Za’atar Chicken and Israeli Couscous with Asparagus and a Lemon Compote

Za’atar Chicken and Israeli Couscous with Asparagus and Lemon Compote

The lemon compote is really the star of this dish and it is easily made by combining lemon segments with some agave syrup or honey and garnishing it over the chicken.  Sounds really simple I know, but it really adds a light, bright and slightly sweet note to the chicken.  Lemon and chicken go so well together and the hint of lemon in the couscous brings it all together.  Trader Joe’s had pink lemons this year which was a really nice addition.  They have a beautiful light green stripe and a gently pink tinged flesh which is acidic, but has a nice sweet under tone.  Any kind of lemon would work, and Meyer lemon might be easier to find.  Israeli couscous or Pearl couscous is a really creamy and risotto-like textured side dish and this one has the addition of kale, asparagus and Parmesan cheese.  I like to cook the couscous in chicken broth, but you can use water or vegetable stock, and when it is done I added sautéed kale and asparagus, a little lemon zest and juice and Parmesan cheese to taste.  The chicken is easily made by sprinkling za’atar spices with a little Aleppo pepper over each breast and cooking it.  To make the za’atar spice blend, combine toasted sesame seeds, sumac and thyme.  I garnished the dish with chives.   Click here for the recipe….

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Blueberry Smash ~ a wonderfully refreshing summer drink!

Blueberry Smash

This has been my favorite summer drink this year – a Blueberry Smash.  It has elderberry syrup, blueberries, lime, fresh mint, vodka and a splash of sparkling water.  It’s a good drink to serve at a party because you can make the base of the drink in advance, put it in a pitcher, and allow guests to add vodka or not and a splash of sparkling water over a tall glass of ice.  I buy the elderberry syrup at Ikea, and then you muddle fresh mint, blueberries and lime slices in the pitcher.  It is so refreshing and such a beautiful color and I love the addition of elderberry syrup which gives it a slight sweet floral taste.  Click here for the recipe….

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Shakshuka – Baked Eggs on a Bed of Tomatillo, Zucchini, and Za’atar Spices with Feta Cheese

Shakshuka – Baked Eggs on a Bed of Tomatillo, Zucchini, and Za’atar Spices with Feta Cheese

This dish is great for breakfast, brunch or dinner.  Shakshuka is a traditional Middle Eastern dish that is usually made with tomatoes, but this recipe uses tomatillos, zucchini, potatoes and onion for a unique twist on the well known dish.  You start out by roasting the tomatillos and sauteing the onion, potato, garlic with some za’atar spice blend (a spice mixture of toasted sesame seeds, sumac and thyme).  When the tomatillos are cooked through, you add them to the potato and onion mixture with a little water and then nestle some eggs in the middle, sprinkle with feta cheese and place the skillet in the oven until the eggs are done to your liking.  I served the dish with some pita bread that had been toasted in the oven with a sprinkling of za’atar mix so you can dip them in the runny egg centers.  This would be a good dish to make for a crowd in a really large skillet and the base can be made ahead of time and the eggs placed on the mixture and popped into the oven just before you want to serve.  Click here for the recipe….

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Lebanese Lamb and Beef Arayes with Roasted Broccoli with Za’atar Spices and Parmesan Cheese

Lebanese Lamb and Beef Arayes with Roasted Broccoli with Middle Eastern Spices and Parmesan Cheese

The incredible flavors of the Middle Eastern spices in these arayes really make this simple meal very special.  You mix lamb and beef (or you could use all beef or even turkey) with a sautéed onion and garlic with a spice mixture of allspice, coriander, cardamom, and cumin.  After it has cooled, you add it to the meat with some roughly chopped golden raisins, lemon zest and parsley and stuff this mixture into pita pockets.  You bake them in the oven for 12-15 minutes and serve them with a yummy sauce of Labneh cheese or Greek yogurt that has some fresh garlic, lemon zest and juice for a dipping sauce.  I made some roasted broccoli that I sprinkled with Za’atar spice blend to serve with the dinner.  Click here for the recipe….

