Mediterranean Chicken-Quinoa Salad

I subscribe to The Splendid Table’s Weeknight Kitchen emails which come out every Wednesday, featuring easy-to-prepare recipes. This recipe for Greek Chicken Salad with Lemon, Feta and Grains caught my eye – anything with lemon and feta gets a second look from me! I made it the next night, without the tzatziki, and thought it was a little bland, so made some adaptations for a lunch with friends. We liked it! We served it with a Greek white wine and that beautiful beet hummus brought by friend Ruth. I will get the recipe from her and share with you soon! (Note: I’ve made this salad a few times since my lunch with friends and found that it is great with a dry rose wine also!)

Ingredients – serves 6

1 1/2 cups quinoa (I like red for its looks)

2 1/2 cups water

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced OR  2 tablespoons garlic infused olive oil

3/4 cup sliced scallions, white and green parts

1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1/2 – 3/4 pound cooked boneless, skinless chicken breast, torn or cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces

Juice of 1 lemon

1 medium red bell pepper, diced

1 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves

1 cup chopped fresh mint leaves

1 preserved lemon, peel only, diced OR zest of 1 lemon

Lemon dressing: 2 tablespoons EV olive oil, juice of 1/2 lemon, salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese, or more to taste

Spring greens salad mix

Instructions

Cook the quinoa: Rinse quinoa well and place in a medium saucepan with the water. Bring to a boil, turn heat down and simmer 15-20 minutes or until water is absorbed. Take off the heat, let sit for 10 minutes and then “fluff”. Set aside.

Cook the chicken mixture: In a large saute pan, heat 2-3 tablespoons olive oil till shimmering. Add the garlic, scallions and crushed red chili flakes and saute 3-4 minutes. (Alternatively, heat 2 tablespoons garlic infused olive oil plus one tablespoon olive oil. Add the scallions and crushed red chili flakes and saute 3-4 minutes.) Add the oregano and the chicken and saute for about 5 more minutes. Add the quinoa and lemon juice and stir to combine thoroughly.  Turn into a large serving bowl and cool to room temperature. At this point, proceed with the following and serve immediately or refrigerate until needed. If refrigerating, let the mixture come to room temperature before finishing the salad.

Finishing the salad: Add the herbs, diced red bell pepper and preserved lemon or lemon zest, stirring to combine. Add the lemon dressing and stir to blend in thoroughly. Here you can add the feta cheese or you can pass a bowl of it after serving so each person can add what they want.

Serving the salad: Place a bed of salad mix on a platter and place the quinoa salad on top of it. Yum!!

 

 

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Moroccan Baked Fish with Onions, Olives and Preserved Lemon

 

Aunt Suzy says . . . 

We made an extra-gigantic batch of preserved lemons this year, so I’ve been on the hunt for recipes.  A friend pointed out this NY Times recipe a while back, and I’ve been meaning to make it.

gigantic batch of preserved lemons

Our local salmon fisherman, Wild Run Salmon, has started catching and selling cod early in the farmers’ market season. I recently bought some from him and the rest is history, as they say! I decided to make this with cod even though it was not called for in the original recipe. This is a WOW dish –  tasty, colorful and that it’s easy to make is an added bonus. Randy and I were both happy it made enough for two meals this week.  A Sauvignon Blanc was a great match for these flavors.  (I don’t this this would be the case with a New Zealand SB – American or French have the right flavor profile.)

Ingredients for 4 servings

1  pound firm white fish such as halibut, snapper or cod, cut into 4 pieces
Salt and pepper
1 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped leaves and stems
2 garlic cloves, processed through a garlic press
1/2-1 serrano chile, very finely chopped, to taste
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
juice of 1 lime
2 tablespoons butter
2 large onions, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
Pinch ground cayenne pepper
1/2 preserved lemon, finely diced
1/2-1 cup green and/or black pitted olives, cut in half

Directions 

Marinate the fish in cilantro sauce

Toast 1 teaspoon cumin seeds and 1 teaspoon coriander seeds in a dry skillet till fragrant.  Cool slightly and roughly grind in a mortar and pestle. Place the cilantro, garlic, chile, 1 teaspoon of the ground spice mixture and the paprika in a bowl.  Whisk the 1/4 cup olive oil and lime juice together and add to the cilantro mixture. Salt to taste. Stir to combine thoroughly. Place some of the cilantro sauce on the bottom of a baking dish. Place the fish on top of the sauce, and optionally salt and pepper to taste.  Set a small amount of the sauce aside for serving at the table with the cooked fish. Place the remaining sauce on top of the fish. Cover the dish and marinate at room temperature for 1 hour. You can marinate for longer, but refrigerate except for the last hour.  NOTE: 1/2 serrano packed a lot of heat in the sauce, so I say use sparingly so the heat doesn’t blot out the flavor.

