the grits are tender and very thick, about 15 minutes.
  5. Stir in the milk, cheese, and butter. Season with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. (I used about 1/2 tsp salt.) Cook for an additional 5 minutes, then keep warm.
  6. In a small skillet, cook the garlic in the olive oil over moderate heat, stirring, until the garlic is softened and very lightly browned, about 3 to 5 minutes.
  7. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the garlic to a blender. Add the chiles and the orange juice and puree until smooth. Add all but 2 tablespoons of the garlic oil and puree until creamy. Season the sauce with salt and pepper. (I used a Vitamix.)
  8. Pat the shrimp dry and toss with the remaining 2 tablespoons of garlic oil. Season with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  9. Heat a very large skillet until very hot, about 2 minutes.
  10. Add the shrimp in a single layer and cook until browned and just cooked through, about 45 seconds to 1 minute per side.
  11. To serve, spoon the grits into bowls and top with sauce and shrimp. Serve additional sauce at the table.

Warm Lentil & Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower Salad

This is another dish with a crispy and delicious parmesan topping. Cheese makes everything better. ­čÖé I loved that the base of the dish was an arugula salad. The crunchy roasted almond topping provided a nice contrasting texture too.

I cut the head of cauliflower through the center into two steaks and roasted the additional florets in a formation as close to a plank as well, for presentation purposes. Next time, I may change the orientation of the cauliflower to keep the florets attached to the core.

This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart Living. I used French green lentils, added red pepper flakes, and modified the cooking and serving methods. It was a lovely, fresh and healthy light meal. We ate it for dinner, but it would also be wonderful served for a special lunch, of course. ­čÖé

Yield: Serves 4

  • 3 cups of cored and chopped tomatoes, about 3 beefsteak tomatoes (I used 2 beefsteak and 3 romas)
  • 2 to 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced, plus 1 clove for cooking the lentils, if desired
  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 1/2 cup (8 T) extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch of red pepper flakes, or more, to taste
  • 1 head cauliflower (about 2 pounds), trimmed and cut through the core into 1-inch planks
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked lentils (I used French green lentils)
  • 2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated (3/4 cup)
  • 1 bunch arugula, trimmed (I used about 4 oz wild baby arugula)
  • 1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
  • toasted almonds, chopped, for serving (I used sliced almonds)
  1. Cook the lentils: Place 3/4 to 1 cup of dried lentils with a large smashed (but intact) garlic clove, optional, in a pot covered by 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil and season with salt. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook 25 to 30 minutes, or until tender. (You will have leftover cooked lentils.)
  2. Toast the almonds: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spread almonds in an even layer on a rimmed quarter sheet pan. Toast the almonds, stirring once or twice, about 4 to 5 minutes, or until golden brown and fragrant. Remove and set aside.
  3. Increase the oven temperature to 475┬░F, with a rack placed in the center and another rack in top position. (I set my oven to convection roast.)
  4. In a bowl, toss together tomatoes, garlic, capers, large pinch of red pepper flakes, if using, and 2 tablespoons oil; season with salt and pepper.
  5. Place cauliflower planks on a rimmed baking sheet.
  6. Brush cauliflower evenly with 3 tablespoons oil and season with salt and pepper.
  7. Roast until undersides are golden, 12 to 13 minutes. Remove pan from the oven, flip the cauliflower and push to one side.
  8. Add tomato mixture to other side of the pan.
  9. Reduce the oven temperature to 450 degrees; roast 12 minutes more.
  10. Stir 1 1/2 cups drained lentils into tomato mixture. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons oil; season with salt and pepper.
  11. Sprinkle everything with cheese.
  12. Switch oven setting to broil, and broil on top rack until cheese has melted, 1 to 2 minutes.
  13. Toss arugula with remaining 1 tablespoon oil and vinegar; season with salt and pepper.
  14. Serve the roasted cauliflower planks over lentils and arugula salad, sprinkled with toasted almonds.

Crusty Parmesan Roast Chicken with Lemon & Rosemary

I have made this wonderful roasted chicken twice recently. The grated Parmesan forms a crispy and delicious topping on the skin and the meat is very nicely seasoned with fresh rosemary and lemon zest. I served it with roasted potatoes and vegetables on both occasions.

The recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. If roasting vegetables with a short cooking time, such as asparagus, it would be amazing to roast them in some of the pan juices while the chicken is resting. I drizzled my roasted potatoes and other vegetables with the lemony pan juices after they were cooked. Great.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • zest and juice from 1 lemon, divided
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chopped rosemary, plus 3 to 4 sprigs
  • large pinch of red-pepper flakes, plus more for serving, optional
  • 1 (3 1/2- to 4-pound) whole chicken, patted dry
  • extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • 1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • parsley, for garnish, optional
  1. Finely grate the zest from the lemon and place it in a small bowl. (Save the zested lemon for the drippings.)
  2. Stir in 2 teaspoons salt, pepper, chopped rosemary and red-pepper flakes, if using.
  3. Season the chicken inside and out with salt mixture. Let sit at room temperature for 20 minutes or refrigerate uncovered for up to overnight.
  4. Heat oven to 425 degrees. I set my oven to convection roast.
  5. Place chicken, breast-side up, in a large skillet, sheet pan or roasting pan. (I used a 12-inch cast iron skillet.)
  6. Stuff cavity of chicken with rosemary sprigs. Drizzle breast with a little olive oil.
  7. Roast chicken for 30 minutes.
  8. Remove from the oven and sprinkle chicken all over with Parmesan.
  9. Return pan to the oven and continue roasting until birdÔÇÖs juices run clear when skin is pierced with a knife and the skin is golden, 25 to 30 minutes longer. (I used an oven probe and cooked the chicken until the breast reached 165 degrees.)
  10. Let chicken rest for 10 minutes. (I tented it with aluminum foil.)
  11. Squeeze juice from the zested lemon, to taste, into the pan drippings and season with more salt and red-pepper flakes if you like.
  12. Carve and serve with drippings spooned over the meat. Garnish with chopped parsley, if desired. (I also had extra drippings available at the table.)

Baked Feta & Tomato Pasta with Basil

I first heard about this spectacularly easy viral pasta dish from Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen. I think I was the last to know… My daughter has seen countless people make it on TikTok, of course. ­čśë She was absolutely thrilled to make it with me!

The original recipe is called “Uunifetapasta,” created by the Finnish blogger Jenni H├Ąyrinen.┬áThe foundation of the dish is a block of feta placed in the center of a baking dish surrounded by seasoned tomatoes. After being baked, the cheese and burst tomatoes are combined to create a creamy and delicious sauce to serve over pasta. Deb Perelman incorporated chickpeas in her version- nice.

This version from the Washington Post, contributed by┬áAaron Hutcherson,┬árecommended using Greek sheep’s milk feta to maximize the creaminess. I used an enameled cast iron baking pan, modified the proportions and incorporated za’atar to the seasoning on the tomatoes prior to baking. It was super creamy and tasty- and as simple and easy to prepare as expected.

Yield: Serves 6

  • 3 pints (750 to 800 g) grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 5 large garlic cloves, halved lengthwise
  • 8 T (1/2 cup) extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 block (10.5 oz) Greek feta cheese
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • za’atar, to taste, optional
  • 17 to 18 oz medium-length dried pasta, such as campanile, rigatoni, or rotini (I used Gigli)
  • fresh basil leaves, for serving
  1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  2. In a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, combine the tomatoes, garlic and 6 tablespoons of the olive oil. (I used an enameled cast iron baking pan.)
  3. Sprinkle the tomatoes with some salt and toss to coat. Sprinkle with za’atar, if using.
  4. Place the feta cheese in the center of the tomatoes and garlic, top with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and sprinkle the entire dish with red pepper flakes and a little black pepper.
  5. Bake for about 40 minutes, until the garlic has softened and the tomatoes have burst their skins.
  6. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water and then drain the pasta.
  7. Remove the baking dish from the oven and stir the feta and tomatoes with a wooden spoon until evenly combined. Taste and adjust seasoning, as necessary.
  8. Mix the sauce with pasta, adding the reserved pasta water as needed if it looks a little dry. (I incorporated quite a bit of pasta water.)
  9. To serve, top with plenty of basil leaves.

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