YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Rustic Chicken

Any minute now the tomatoes are going to begin ripening and our counters will be absolutely covered in all kinds of tomatoes, big and small, yellow and red, green and orange! If you are looking for a special recipe to use them, you’ve come to the right place! One thing that I love about this recipe is that you can do the prep work earlier in the day, set it up in no time flat, and then pull it out of the oven in time for a lovely, sunset dinner. This dish makes a great visual impression, yes, but the slow cooking process caramelizes everything to impress your taste buds just as thoroughly. Bon appetit.

  • 4 chicken legs (drumsticks + thighs connected)
  • 1 large bunch fresh basil (use whole leaves plus stalks, chopped fine)
  • 1 1/2 cups red and/or yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2-4 ripe plum or beefsteak tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 whole bulb garlic, broken into cloves (unpeeled, skins intact)
  • 1 large pinch of dried chili flakes
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • One 14.5-ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup new potatoes, scrubbed and sliced
  • sea salt & fresh ground black pepper
  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Season chicken with salt and pepper, and jam together in a shallow pan in a single layer, skin sides up. Add cannellini beans and potatoes. Add basil leaves, basil stalks, and tomatoes.
  2. Scatter the garlic cloves and chili flakes on top, drizzle with olive oil, and mix, pushing tomatoes under the chicken. Place in oven, uncovered, for 1 1/2 hours until the chicken skin is crisp and the meat is falling off the bone. Halfway through the cooking, flip the exposed tomatoes.
  3. If desired, to crisp the skin further, raise the temperature and/or switch to convection, or turn on the broiler for a bit at the end, rotating the pan occasionally. Watch closely to avoid burning. Prior to serving, squeeze the garlic out of the skins. Serves 4.

Thank you to Jamie Oliver for a prior version of this gorgeous recipe.

 


YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Simplest Salad

I’ve been making this salad for breakfast, yes breakfast, for months now. I know it’s a bit unconventional in the U.S. to eat salad for breakfast (though not in Europe and the Middle East), but it’s such a great way to start the day. Its success is built on simplicity. My strategy remains similar, week in and week out. It is never quite the same, and always delicious. Thank you to Alice Waters for teaching me to eat simply. This salad makes one single serving, but is infinitely flexible if you’d like to invite a friend or an army to your table to share a meal.

1 medium white potato (organic), cooked
2 small (pickling) cucumbers (approx 4 inches long)
8 grape or cherry tomatoes
2 tsp. sunflower seeds
2 tsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. sea salt
a small handful of fresh herbs (choose from among chives, basil, mint, thyme, oregano)

Dice the potato into 1/2 inch cubes, and add to a bowl.
Halve the cucumbers the long way, and slice into thin half-moons.
Slice each tomato in half.

Mix together the vegetables, and add the herbs. Sprinkle with olive oil and sea salt. Mix well.
Sprinkle the top with sunflower seeds just before serving.

Thank you, Alice Waters.


YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Lebanese Potato Kugel

Once again, my dear friend and talented cook Judith has outdone herself. Potato kugel (translated loosely as “pudding,” but much more Yorkshire than chocolate), was a mainstay of my childhood. Last weekend she completely surprised (!) me, creating her own version of this recipe that is so familiar and dear to me, and which I grew up eating on many holidays and other special occasions. My Grandma Rosie had her own special way of making potato kugel; she taught my mom to make it, and that’s how I learned. Grandma Rosie’s version would have you heating the oil in a square glass Pyrex pan in the oven, carefully pouring the potato batter directly into the hot pan with spitting hot olive oil, and then sprinkling a little more oil on top prior to cooking it, but Judith’s version gives you a little more control over the crust.

This is one of those recipes whose flavor creates a memory that stays with you for years. As my grandma Rosie would have put it, it takes a little bit of potchky-ing (fussing) but, as Judith puts it, it’s “A labor of love you won’t regret.”

3 large Yukon Gold potatoes, shredded
2 large eggs
4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1/3 cup garbanzo or fava bean flour
1/2 cup cilantro (plus more for garnish if desired), chopped coarsely
1/2 cup green onion, finely sliced
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp. fresh black pepper
water to mix

1. Combine all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl, except the water.
2. Add water as needed to absorb chick pea flour, so that the mixture is wet but sticks together (fairly solid). Too wet is better than too dry, fyi, so if you are unsure, err on the side of more water.
3. Heat a 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until very hot. Add a generous slick of olive oil (approx 2 Tbsp.), and spoon potato mixture into the pan, spreading it into an even layer. Allow to cook 3-4 minutes, reduce flame to medium, and allow to brown.
4. Preheat oven to 375 F. Once the sides of the kugel begin to crisp, slide a knife around the edge of the skillet to loosen, reduce the flame to low, and allow to cook 10-15 minutes more. This time, slide a sharp spatula under and around the edges to loosen it from the pan.
5. Flip the kugel by placing a serving plate atop the skillet, and then flipping so the cooked side faces up. Return empty skillet to the fire, turn up heat to medium-high. Add remaining olive oil, allow to heat thoroughly, and slide kugel, now raw side down, back into the skillet. Allow to cook over medium heat for 4 minutes, and
6. Transfer the entire skillet to the preheated oven. Cook 15-20 minutes until done. Use a sharp knife to check the center of the kugel for doneness.
7. Flip the kugel onto a cutting board or platter, and slice into 8 or more wedges. Serve with a few slices of brisket, a squeeze of lime, more fresh chopped cilantro, a sprinkle of salt, a crumble of queso fresca, a drizzle of Mexican crema, or straight up. Your choice.

Thank you, Judith. Hearty appetite!


YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: The Simplest of Salads

Here’s what I made for lunch a couple of days ago. Its success is built on simplicity. My strategy remains similar, week in and week out. Nevertheless, it is never quite the same, and always delicious. Thank you to Alice Waters for teaching me to eat simply. This salad makes one single serving, but is infinitely flexible if you’d like to invite a friend or an army to your table to share a meal. Continue reading


Potatoes, Horseradish, and Other Gifts

Some years ago, when winter was coming to an end and spring was still soggy and cold, I discovered a lone organic potato in my kitchen. I have to specify that it was organic because conventionally grown potatoes are much less likely to root and generate offspring. This sad little potato was dried out, wrinkly, and way past edible. At least six little rootlets were beginning to form on the skin, and so I decided to try an experiment. I cut that little potato into six chunks, each containing a single rootlet. I dug a trench in the garden on the far side of our backyard, and dropped each of the pieces into the trench, about 1 foot apart. Then I covered them with dirt and waited. Continue reading


YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Another Kind of Magic Bean Soup — Vegetarian Chili

I love my slow cooker. I even have a bumper sticker that says so.

This is something really terrific — it takes 5 minutes to get ready, all day to cook and fill the house with heavenly smells, and no time at all to bring to the table for a satisfying and wonderful meal.  Thank you to Clean Eating Chelsey for her version of Magic Bean Soup. As opposed to this one, from me and Michael Ruhlman. Continue reading


YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Lebanese Potato Salad

This past weekend I had the great pleasure of collaborating with a friend on a collection of recipes for a beloved young couple starting their married lives together. Many of the recipes came from my friend’s mother and her grandmother, who came to the U.S. from Lebanon so many, many years ago. In honor of my friend, Judith, therefore, and the culinary heritage that she has been so lucky not just to inherit but to perpetuate, here is a recipe for Lebanese Potato Salad. Continue reading