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. ūüôā

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. ūüôā

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.

Pressure Cooker Arroz con Pollo

Chicken and rice is an absolute favorite in my house. This chicken meat was incredibly tender- falling off the bone- in this pressure cooker version. The rice was full-flavored and fabulous.

This recipe was adapted from The Essential Mexican Instant Pot Cookbook: Authentic Flavors and Modern Recipes for Your Electric Pressure Cooker bye Deborah Schneider. I used a stove top pressure cooker. I branched out from my comfort zone and used bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs. ūüėČ I also substituted a Cubanelle for an Anaheim chile and increased the garlic.

We ate it with a green salad. Wonderful!

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tsp saffron threads
  • 2 1/2 to 3 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (8 thighs) or 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 3 tsp coarse salt, divided
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 small white or red onion, diced
  • 8 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Cubanelle, Anaheim, or Poblano Chile, stemmed, seeded, and diced
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, cored and diced or one 14-oz can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cups long-grain white rice, rinsed and drained (I used Basmati rice)
  • parsley or cilantro, minced, for garnish
  1. In a small saucepan, bring 1/2 cup of the chicken broth to a bare simmer over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the saffron threads to the hot broth and let steep for about 30 minutes.
  3. Season the chicken pieces on all sides with 1 tsp of the salt, the black pepper, and the pepper flakes. (I used a 9×13-inch pyrex dish.)
  4. Heat the oil over medium heat in a pressure cooker or Instant Pot.
  5. Working in batches, add the chicken in a single layer and cook until well browned on both sides, about 4 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a large plate.
  6. Add onion, garlic, and diced chile to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 2 minutes, until the onion begins to soften.
  7. Stir in the tomatoes, cumin, smoked paprika, bay leaf, and the remaining 2 tsp salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 2 minutes, until the tomatoes have softened.
  8. Stir in the saffron-infused broth and the remaining 1 cup broth, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot.
  9. Stir in the rice and, using a wooden spoon, gently swirl the rice until it falls in an even layer.
  10. Return the chicken to the pot, arranging the pieces in an even layer, then pour in any accumulated juices.
  11. Secure the lid and seal under pressure, set to meat/stew on an Instant Pot. (I brought my pot up to high (2nd ring) but may reduce to the first ring next time because a lot of the rice was crispy- but delicious- on the bottom of the pot.)
  12. Cook for 20 minutes.
  13. Let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes, then move the pressure to venting to release any remaining steam.
  14. Open the pot and let cool for 10 minutes to allow the rice to firm up prior to serving.
  15. Serve garnished with minced herbs, as desired.

Chicken Biryani, Hyderbadi style

I have another wonderful Indian dish to share. I first spotted this mouth-watering dish on Safari of the Mind– the site of my like-minded blog friend, Loretta. I had to make it. ūüôā

I doubled the amount of chicken in the original recipe -thinking it would be the highlight- but I was obsessed with the rice! I didn’t cut the chicken into pieces, but may opt to next time. I used 1 tablespoon of prepared Garam Masala powder but included the ingredients to prepare it below- I do think it would be even more delicious if it was prepared with the fresh spice blend. I also omitted the water in the marinade and the mint in the tempering. I baked the biryani rather than cooking it on the stove.

The recipe was adapted from Yummefy.com, via Loretta @Safari of the Mind. We ate it sautéed greens with garlic and cumin. Yum!

Yield: Serves 8 to 10

For the Marinade:

  • 2 cups plain yogurt (I used Greek yogurt)
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, very finely chopped (about 150 grams)
  • 5 large garlic cloves, very finely chopped (about 1 T)
  • 2-inch piece ginger root, very finely chopped (about 2 T)
  • 4 to 8 green chillies, fresh, chopped, de-seeded and minced, to taste (I used jalape√Īos)
  • 2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice, from 1 large lime
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 2 tsp coarse salt, or to taste
  • 8 to 10 boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1 1/2 in pieces, if desired

For the Masala Powder:

  • 4 cloves
  • 1 piece cinnamon, 1 inch
  • 4 green cardamom pods
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon black cumin seeds

For the Rice:

  • 2 cups basmati rice, or any other long-grain rice
  • 4 cloves
  • 6 green cardamom pods
  • 1 piece cinnamon
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt, or to taste

For Tempering:

