Roasted Beet and Ricotta Salad

Transforming ricotta: Just whip it.

Roasted Beet and Whipped Ricotta Salad

I am little late to the ricotta party. For a long while, this Italian whey cheese was relegated solely to lasagnas and other filled pasta dishes. Aside from that, ricotta did not play a role in much of my cooking. This is likely due to unfortunate first impressions, the ho-hum results of part-skim varieties, that tend to be watery, grainy, and lacking in character. More recently, however, I began to dabble with using fresh ricotta, and it was revelatory. The difference between a skimmed and watered down version versus a high quality whole-milk ricotta or a hand-dipped artisan ricotta (besides a few extra dollars) is a worlds-apart creamy, sweet and milky cheese, urging consumption. To which I obliged, and started experimenting with different recipes.

And then I whipped it.

Apparently, whipped ricotta has been a thing, but, as mentioned, I am late to the party. Thank goodness I arrived. Whipping ricotta transforms this creamy, slightly grainy, cheese into an ethereal spreadable wonder, which is sweet and mild and very receptive to additional ingredients, such as olive oil, honey, fresh herbs, salt, and pepper. It’s a protein-rich alternative to whipped cream, crème fraiche, yogurt, sour cream, and even a dollop of ice cream on top of dessert.

To whip ricotta, use a dense, creamy whole-milk ricotta that smells dairy fresh and tastes milky and mildly sweet. Avoid watery, grainy, part-skim ricotta and any ricotta that has a funky aroma.

Sweet Whipped Ricotta
Makes 1 cup

Combine 1 cup whole-milk ricotta, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice and an optional pinch of lemon zest in a food processor and process until light and smooth. Taste for seasoning and add more honey if desired. Serve as a substitute for whipped cream, crème fraiche, or ice cream with fresh fruit and baked desserts. 

Savory Whipped Ricotta
Makes 1 cup

Combine 1 cup whole-milk ricotta, 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and a grind or two of black pepper in a food processor. Process until light and smooth and taste for seasoning. If you like, add a generous pinch of finely grated fresh lemon zest. Spread the ricotta in a bowl and use as a dip for crudités and bread. Stir it into cooked pasta dishes as a creamy sauce. Smear it on bruschetta or garlic toasts and top with sliced figs or stone fruit, a drizzle of honey and lemon zest, or your other favorite toppings. Spoon a dollop on cooked pizzas, roasted vegetables, and salads, such as the following beet salad.

Roasted Beet and Spring Green Salad with Whipped Ricotta

The beets will release their juices while roasting, which will mix with the olive oil to create the base for the vinaigrette.

Serves 4
Active Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour and 20 minutes, plus cooling time

3 bunches small or baby beets, 10 to 12, ends and stems trimmed, scrubbed clean
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
4 ounces mixed spring greens, such as arugula, mache, baby spinach, miners lettuce, frisée
1 cup Savory Whipped Ricotta
Lemon zest, for garnish

1. Heat the oven to 400°F.
2. Place the beets in a large Dutch oven. Pour in the oil, stir to coat, and lightly season with salt. Cover the pot, transfer to the oven, and roast the beets until tender when pierced with a knife, about 1 hour. Remove and cool, uncovered, in the pot.
3. When cool enough to handle, peel the beets and cut into large bite-size chunks. Do not discard the oil from the pot. Place the beets in a bowl with 1 tablespoon of the cooking oil, and lightly season with salt and pepper. Cool to room temperature or refrigerate until chilled (the beets may be prepared up to one day in advance).
4. Pour the remaining cooking oil into a bowl (through a strainer if desired). Whisk in the vinegar, lemon juice, and a pinch of salt to taste.
5. To assemble the salad, arrange a layer of mixed spring greens on serving plates. Lightly drizzle with some of the vinaigrette. Mound the beets on the greens and top with a dollop of the whipped ricotta. Garnish with lemon zest and black pepper. Serve with the remaining vinaigrette for drizzling.

