Pork Chops with Farro, Fig, Kale and Tarragon Pilaf
Farro is a nutty tasting grain that has been around for centuries and is packed with protein, fiber and nutrients like magnesium and iron and is easily made by boiling in water or chicken stock and takes about 20-25 minutes to cook. It makes a great side dish and can also be used to make a hearty salad. To make the pilaf, I sautéed an onion and added some chopped dried figs, lemon juice, and a little water to reconstitute the fig for about 5 minutes and then added some chopped kale with a little more water until the kale was cooked – about 5 minutes. When the farro was cooked and drained, I combined it in the pan with the figs and kale and added some fresh tarragon and tasted for salt and pepper and added a little water to moisten the pilaf. I combined flour, coriander and ground fennel seed and coated each side of the pork chops before I sautéed them in a little butter and olive oil and served them on top of the farro pilaf and garnished the pork chops with some more fresh tarragon to bring the slight anise taste out of the fennel. I think figs and pork chops are a perfect combination and the nuttiness and heartiness of the farro pilaf really makes this a fabulous dish. Click here for the recipe….
Salmon with Asian Glaze
This salmon can be grilled or roasted in the oven. You cook the glaze in a saucepan with shallots, hoisin, garlic ketchup, honey, sesame seeds, soy sauce, fish sauce, rice vinegar, and sambal oelek. Sambal oelek is a slightly chunky Southeast Asian chili sauce made from red chilie peppers, rice vinegar and can often have shrimp paste, fish sauce, garlic, ginger, shallot, palm sugar and lime juice for an even more flavorful sauce. You can find sambal oelek in most grocery stores now and it is different from sriacha because it less acidic and adds a little more heat because the chilie pepper seeds are left in the condiment. A little goes a long way! Cook it all together for 5 minutes and you have the glaze which is full of flavor and a little kick of heat. You can make the glaze several days before. I like to cook the salmon on a piece of foil that has been scrunched all around the edges for easier cleanup. Brush some of the glaze on the fish before you bbq or roast it and then heat the sauce back up and glaze it with the salmon when it is finished just before serving. If you put too much glaze on the fish as it’s cooking it can burn. I like to serve it with some Japanese rice and snap peas and keep the salmon the star of the show. Click here for the recipe….
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….
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….
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….
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….
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….
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….
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….
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….