  • 4 tsp plus 1 T ghee, divided
  • 2 T vegetable oil (I used canola oil)
  • 3 large yellow onions, sliced
  • 1 T vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, soaked in 1/4 cup warm milk for 30 minutes
  • 14 fresh mint leaves, for garnish, as desired
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro leaves, plus more for garnish, as desired
  • 1 tablespoon slivered almonds, blanched and toasted

Method

  1. Place yogurt in a large bowl and whisk, using a fork until smooth.  Add onion, garlic, ginger, and chilies to a bowl and combine with yogurt, turmeric, lime juice, coriander leaves and salt.
  2. Place masala powder ingredients in an electric grinder and process to a fine powder.  Add to yogurt mixture.
  3. Add chicken and massage with your hands for the marinade to coat and penetrate the chicken.  Marinate, covered for 2 to 6 hours in the refrigerator.
  4. Wash rice at least 3 times until the water runs clear.  Soak rice in water to cover by at least 1 inch for 15 minutes.  Drain.
  5. Place a large pan on high heat and pour in 2 liters (8 cups) water. (I used a 4 quart pan.)  Bring to a boil and then add drained rice, stirring gently.  Toss in cloves, green cardamom pods, cinnamon, bay leaf and salt.  Stir to mix, then cover with a lid.  Simmer for 5 minutes on low heat or until half-cooked.  Drain the rice.  Set aside and allow to cool.
  6. Heat 4 teaspoons ghee and tablespoons oil in a pan and fry the sliced onions till caramelized and crisp.  Set aside.
  7. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. (200 degrees C)
  8. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of oil onto the bottom of a heavy saucepan and place the marinated chicken at the bottom, spreading it out in one layer. (I used a large enameled cast iron pan.)
  9. Spoon half the rice in a layer over the chicken.  Drizzle 2 tablespoons saffron milk, 1/2 tablespoon ghee, and 1/2 tablespoon coriander leaves over the layered rice.  Top with 1/2 the onions.
  10. Repeat one more layer with the remaining rice, saffron milk, ghee, coriander leaves, and onions.
  11. Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and then with a fitted lid.
  12. Place biryani in the preheated oven for 30-45 minutes, or until chicken is 165 degrees.  Remove from the oven.  Let the biryani rest, covered for 10 minutes. (Because the chicken pieces were whole, I baked it for 45 minutes.)
  13. Remove lid and foil, and garnish with mint and/or cilantro leaves and slivered almonds, as desired.  Serve hot.

One Year Ago: Green Curry Pork Tenderloin

Three Years Ago: Jerk Chicken with Spicy Pineapple Sauce & West Indies Roti

Four Years Ago: Indian-Spiced Chicken Stew

Five Years Ago: Indian-Spiced Chicken & Spinach

Baked Ziti with Cauliflower

Adding vegetables to a baked pasta dish is a wonderful way to slim it down and make it a little bit healthier. My son enjoyed this version as much as our standard super cheesy baked ziti. Not only does this version incorporate cauliflower, it is also upgraded by adding flavor from saffron and anchovies.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Martha Rose Shulman. The dish was¬†inspired by another Sicilian cauliflower dish in Clifford A. Wright‚Äôs ‚ÄúCucinia Paradiso.‚ÄĚ I modified the recipe by roasting the cauliflower, increasing the garlic and tomatoes, using whole wheat pasta, and incorporating mozzarella cheese. Great.