Beef Stew with a Splash of Irish

A Simple Stew with Big Flavor

Here is something for your winter dinner rotation: Chunky vegetables and slow-cooked beef swimming in a stock of beef and beer. This hearty no-nonsense beef stew is a must-have for a dreary winter night, and with St. Patrick’s Day around the corner, you can dump a bottle of Guinness into the stock and call it Irish. And, while this stew is indeed simple and humble in ingredients, there are a couple of important steps you can take when making this recipe that will reward you with deep flavor.

The first step, as with many meat stews and braises, is to take the time to sear the meat well before braising. Searing the meat caramelizes its natural sugars and forms a crust, which adds rich meaty flavor to the stock. And note that searing does not mean a quick color and flip. It means taking the time to thoroughly brown the meat well on all sides, which can take up to 8 minutes. Also, do not overcrowd the pan with all of the meat at once when searing. Crowding will steam the meat and prevent the desired browning, so be patient and divide the meat into batches to sear.

Second, while you can certainly make and serve this stew in one day, it will taste even better if you make the stew a day in advance of eating. I know, I know, waiting is a big ask, but the flavors will continue to meld and develop when the stew is refrigerated overnight. Not only that, by refrigerating the stew ahead, the next day you will find that the fat has risen to the top and solidified, so it can be lifted off with ease and discarded, leaving you with a pristine stock.

So, go ahead and treat yourself to this warm and comforting stew, and while you’re at it, why not make a double batch? Any leftovers can be frozen the leftovers for up to one month. It’s guaranteed to taste good.

Simple Beef Stew

Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 3 1/2 hours
Serves 4 to 6

2 1/2 pounds beef chuck, excess fat trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
, divided
1 large shallot, finely chopped, about 1/4 cup
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 cups dark beer, such as Porter or Stout, divided
1/4 cup tomato paste
3 cups beef or chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 large carrots, sliced 1/4-inch thick
2 medium Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 large yellow onion, cut into 1-inch chunks

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Season the beef with salt and pepper.
2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the beef in batches in one layer, without overcrowding, and brown on all sides, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer the meat to a plate and repeat with remaining beef.
3. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from the Dutch oven. Add the shallot and sauté until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds more. Add 1/4 cup beer to the pot and bring to a boil, scraping up any brown bits with a spoon. When the beer is nearly evaporated, add the tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until slightly caramelized, about 1 minute. Return the beef to the pot and stir to coat.
4. Add the remaining 1 cup beer, the stock, bay leaf, sugar, thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon black pepper. The meat should be just covered with liquid. If not, add additional stock to cover. Bring to a boil, then cover the pot and transfer to the oven. Cook until the meat is tender, 2 to 2 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
5. While the meat is cooking heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the carrots and onions and lightly season with salt. Sauté until the vegetables begin to soften without browning, 4 to 5 minutes.
6. Add the carrots, onions, and the potatoes to the stew and stir to combine. Return to the oven and cook, partially covered, until the vegetables are tender and the sauce slightly thickened, 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.
7. Serve warm ladled into bowls.

Triple Onion Dip

It’s time for a dip.

Let’s be honest. Life has been a little stressful of late. In times of anxiety and uncertainty, some self-care is warranted. I am not talking cleanses and fasts, folks, I am talking indulgences, because, well, we deserve it.

When our sheltering days are clocked by changes of clothing from morning PJs to home-office athleisure attire, to a return to our PJs (wash and repeat). When our weekly schedule requires setting an alarm to remember that it’s in fact a Monday, or to clarify that the weekend follows Friday and, sadly, not the aforementioned Monday. When we realize that the entire last year has atrophied any semblance of learned social skills (no small feat for introverts), while our voracious consumption of screen time has effectively cancelled any parental authority in managing that department, it’s important not to judge. Rather, it’s time to be kind to ourselves, to embrace comfort in the form of simple pleasures, and to mark the end of yet another sheltered day with non-anxiety provoking rewards (and cue the moment it’s OK to change back into our PJs).