Moroccan Baked Fish with Onions, Olives and Preserved Lemon

Prepare the sauteed onions

Slice the onions. I recommend cutting “pole to pole” rather than “around the equator”.  I learned this technique a few years ago, which results in firmer and less stringy onions. Place the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a saute pan and heat over a medium burner. When it begins to shimmer, add the butter. When butter is melted and slightly bubbly, add the onions. Stir to coat, then add the remaining ground spice mixture, 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds, the turmeric and cayenne and stir to combine thoroughly. Turn up the heat slightly and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions just begin to brown, 10-15 minutes.  Place in an oblong baking dish large enough to hold all the fish on top of the onions. Stir in the preserved lemon and place the olives on top.

Bake the fish with the onions 

Preheat the oven to 400°F.   Place the fish on top of the onions, scraping all the remaining sauce on top of the fish. Bake on the top level of the oven for 10-15 minutes, until fish is firm to the touch.

Serving suggestions

You can place the fish on top of the onions on serving plates or alongside as shown in the photo. Place a little of the reserved sauce on each serving. You can see we served with fresh roasted asparagus – it’s that time of year!  I think roasted potatoes or some sort of rice dish would be a nice complement.

 

 

Aunt Suzy says . . .

It finally feels like spring here!  I’m not trusting it’s here to stay, so I decided to take advantage of the spring feeling and make this quinoa recipe.  I’m not sure whether to call it a salad, a side dish or a main dish – it could be any of those!  It can be served warm or room temperature so there are many possibilities. And, it uses preserved lemon, so what’s not to like?  (It would be good without the PL if you don’t have any on hand.)  I think you’ll find it’s a snap to make with many layers of flavor.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup chopped roasted almonds or toasted pine nuts
  • 1 cup quinoa, thoroughly rinsed (any color will do, even though I favor the red)
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1/4 red onion, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 preserved lemon peel, diced (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, mint or cilantro or a combo

NOTES ON THE INGREDIENTS:  I like Trader Joe’s dry roasted Spicy and Tangy Almonds.  If you use these, cut back the cayenne pepper to 1/8 teaspoon since the almonds pack a little heat.  If you don’t have preserved lemon, I think grated zest of 1 lemon would be delicious.

Directions

1.   If using pine nuts, toast briefly in a dry skillet over medium heat. This will take about 5 minutes, and stir constantly as they will burn easily. Set aside to cool.

2.   In a saucepan, combine the rinsed quinoa, water and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and cook until quinoa is tender and water has been absorbed, about 15 minutes. Cool slightly, then fluff with a fork.

3.   Transfer the quinoa to a serving bowl and stir in the chopped nuts, lemon juice, celery, onion, preserved lemon, cayenne pepper, cumin and herbs. Add the olive oil, then adjust salt/pepper if needed before serving.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Aunt Suzy says . . .

This week two food contest sites have put out a call for recipes with citrus.  This is a perfect time of year to cook with citrus, and it has been a welcome reminder that there are other types of food than the soups, stews and chilis we’ve been making here at S&SK this winter!  We want to enter this recipe, so I cooked it last night so we’d have some photos.  It’s been a long time since I’ve made this and while eating it, I was wondering why it’s been off the menu for so long!  It is as pretty as it is tasty and just what the doctor ordered to bring a taste of warmer climes to our dinner table.  We almost always serve this with Green Rice, recipe below, and a Sauvignon Blanc is a perfect pairing.

Margaux says . . .

This is one of my all time favorite dishes! The first time we made it, we were on vacation in Florida in 2002, and it made Jason (my husband) forget about the terrible sunburn he had for a few minutes. We’ve made it several times since, for company and just for ourselves, and I don’t think I can ever get tired of it! The salsa is a little tedious to make because of all the chopping, but totally worth it, and the ease of the fish makes up for it. The green rice is one of my favorite side dishes. It’s actually in my regular rotation, and I serve it with chicken or fish quite often. And it always gets rave reviews from guests!!

Aunt Suzy says . . .

Thanks for mentioning, Margaux, that this is a wonderful dish for company or a special occasion.  Both the fish and the green rice receive raves from everyone we’ve served it to!

Serves 4

The Salsa

2 navel oranges
1/2 cup plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/3 cup red onion, small dice
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup Kalamata olives, diced
1 heaping tablespoon capers, drained and chopped
1/4 preserved lemon peel, diced (optional)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary

Cut the top and bottom off the oranges.  Make 2-inch long strips of orange peel and set aside.  Cut the remaining skin off with a knife making sure that no white pith remains.   Slice cross-wise, about 1/3-inch thick, and then 1/2-inch pieces.  Place the orange pieces in a bowl with the remaining ingredients and stir to blend.  Set aside.  NOTE: This is just as good without the preserved lemon if you don’t happen to have any on hand.  Well, almost just as good :-).

The Fish

Four 6-ounce pieces cod filets (or halibut)
The strips of orange peel

Place the fish in an oiled glass baking dish.  Top with the orange peel strips.  Bake at 500 degrees, uncovered, for 7-10 minutes, depending on thickness.  To serve, place fish on individual serving plates and top with the salsa.