Yield: Serves 6

  • 1 medium cauliflower, about 2 pounds, leaves and stem trimmed, cut into florets
  • coarse salt, to taste
  • pinch of saffron threads
  • 2-4 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 anchovy fillets, rinsed and chopped
  • 1 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes, with juice
  • freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 T chopped flat leaf parsley
  • ¬ĺ pound ziti or penne rigate (I used whole wheat penne)
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) pecorino or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
  • 1/2 pound part-skim mozzarella cheese, grated
  1. Preheat an oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  2. On a parchment paper lined, rimmed baking sheet, toss the cauliflower florets with 1-2 tablespoons of the olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until tender.
  3. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees, on convection.
  4. Place the saffron in a small bowl and add 3 tablespoons warm water. Let steep for 10 to 15 minutes.
  5. Combine the grated cheeses in a bowl.
  6. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet and add the garlic. Cook, stirring, until it smells fragrant, about 30 seconds to a minute, and add the anchovies and tomatoes. Season to taste with salt (remembering that the anchovies will contribute a lot of salt) and freshly ground pepper.
  7. Turn the heat down to medium-low and cook, stirring often, until the tomatoes have cooked down and smell fragrant, about 10 minutes.
  8. Stir in the roasted cauliflower, saffron with its soaking water, and parsley, cover and simmer for another 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Taste and adjust seasonings.
  9. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt generously. Add the pasta. Cook until just al dente, a few minutes less than you would cook it to serve. It will soften further when it bakes. (I cooked the whole wheat penne noodles for 5 minutes, 2 minutes shy of al dente.) Drain and transfer to a bowl.
  10. Oil a 3-quart baking dish. Toss the pasta with half the cauliflower mixture and half the cheese and spoon into the baking dish.
  11. Combine the remaining cauliflower mixture with half of the remaining cheese and spoon over the pasta.
  12. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the top. Drizzle on the remaining tablespoon of oil.
  13. Place in the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until bubbling. Garnish with parsley, if desired. Serve hot.

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Vegetarian Harira

This is a vegetarian version of Harira, a traditional, savory Moroccan soup. It is incredibly full-flavored- loaded with spices and legumes.

This recipe was adapted from the New York Times, contributed by David Tanis. I added fresh lemon juice, used canned San Marzano tomatoes, dried garbanzo beans, and increased the amount of garlic. Tanis recommends serving the soup the day after it is prepared in order to allow the flavors to meld.

We ate it with warm naan and green salad. It was hearty, healthy, filling, and delicious.

Yield: Serves 8 to 10
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or butter
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely diced, about 2 cups
  • 8¬†garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon dried ginger
  • 1 ¬Ĺ teaspoons black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon toasted and ground cumin
  • ¬ľ teaspoon cayenne
  • ¬Ĺ teaspoon crumbled saffron
  • 1 (3-inch) piece cinnamon stick or 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 cups diced ripe tomato, fresh or canned (I used 2 28-oz cans San Marzano tomatoes, drained)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped celery leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish
  • coarse salt
  • 1 cup brown lentils, rinsed
  • 1 cup red lentils, rinsed
  • 1 cup peeled dried fava beans or 1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
  • ¬ľ pound angel hair pasta or vermicelli, broken into 1-inch pieces
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • lemon wedges, for serving
  1. Put olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium-high heat.
  2. Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened and lightly colored, 8 to 10 minutes.
  3. Stir in garlic, ginger, pepper, turmeric, cumin, cayenne, saffron and cinnamon. Cook for about 2 minutes more.
  4. Add tomatoes, celery leaves and cilantro and bring to a brisk simmer.
  5. Cook, stirring, about 5 minutes, until mixture thickens somewhat, then add 1 teaspoon salt, the brown lentils, red lentils and dried faves or soaked chickpeas.
  6. Add 8 cups water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer, covered with the lid ajar.
  7. Let soup simmer for 30 minutes, then taste broth and adjust salt.
  8. Cook for 1 hour more at a gentle simmer, until the legumes are soft and creamy. It may be necessary to add more liquid from time to time to keep soup from being too porridge-like. It should be on the thick side, but with a pourable consistency. (With every addition of water, taste and adjust for salt.)
  9. Just before serving, add pasta and let cook for 2 to 3 minutes.
  10. Add fresh lemon juice.
  11. Ladle soup into small bowls and pass lemon wedges for squeezing, as desired.
Note: The soup may be made in advance and refrigerated. (This is recommended!) If it thickens, thin with water or broth when reheating, and adjust the salt.

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Ottolenghi’s Baked Rice

I was drooling over every¬†photo in a New York Times magazine article featuring a home banquet prepared by Yotam Ottolenghi. I wanted it ALL on my plate. But, preparing all of the beautiful dishes¬†at once by myself was another story completely- too large of an undertaking. ūüė¶ This baked rice was at the top of my list. Two heads of garlic! Fourteen shallots! Fabulous.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Sam Sifton. I used the zest of one half of a lemon and 1 teaspoon of curry masala instead of fresh or dried curry leaves. I also baked the rice in an enameled cast iron pan with a lid instead of transferring the garlic and shallots to an aluminum foil-covered baking dish before baking them with the rice. We ate it for dinner with grilled chicken thighs seasoned with a Pilpelchuma spice blend, Hummus, Tomato and Pomegranate Salad, Deconstructed Baba Ghanouj, and warm naan. Our own banquet. ūüôā ¬†Amazing.