Which leads me to this bowl of dip (as I said, simple pleasures). I confess that I called this dinner when I made it – no one in my family objected – and I regret nothing. In defense, it’s a homemade dip. It conjures childhood memories of additive and salt-packed instant onion dips, while, in these modern times, it’s made from scratch with real ingredients. It’s also easy to put together, risking no inflection in your anxiety level. And since I am feeling a little light-hearted these days, I have even provided two ways to make this dip. The first is a basic onion-packed dip, and the second is the same dip dressed up with a little extra bling, because, as mentioned, we deserve it. And while it’s not an evening at the theater or a festive party (so 2019), the bling adds a tiny hint of sparkle that we can enjoy on a Monday – oops, Tuesday – night in our PJs.

Triple Onion Dip

Active Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes plus cooling time
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
3 shallots, halved and thinly sliced
2 scallions, white and green parts divided, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup cream cheese, softened
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or to taste, plus more for garnish

Optional bling:
1 to 2 teaspoons drained jarred horseradish
Salmon roe for sprinkling
Dill sprigs for garnish

1. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, shallots, and white scallions. Cook over medium heat until very soft and tinged golden in spots, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the lemon juice, then remove and cool to room temperature. When cool enough to handle, chop the onions and transfer to a bowl.
2. Whisk the cream cheese until light and smooth, then stir in the sour cream, Worcestershire sauce, and garlic powder to blend. Mix in the onions, salt, and black pepper and taste for seasoning. Garnish with the green scallions if not adding the optional dill.
3. Optional: Mix in 1 to 2 teaspoons drained jarred horseradish, to taste, with the onions. Garnish with the salmon roe and dill sprigs.
4. Serve with potato chips, pita chips, or crudités.

Sheet Pan Chicken with Wild Mushroooms and Cippolini Onions

Sheet Pan Dinners are Sheet Pan Comfort:

Sheet Pan Comfort: Roasted Chicken Thighs with Onions and Wild Mushrooms

Bone-in chicken thighs are perfect for sheet pan cooking. They are almost impossible to overcook, and the succulent meat does not dry out, allowing the time needed to tenderize and brown additional ingredients, such as sturdy root vegetables, sweet onions, and earthy mushrooms. In this recipe I use cipollini onions. Cipollini onions are small, flattened red and yellow onions. They are sweeter and milder than their larger yellow, red, and white brethren, making them great for roasting and caramelizing. Mushrooms are also a key ingredient this dish. As they roast, their juices impart a rich umami flavor to the pan juices. Any mushroom will work, but try to choose a selection of wild mushrooms, if possible. I used a mix of shiitake, beech, king trumpet, and crimini mushrooms in this recipe. Be sure to cut them into large bite-size pieces of similar size.

Sheet Pan Chicken with Wild Mushrooms and Onions

Serves 4
Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes, plus marinating time

Marinade
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

8 chicken thighs, bone-in with skin
1 pound red or white cipollini onions, peeled, halved crosswise
3/4 pound assorted wild mushrooms (or crimini mushrooms)
4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 thyme sprigs, plus more for garnish
3 rosemary sprigs, plus more for garnish

1. Whisk the marinade ingredients in a large bowl. Add the chicken and turn to thoroughly coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.
2. Heat the oven to 375°F.
3. Combine the onions, mushrooms, and garlic in a large bowl. Drizzle with the oil, season with the salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Spread the vegetables on a rimmed baking sheet. Nestle the chicken thighs, skin-side up, among the vegetables. Scatter the thyme and rosemary sprigs around the pan.
4. Roast in the oven until the chicken is cooked through (a meat thermometer will register 165°F when inserted in the thickest part not touching the bone), about 35 minutes. If the skin is not golden yet, turn on the oven broiler and continue to cook until the skin is golden brown, 1 to 3 minutes more.
5. Remove from the oven and discard the thyme and rosemary sprigs. Taste the mushrooms and season with additional salt if desired. Serve warm with the pan juices and fresh thyme or rosemary for garnish.

