Roast Za’atar Chicken with Yogurt Sauce

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Let’s be honest: roasting a cut chicken in a baking dish is eons easier than roasting the whole bird, what with the basting and the watching and careful tinkering. Adapted from a Bon Apetit recipe, this roast za’atar chicken is a perfect way to use either a whole chicken, cut into pieces, or simply chicken legs. Drizzled with a herby za’atar oil and baked alongside loads of onions, garlic, and lemons, this chicken is nothing if not super flavorful.

Roast za'atar chicken with yogurt sauce

Ingredients:

1 whole chicken, cut into pieces, or 4 chicken legs (thigh and drumstick; about 3 pounds total)
2 red onions, cut into 2-inch-thick wedges
1 head of garlic, halved crosswise, plus 2 cloves
1 Meyer lemon, quartered, seeds removed
Salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups plain Greek yogurt
3 tablespoons za’atar
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1. Preheat oven to 325F degrees. Arrange chicken, onions, halved garlic heads, and lemon in a baking dish; season with salt. Pour in oil and toss to coat. Turn garlic cut side down. Roast, rotating pan halfway through, until meat tender, 50–60 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, finely grate 1 small garlic clove into a small bowl. Add yogurt, a pinch of salt, and 1 tablespoon water and mix. Set aside yogurt sauce.

3. Remove baking dish from oven and transfer onions, garlic, and lemon to a plate. Increase oven temperature to 425F degrees and continue to roast chicken until skin is golden brown, 10–15 minutes more. Transfer chicken to a plate and let rest 10 minutes. Set aside pan with juices.

4. Finely grate remaining garlic clove into another small bowl. Add za’atar, coriander, and lemon zest. Pour reserved juices in pan into za’atar mixture until you have about 1/2 cup. Mix in a pinch of salt, if needed.

5. Spread reserved yogurt sauce over a platter and arrange chicken legs on top. Scatter onions, garlic, and lemon; drizzle with za’atar oil.

Arugula and Cashew Pesto with Brown Rice Spaghetti

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This dish is really all about the pesto. Serve it with pasta, slather it on bread, eat it by the spoonful — it doesn’t matter. Here, the spaghetti is merely the vehicle by which to eat the pesto: creamy, peppery, with just a hint of garlic and cheese.

Arugula and cashew pesto

Ingredients:

4 cups baby arugula leaves
1/2 cup raw cashews
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon champagne or white wine vinegar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
12 ounces pasta

1. Bring roughly 2 quarts of salted water to a boil. Blanch arugula for about 30 seconds or until the leaves become bright green. Drain arugula into a colander and run cold water over them. Press leaves to remove excess water and let drain.

2. Meanwhile, bring a pan to a medium heat, add cashews and a pinch of salt, making sure to move the pan around to prevent the cashews from burning. Toast until you begin to smell a nutty aroma and the cashews have turned lightly golden. Remove from pan and let cool.

3. Place arugula, cashews, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, salt, and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese in a blender and process until smooth.

4. Cook pasta according to package instructions until al dente. When pasta is ready, strain and immediately toss with a little olive oil. Add pesto and serve garnished with grated Parmesan cheese.

Turkey “Chorizo” and Potato Tacos

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These tacos aren’t by any means authentic but they are without a doubt delicious. I use ground turkey and a generous serving of fresh herbs to create a “chorizo” of sorts (let’s be honest, I’m being really liberal with the definition of chorizo here). Combined with fried potatoes (uh, who doesn’t love fried potatoes?) and a smattering of onions and cilantro, these tacos hit the spot.

Turkey chorizo and potato tacos

Ingredients:

For the chorizo:

1 medium serrano chile
1 large poblano chile
2 unpeeled garlic cloves
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 1/2 cups cilantro
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound ground turkey

For the tacos:

1/4 cup avocado oil
2 medium russet potatoes
2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup chicken broth
1 cup diced onion, rinsed in cold water
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
18 corn tortillas, warmed
Lime wedges, for serving

1. Heat a medium cast-iron skillet over medium. Add chiles and garlic cloves, and cook, turning occasionally, until charred and softened, about 4 minutes for serrano, 8 minutes for poblano, and about 12 minutes for the garlic. Transfer the chiles to a medium bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Let stand 15 minutes. Stem, peel, and seed poblano. Stem and peel serrano. Set chiles aside. Let garlic cool, and peel cloves. Add coriander seeds and cumin seeds to skillet; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 20 seconds. Finely grind seeds in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle.

2. Combine chiles, garlic, ground spices, cilantro, vinegar, oregano, and salt in a food processor. Process until a coarse paste forms, about 1 minute, stopping to scrape down sides as needed.