  • ‚Öď cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 heads garlic, cloves peeled
  • 12-14 medium-size shallots, peeled and quartered lengthwise
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 whole sprigs fresh curry leaves, left on stem, or substitute a handful of dry curry leaves, or 1 tsp curry masala
  • 2 cups white basmati rice
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
  • ¬Ĺ teaspoon saffron threads, soaked in 2 tablespoons boiling water for 30 minutes
  1. Heat oven to 425, preferably on convection.
  2. Put the oil into a sauté pan set over medium heat. (I used a large enameled cast iron pan.)
  3. When the oil shimmers, add the garlic cloves, shallots and lemon zest, and cook, tossing occasionally, for about 15 minutes, until the garlic is golden brown and soft.
  4. Add the sprigs of curry leaves, if using, or the curry masala, and cook for approximately 2 minutes more, or until the leaves are starting to crisp.
  5. Pour the garlic and shallots into a large ovenproof baking dish, approximately 10 by 14 inches, and spread the rice over the vegetables in an even layer. (If using a large pan with a lid, keep vegetables in the same pan but spread evenly along the bottom before adding the rice.)
  6. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of salt over the rice, and then pour 3 1/2 cups of boiling water over the rice. Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil (or a tight-fitting lid), and place in the oven for 30 minutes or so, until all the water has been absorbed and the rice is light, fluffy and starting to turn crisp around the edges.
  7. Remove the dish from the oven, uncover and drizzle the saffron and its soaking water over the dish. Re-cover the dish with the aluminum foil or the lid, and allow it to sit on the stove top for another 5 or 10 minutes. Serve.

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Easy Arroz con Pollo

My mom doesn’t cook very much these days, so when my family and I visit, she and I cook together. When we recently stayed with her over spring break, I forwarded a couple of new recipe emails to try. More fun that way!

As a loyal Good Morning America fan I am not sure why I receive Today show recipe emails, but some of them do catch my eye. This recipe was adapted from Kitchen Gypsy: Recipes and Stories from a Lifelong Romance with Food by Joanne Weir, via today.com. I adjusted the cooking times, used boneless, skinless chicken thighs instead of a whole chicken, doubled the garlic and peas, incorporated chicken stock, and omitted the olives (I’m not a fan.). My mom added the olives to her leftovers!

This is a delicious¬†one-pot dish with a lovely, colorful presentation. I made it again when we came home. ūüôā

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

  • 3 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, about 10
  • coarse¬†salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch-wide pieces
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1/8 teaspoon red chile flakes
  • pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 28 oz can¬†peeled, seeded, and diced tomatoes (or 2 1/2 cups diced fresh tomatoes)
  • 1/2 cup Sauvignon Blanc or other dry white wine
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken stock or water
  • 2 cups Spanish Bomba or other short-grain white rice (I used white Basmati rice)
  • 1/2 cup pitted Spanish green olives, sliced, optional
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen shelled English peas
  1. Rub the chicken pieces all over with 1 teaspoon salt, lots of black pepper and the oregano. Place in a large bowl, cover, and set aside in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350¬įF, preferably on convection.
  3. In an 8-quart Dutch oven or other heavy pot (I used enameled cast iron.), heat the oil over medium-high heat.
  4. Working in batches if necessary to avoid crowding, add the chicken pieces in a single layer and cook, turning as needed, until golden on all sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate.
  5. Return the pot to medium-high heat and add the onion, bell pepper, garlic, saffron, chile flakes, nutmeg and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables have softened, about 10 minutes.
  6. Increase the heat to high, add the tomatoes, 2¬Ĺ cups water or stock, the wine, and the chicken, and bring to a boil. Cover the pot and place in the oven for 20 minutes.
  7. Remove the pot from the oven, add the rice, olives (if using), and 1/2 teaspoon salt (if using water instead of stock), and stir well.
  8. Re-cover the pot, return it to the oven, and cook for another 30 minutes.
  9. Retrieve the pot again, add the peas and fluff the rice with a fork. Re-cover the pot and return it to the oven for a final 5 to 10 minutes. At this point, the rice and the chicken will be tender and the liquid will be absorbed.
  10. Remove from the oven and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes before serving. Adjust seasoning, if necessary, and serve.

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