Balsamic Braised Radicchio

Taming the Chicory

Winter is chicory season. Chicories are the often-labeled family of bitter greens, which include radicchio, endive, puntarelle, and escarole. Bunches and heads of chicory are prolific throughout the cold season, difficult to miss with their dramatic frilly, spiky, and cone-headed leaves. And while their bitterness can be off-putting to some, at winter’s peak, chicories are crisp, juicy, nutty and mildly sweet – all qualities that pleasantly balance their natural bitterness. Plus, they are healthy to boot. Fiber-rich and loaded with vitamins C, B, and K and nutrients, such as iron, zinc, copper, and potassium, chicories are the cold season’s warriors that will fight to keep you healthy throughout winter.

The best way to approach these robust greens is to pair them with equally assertive yet balancing ingredients, striking a balance between bitter, sweet, sour, and heat. This is one of my favorite methods to cook radicchio. The sturdy purple heads hold up well to braising, and balsamic vinegar is a great foil with its rich, fruity, and sharp notes. When cooked, balsamic vinegar reduces to a sweet and sour syrup that shellacs the wilted radicchio wedges. Choose deeply colored, firm heads that have a little weight to them, and try to purchase similarly sized heads for this recipe to ensure even cooking.

Balsamic Braised Radicchio

Serves 3 to 4 as a side dish
Active Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

4 medium-large heads radicchio
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup chicken stock, mushroom stock, or water
2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
3 to 4 thyme sprigs

1. Halve the radicchios top to stem. Using a paring knife, cut out the white stem at the bottom of each half, then halve each half lengthwise so that you have 4 wedges.
2. Heat the oil in a large skillet with a lid over medium heat. Arrange the wedges snugly in the skillet, cut-sides down. Cook until slightly colored, 2 to 3 minutes. Using tongs, turn the wedges so that the other cut side is down in the skillet. Season with the salt and black pepper and cook until slightly colored, about 2 minutes more.
3. Pour the balsamic vinegar over the radicchio and then pour the chicken stock over. The pan should be about 1/2-inch full of liquid. Top off with additional balsamic or stock if needed. Sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over the radicchio and then scatter the thyme sprigs in the skillet.
4. Partially cover the skillet and simmer over medium-low heat until the radicchio are crisp-tender when pierced with a knife through the base, 12 to 15 minutes, carefully turning the wedges once or twice. Remove the cover and continue to simmer until the radicchio is soft, 5 to 7 minutes more, turning once or twice to evenly coat and cook.
5. Using tongs, transfer the radicchio to a serving dish, gently squeezing any excess liquid back into the skillet. Continue to simmer the braising liquid until reduced to a syrupy consistency, about 5 minutes. Discard the thyme sprigs and taste for seasoning. You may need to add a little more salt and black pepper. There should be a balance of sweet, salt, bitter, and the kick of black pepper in the flavor.
6. Drizzle the syrup over the radicchio and serve warm.

Khao Poon: Chicken, Red Curry, and Lemongrass Soup

Dip into this Lao soup for a winter escape:

Are you feeling the winter doldrums? January can be a blue time, post-holidays, when the dust settles and winter stretches ahead. It’s tempting to daydream about far-flung escapes to steamy destinations, away from the cold, snow, and darkness. Reality, of course, keeps us home for many practical reasons. So, as the saying goes, instead of cursing the dark, it’s time to light a candle – or in this case, the stove. If we can’t travel away, then we can bring the taste of travel home to our kitchen.

This is a perfect bowl for a winter day. Khao Poon is a traditional Lao soup with red curry and rice noodles, fragrant with lemongrass and coconut. It’s light, spicy, and aromatic, finished with a shower of fresh herbs, bean sprouts, and chiles to create a meal in a bowl. Chicken is frequently added, but it’s wonderfully flexible with proteins, including pork and fish, as well as tofu for a vegetarian option. And, if that’s not enough to lift your spirits, Khao Poon is a traditional celebratory soup served at Lao weddings and other festive events. So dig in to your bowl and vicariously join the party.