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Roasted Mexican Corn with Cotija Cheese

Roasted Mexican Corn with Cotija Cheese

This corn is elevated by the quick sauce you spread over the corn and then after it is cooked, you roll in Cotija cheese, which is a semi-hard Mexican cheese that is slightly salty and delicious.  You shuck the corn but leave the husks in tact and tie them with some cotton string and gently remove the silks.  You can roast the corn in the oven or even grill them on all sides and after they have cooked, brush on a mixture of mayonnaise, sour cream, chipotle sauce (or cayenne pepper), garlic, lime juice over the corn and roll them in the grated Cotija cheese.  I sprinkled them with fresh cilantro before I served them and they are delicious.  You could also do a Mediterranean twist on the corn by adding oregano and lemon juice and rolling the cooked corn in Parmesan or Romano cheese and garnishing with chopped fresh basil.  Give it a try this summer!  Click here for the recipe….

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Salad with Fresh Peaches, Mint, Almonds, Feta and a Mint Vinaigrette

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Salad with Fresh Peaches, Mint, Almonds, Feta and a Mint Vinaigrette

This is one of my favorite summer salads when you can get fabulous fresh and sweet peaches and the mint is growing like weeds.  The salad dressing is made by simmering fresh mint and lemon juice and straining the mint and combining it with a little honey and drizzling with olive oil.  You toss the salad with some thinly sliced red onion, toasted almonds, slices of fresh peaches or nectarines, fresh mint, and a sprinkle of feta cheese.  All the tastes of summer in one bite!  Click here for the recipe….

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Salmon with Spinach-Walnut Pesto with Purple Potato & Red Onion Hash

Salmon with Spinach-Walnut Pesto with Purple Potato & Red Onion Hash

I never would have thought to mix Parmesan cheese, toasted walnuts, spinach, capers, shallot and vinegar together for a great pesto to put on top of salmon.  It is really good and makes this simple dish really shine.  It would also be good on chicken.   Sauté some red onion with the purple potatoes (you can use any potato you have on hand) and a little garlic and quickly pan fry or grill some salmon and place it on top of a bed of the potato mixture and top the salmon with the nummy pesto.  Click here for the recipe….

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Peanut Butter Cookie Brownies

Peanut Butter Cookie Brownie

These brownies combine the best of both worlds if you like peanut butter.  You make a peanut butter cookie dough and drop it onto the brownie batter and when it bakes up you have a mixture of both.  It’s best to under bake these brownies so take them out of the oven when they have a crumb sticking to the toothpick just to ensure you don’t over bake them.  Click here for the recipe….

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Cream Biscuits

Cream Biscuits

This is my go to recipe for cream biscuits.  It is James Beard’s recipe and I figure if it was good enough for him – it works for me!  They are called cream biscuits because they use heavy cream instead of butter.  Trader Joe’s carries a tetra packaged heavy cream in the baking section.  It’s great to have in your pantry when you don’t have cream in the fridge and want to bake something or deglaze a skillet to make a cream sauce.  These biscuits are light and fluffy and best eaten right out of the oven and slathered with butter and jam.  Num!  Click here for the recipe….

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Mother’s Day Brunch

Mother’s Day Cupcake Bouquet

Tangerine, Pineapple, Cointreau and Champagne Cocktail

DSC_0041 (2)Greek Quiche with Artichokes, Kalamata Olives, Sundried Tomatoes, Oregano and Feta Cheese

Quiche Lorraine with Bacon, Caramelized Onions and Gruyere Cheese 

Pea and Pesto Pasta Salad

I hope everyone had a nice Mother’s Day!  I had my mom, sister in law and family over for brunch and we had a nice time.  My niece and I challenged ourselves to make a cupcake bouquet for dessert.  We had a rare, really hot day and as we were trying to pipe the frosting on the cupcakes, it kept melting despite our best efforts, so we weren’t as pleased as we could have been had we had a normal day and the icing kept a better shape.  At least they tasted good!  I haven’t had quiche in ages so I thought I would make a classic quiche Lorraine with bacon, caramelized onions and Gruyere cheese and a Greek quiche with artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, oregano, sundried tomatoes and feta cheese.  I made Ina Garten’s pea and pesto pasta salad as well as a baby green salad with blueberries, red onion, toasted almonds and a sherry vinaigrette.  My mom has loved collecting pretty blue and white ceramics over the the years and all her travels, so I used some of them for my table decoration.  I printed tags I found on the internet and made them into napkin holders with some simple pink twine and a miniature lilac on each napkin and they added to the Mother’s Day theme.  Click here for the menu and recipes….

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