3. In a medium bowl, mix the turkey with the puree and set aside.

4. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium. Add potatoes in a single layer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and crisp, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel–lined plate, and sprinkle with 3/4 teaspoon salt. Do not wipe out skillet. Return skillet to heat over medium-high and add chorizo, stirring often, until crumbled and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Stir in chicken broth and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is mostly absorbed, about 1 minute.

5. Assemble tacos: Top each tortilla with about 2 tablespoons chorizo, 1 tablespoon potatoes, and 1 teaspoon onion and cilantro. Serve with lime wedges.

Sri Lankan Chicken Biryani with Mint Sambol

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Once a year, I try my hand at making biryani. It’s typically a disaster: mushy or undercooked rice — nothing like the fluffy, fragrant grains infused with spice that I’m aiming for.

But this year is different! I finally stumbled upon a method, fool-proof for a biryani novice even like me. Success! Delicious, ghee-laden success. Accompanied with a cooling mint sambol, this chicken biryani is the real thing.

Sri Lankan chicken biryani with mint sambol

Ingredients:

For the chicken:
1 1/2 to 2 pounds chicken (I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs but any cuts will do just fine)
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon roasted curry powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup yogurt
1/4 cup tomato puree
2 tablespoons chopped cashews
2 tablespoons shredded coconut
1 cardamom pod
1 clove
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons ghee
1 onion, chopped
1 serrano chili, chopped

For the rice:
1 pound (about 3 cups) basmati rice
3 teaspoons ghee
1 onion, chopped
2 cardamom pods
2 cloves
2 bay leaves
1 2-inch stick cinnamon stick
A pinch of ground saffron
1 1/2 to 2 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt

For the mint sambol:
3 cups mint leaves
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 serrano chili
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 teaspoon sugar
Salt to taste

1. Wash and dry chicken. Season with salt, pepper, curry powder, and cayenne pepper.

2. In a food processor, blend yogurt, tomato puree, cashews, and coconut.

3. Combine yogurt mixture, cardamom pods, clove, and bay leaves with chicken and marinade at least 2 hours to overnight.

4. When ready to assemble and cook the chicken, preheat the oven to 300F degrees. Heat ghee in a medium pan on the stovetop. Fry the onion and chili until onions are lightly browned.

5. Remove chicken from marinade (reserving marinade), add to pan, and saute for about 10 minutes. Add a little water to the reserved marinade and pour over chicken. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat and place chicken in a deep oven-proof baking dish.

6. Prepare the rice: Wash and drain the rice. Heat the ghee in a medium pan. Fry onion until lightly browned. Add cardamom pods, cloves, bay leaves, and cinnamon stick.

7. Add rice and fry for a few minutes until rice starts to turn lightly golden. Add saffron and mix well.

8. Pour in stock and simmer until rice is partially cooked (about 15 minutes). Add salt.

9. Place rice on top of chicken in baking dish. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in heated oven until moisture evaporates, about 45 minutes.

10. In the meantime, make the sambol: Blend all of the sambol ingredients together in a food processor to make a thick green paste. Serve with yogurt alongside biryani.

Iranian Tomato and Eggplant Frittata (Varagheh)

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Iranian cuisine has all manners of frittata, which are typically called kuku: herb kuku, potato kuku, eggplant kuku — you get the picture. But I’d never had varagheh growing up, which is basically kuku’s cousin: an herby, garlicy egg dish layered with stacks of eggplant and tomato. In other words, a Persian summer in a cast-iron skillet.

Adapted from Naz Deravian’s Bottom of the Pot cookbook, this northern Iranian dish has become one of my favorite Iranian recipes. You can make this ahead of time, cut it into wedges, and serve it at room temperature, but be careful: these go fast.

Varagheh

Ingredients:

1 pound Japanese eggplant, sliced into 1⁄2-inch-thick rounds
1⁄4 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
7 eggs
2 garlic cloves, crushed to a paste
1 heaping tablespoon minced tarragon leaves
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and roughly chopped
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tomatoes, sliced into 1⁄4-inch rounds

1. Preheat oven to 425F degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.

2. Toss eggplant with 1/4 cup oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt, then spread out on baking sheet. Roast until tender, turning once halfway through, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven, then lower heat to 400F degrees.

3. While eggplant roasts, beat eggs with garlic, tarragon, capers, remaining 1 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper.

4. Heat a 12-inch ovenproof skillet (preferably cast-iron) over medium-high heat. Add butter and remaining 1 tbsp. oil. When sizzling, add half of tomatoes in a layer (overlapping if needed), and layer with half of eggplant. Repeat with remaining tomatoes and eggplant. Pour in eggs.

5. Bake until set and edges are slightly browned, about 20 minutes. Let cool slightly and serve.