Chicken, Red Curry, and Lemongrass Soup with Rice Noodles

Serves 4 to 6
Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

8 ounces rice vermicelli noodles
1 pound chicken thighs, cut into chunky bite-size pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large shallot, finely chopped, about 1/4 cup
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger
3 tablespoons prepared Thai red curry paste, or more to taste
1 teaspoon ground coriander
4 to 6 cups chicken broth
1 stalk lemon grass, cut into 3 to 4-inch pieces, lightly smashed
1 (15-ounce) can light coconut milk
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons Asian hot sauce, such as Sriracha
2 cups bean sprouts
1 cup packed cilantro leaves and tender stems
1 red jalapeño or hot chile pepper, sliced (optional)

1. Cook the noodles according to the package instructions. Drain and rinse under cold water and set aside.
2. While the noodles are cooking, heat the oil in a soup pot. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and add to the pot, without overcrowding. Cook until colored on all sides, then transfer to a plate with a slotted spoon (the chicken will continue to cook later in the soup).
3. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon oil from the pot. Add the shallot and sauté until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds, then stir in the curry paste and coriander and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more. Whisk in 4 cups chicken stock and lemongrass. Taste the stock, and if you prefer a spicier soup, whisk in 1 to 2 more tablespoons of the curry paste.
4. Return the chicken to the pot and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the coconut milk, lime juice, sugar, fish sauce, and hot sauce. Taste for seasoning. At this point you can dilute the stock with more chicken stock if desired. Bring to a boil and simmer until the soup is heated through.
5. Divide the rice noodles between serving bowls. Ladle the soup over the noodles. Garnish with the bean sprouts, cilantro, and red chiles. Serve with lime wedges and additional hot sauce.

Delicata and Radicchio Salad

Bring on the layers when it’s cold outside. And before you reach for your fleece or parka, let’s be perfectly clear: we’re talking about salads. That’s right, salads have a place in the fall and winter, and when the brisk seasons invite layering hefty, nourishing ingredients into our meals, this principle also applies to salads. They can handle it.

This vibrant salad is a perfect example. It’s layered with nutty black rice, crisp radicchio leaves, and spice-roasted delicata squash rings. Each ingredient brings flavor, texture, and nutrients to the salad party, and when composed together in a serving bowl and drizzled with a thick balsamic vinaigrette, they produce a unified and highly decorative salad, that will please and wow everyone at the dinner and holiday table.

Delicata squash is a winter squash that is often by-passed for the ubiquitous butternut squash. Delicata is a small oblong squash with green and yellow striated skin that is edible, so there is no need to peel it. It cooks quickly, and roasting is an easy method which amplifies its mildly sweet and creamy flavor. The squash can be halved lengthwise and roasted, or, better yet, sliced into thin rings, which resemble decorative flower shapes.

If you need any further encouragement to make this salad, note that it can be easily prepped ahead of serving, since the rice and squash rings should be cooked and cooled to room temperature. The final assembly takes minutes, which is a cook’s gift during the busy holiday season.

Delicata, Radicchio, and Black Rice Salad

Serves 4
Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes, plus rice cooking and cooling time

Dressing:
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Salad:
1 cup black rice, rinsed
Salt
1 large delicate squash, scrubbed clean
1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large head radicchio, cored, leaves torn into shards
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup coarsely chopped Italian parsley leaves
2 tablespoons pumpkins seeds (or pomegranate arils)

1. Whisk the dressing ingredients in a small bowl.
2. Cook the rice until tender, according to package instructions. Season to taste with salt and set aside to cool to lukewarm or room temperature.
3. Heat the oven to 400°F.
4. Cut the squash crosswise in 1/3-inch thick slices, and scoop out the seeds. Place the rings in a large bowl. Add the oil, 1 teaspoon salt, the cumin, paprika, and black pepper and toss to coat. Arrange the squash rings on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment. Transfer to the oven and roast until golden brown in spots and tender, about 25 minutes, flipping once. Remove from the oven and lightly brush with the dressing. Cool to lukewarm or room temperature.
5. Spread the radicchio in a wide shallow serving bowl. Stir the scallions into the rice and then spoon the rice over and around the radicchio. Arrange the delicata rings around the salad, tucking some of the rings under the radicchio leaves. Sprinkle the parsley and pumpkins seeds (or pomegranate arils) over the salad. Drizzle with the remaining dressing.

Tomatillo Salsa and Chicken Stew

If you’ve had a green salsa or salsa verde, then you’ve had a tomatillo.

For a long while I steered clear of tomatillos, not because I had an aversion – I simply didn’t know what do with them. Well, I am here to tell you that tomatillos are easy to use and a delight to eat. Their flavor is tart and vegetal with a hint of fruit, and they add pucker-y brightness to salsas and stews.

Tomatillos are in fact classified as a fruit (like tomatoes) and are a member of the nightshade family. They are wrapped in a papery husk, which, when removed, reveals a crab apple-sized green fruit that resembles a tomato. Tomatillos are native to Central America, which helps to explain why they are a prominent ingredient in salsas.

A fresh tomatillo should be firm, unblemished, and bright green in color. They can be eaten raw or cooked. When eaten raw, their tartness will be pronounced. Roasting tempers their acidity, coaxing out their natural sweetness, while adding a smoky charred note. To prepare a tomatillo, remove the paper husk and wash the fruit to remove the sticky film that coats the surface. When roasting, halve the tomatillos crosswise and broil, cut side down (or grill skin-side up) to get a light char on the skins. You want those skins in the salsa for the extra flavor.

The salsa in this recipe can be enjoyed straight up on a chip, spooned over tacos and casseroles, and dolloped over grilled meat, fish, poultry, and vegetables. In this recipe it’s the base for a simple and bright chicken stew. For extra depth of flavor, I’ve marinated the chicken in citrus and herbs to amplify the salsa.

Tomatillo Chicken Stew

Active Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour, plus marinating time
Serves: 4 to 6

Marinade:
3 garlic cloves
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs, halved

Salsa:
1 pound tomatillos
1 to 2 jalapeño peppers, seeded, halved lengthwise
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 small white onion, coarsely chopped
1 small poblano pepper, seeded, coarsely chopped
1 cup packed cilantro leaves and tender stems
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1 tablespoon olive oil
Cooked long grain rice
2 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced
Chopped cilantro for garnish

1. Marinate the chicken: Whisk the marinade ingredients in a large bowl. Add the chicken and stir to coat. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.
2. Make the salsa: Remove the papery husks from the tomatillos. Rinse the tomatillos to remove the sticky film. Halve the tomatillos cross-wise and arrange with the jalapeños, cut-sides down, on a rimmed baking sheet. Place under the oven broiler and broil until the skins are lightly charred, about 5 minutes. Cool slightly and then combine the tomatillos, jalapeños, and the remaining salsa ingredients in a food processor and pulse to achieve a salsa consistency.
3. Heat the oven to 350°F.
4. Heat the oil in a large skillet. Remove the chicken from the marinade and discard the marinade. In batches, cook the chicken on both sides to give them a little color, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
5. Pour the salsa into the pan, scraping up any brown bits. Nestle the chicken into the salsa. Transfer the skillet to the oven and cook until the chicken is cooked through, about 25 minutes.
6. To serve, ladle the chicken and sauce over the rice. Serve garnished with the scallions and cilantro.

Fiesta Shrimp Salsa

When Salsa is the Party

This bright and festive starter is part-salsa, part-ceviche. It’s not meant to be a simple dab to complete a chip, but rather a command to attention with a jumble of shrimp in a kaleidoscope of colorful ingredients. In this concoction, sweet and briny shrimp are lightly poached and steeped in a bright citrusy sauce that continues to “cook” and infuse the shrimp with flavor. A whole bunch of fresh ingredients, are added to the mix, including chile peppers, tomato, and corn, which add substance and round out the flavors with juicy sweetness and heat. Serve the salsa with tortilla chips for scooping, or simply spoon it over garden greens and call it a salad. You can also wrap the salsa lettuce leaves for fun finger food (just pass the napkins). No matter how you serve it, it’s guaranteed to steal the show.

Fiesta Shrimp Salsa

Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes, plus chilling time
Serves 6 as an appetizer

1 pound medium shrimp, shelled, deveined
2 roma (plum) tomatoes, seeded, diced
1 poblano pepper, finely chopped
Corn kernels from one ear of yellow corn
1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped, about 1/2 cup
1 jalapeño chile pepper, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
1 cup cilantro leaves and tender stems, chopped

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the shrimp, cover the pot and remove from the heat. Let the shrimp poach until bright in color and just cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes. Drain and cool the shrimp to the touch, then coarsely chop.
2. Combine all of the remaining ingredients, except the cilantro, in a large bowl. Add the shrimp and mix well to combine. Taste for seasoning.
3. Cover and refrigerate the salsa for at least 2 hours or up to 6 hours, stirring occasionally. Stir in the cilantro before serving.

Sheet Pan Chermoula Chicken and Cauliflower with Smoky Red Pepper Sauce

Winner Winner Chicken (Sheet Pan) Dinner:

Chermoula Roasted Chicken and Romanesco

You’ve probably heard of sheet pan dinners. The term may be trendy, but the concept is not. It simply means arranging all of your dinner components on a rimmed baking sheet, coating them with oil and seasoning, then roasting in the oven – and, voilà, you have a complete dinner on a tray. While the emphasis is certainly on ease of preparation, with the right ingredients this cooking method ensures maximum flavor. Oven roasting coaxes out the flavors of vegetables and meats and is a sure-fire (no pun intended) way to cook to crispy, golden perfection. The key to building great flavor is the ingredients you use to coat and bind the dish. They can be as basic as olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper, or more elaborate with aromatic marinades, spices, herbs, and citrus.

This recipe combines two ingredients that are well suited for roasting: bone-in chicken thighs and romanesco, a green brassica, which looks like a cone-headed cauliflower. Importantly, they both require a similar amount of cooking time, so they can happily team up on a baking sheet without one ingredient over-cooking while the other keeps on roasting. (You can also use white cauliflower in this recipe.) A potent, herbaceous chermoula sauce, robust with garlic, lemon, and spices, coats the whole lot and drives in flavor.

The finishing touch to this recipe – not required, but recommended – is a smoky red pepper sauce for swiping and drizzling. It’s inspired by Spanish romesco sauce (not to be confused with the romanesco vegetable!) and traditionally consists of roasted tomatoes and ground almonds or hazelnuts. This smoother rendition uses roasted red peppers to create a sweet and smoky condiment.

Chermoula Chicken and Cauliflower Sheet Pan Dinner

Active time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour, plus marinating time
Serves 4

Chermoula Sauce:
1 1/2 cups Italian parsley leaves and tender sprigs
1 1/2 cups cilantro leaves and tender sprigs
1 cup fresh mint leaves
Juice and finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
4 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1/2 cup olive oil

8 bone-in chicken thighs with skin

Red Pepper Sauce:
2 jarred roasted red peppers, drained and rinsed, coarsely chopped
1 red jalapeno pepper, seeds and membranes removed (optional), coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 medium head romanesco (or white cauliflower)
Cilantro sprigs for garnish
Lemon wedges for serving

1. Combine all of the chermoula ingredients, except the oil, in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to chop. Add the oil and pulse to blend. The chermoula should have a runny salsa consistency. If too thick, add more oil to loosen.
2. Place the chicken in a large bowl. Pour in the chermoula and stir to thoroughly coat, rubbing the marinade between the skin and meat. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before roasting.
3. Combine all of the red pepper sauce ingredients in the cleaned bowl of a food processor and process to blend. Taste for seasoning. (The sauce may be prepared in advance and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.)
4. Heat the oven to 375°F.
5. Cut the cauliflower from crown to stem in 3/4-inch slices. Cut out the cores and cut the cores into bite-size chunks. (The cores are sweet and edible, so don’t discard them.)
6. Remove the chicken from the marinade and arrange, skin-side up, on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment. Brush the cauliflower steaks and pieces on all sides with the residual marinade and arrange around the chicken. Season everything with salt and black pepper.
7. Transfer the tray to the oven and roast until the romanesco is tender and the chicken is golden brown and cooked through (it should register 165°F when a meat thermometer is inserted into the thickest part closest to the bone), about 30 minutes.
8. Garnish with fresh cilantro and serve with lemon wedges.