Green Rice

Cook 1 cup Basmati rice according to directions – you can use white or brown rice.  When rice is done and resting, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon unsalted butter in a Dutch oven.  Add 1-2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced, and sauté 2 minutes, until fragrant.  Stir in and cook over medium high heat a total of 5 cups coarsely chopped greens – arugula, spinach, beet tops, watercress, parsley, etc.   Cook until just wilted.  Stir the rice into the greens and  blend well.  We usually make double the recipe!

Aunt Suzy says . . .

I love salads with oranges!  I’d never had one until I started exploring the food of North Africa.  Once my antenna were up, I saw that many cultures use oranges in salads.  This is the first salad with oranges that I made, and I go back to it over and over.  It is especially good with rich Moroccan stews and tagines.  This recipe makes enough for six people but is also flexible.  So vary the quantities according to number of people and your tastes.

The Dressing

2 tablespoons orange juice                             3 tablespoons fruity olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice                              Pinch of cayenne pepper

Splash of red wine vinegar                               1/8 teaspoon paprika

Juice of one garlic clove (use press)           Salt and pepper, to taste

Whisk all ingredients together and set aside.  Note:  Juice will be expelled when you prepare the oranges.  I always just use that juice, whether it adds up to 2 tablespoons or not.

The Salad

4 seedless oranges (Navel or Valencia)

½ small red onion

18 brined or cured black olives (such as Kalamata, Nicoise or oil-cured Moroccan)

¼ preserved lemon rind, diced (optional)

12 mint leaves or ¼ cup chopped cilantro

1 head romaine lettuce, torn (optional)

Prepare the oranges by cutting off the top and bottom.  Use a knife to cut off the rind (vs. peel with your hands), including the white pith.  This is key to making sure the oranges are not bitter.

Cut oranges in ¼ inch slices, then cut those in half.  Slice the red onion, then cut into half-moons.  Cut the olives in half.  Cut the mint leaves into thin ribbons.   Tear the lettuce into medium pieces; wash and dry.

Assembling the Salad

Toss the lettuce in some of the dressing, then place on a platter.  There are two options after this:

  1. Arrange the oranges in overlapping slices on top of the lettuce.  Place the onion, preserved lemon and olives on top of the oranges.  Drizzle all with the remainder of the dressing.  Sprinkle the mint or cilantro on top and serve.
  2. Alternatively, toss all the ingredients – oranges through mint or cilantro- together with the remaining dressing and place on top of the lettuce.

Note: the lettuce is my addition.  Authentic North African salads of this type do not include it, but I think it adds great texture and flavor.  If you do not use lettuce, increase all other ingredients except the dressing.

Aunt Suzy says

Our exploration of summer cocktails continues.  I mentioned in a previous post that Randy was experimenting with Gimlets after seeing an article on them in a local magazine.  Coincidentally, friend Christie Quinn went to a class out in San Francisco on how to make Gimlets and sent us 3 different recipes for the drink – from basic to what looks like Gimlets on steroids.  We made the basic last night and it was so much better than the concoction we tried with Rose’s Lime Juice (yuck!).   Randy also made this outstanding hummus recipe that was featured on Fresh Tart, a local food blog I follow.  The promise was for tasty and creamy homemade hummus rather than the usual gloppy (my word), and we really liked it.  Another thing that attracted us, besides the creaminess, was the use of preserved lemon.  Most of the time when you use preserved lemon in recipes, you throw out the pulp, but this recipe used peel and pulp.  We had some pulp left over from the recent tagine we made, so we added that.  A winning hummus that we will make again (and probably tinker with, knowing us)!

Gimlet (amount we used for 2 cocktails)

1 1/2 parts Gin, Hendrick’s recommended (3 shots)

3/4 part simple syrup (2 jiggers)

3/4 part fresh lime juice (2 jiggers)

cucmber slice

Place cocktail glasses in the freezer a couple of hours prior to the cocktail hour.  (I love this instruction because it assumes that we all have a cocktail hour 🙂 vs. stating “prior to serving”.)  Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker, add ice and shake vigorously.  Strain into glasses.  Garnish with a slice of cucumber.  Randy and I tried it both up and on the rocks and both liked rocks better given how hot it was out at the time (even though we know this is probably heresy to Gimlet purists). 

Aunt Suzy says

My preserved lemon radar has been at its peak since Margaux made the Moroccan Chicken and Carrots, and we posted the recipe for preserved lemon.   I have a hunch that the recipes featuring this tasty Moroccan ingredient will start pouring into our blog since we both love it and have it on our minds.  I was browsing through the many cooking magazines that have piled up and saw this recipe in Food & Wine by Paula Wolfert.  She is a recognized authority on Mediterranean cooking who brought Morccan cuisine to the general public’s attention all the way back in 1973 with her cookbook, Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco.  I was delighted when I went to buy shrimp at Whole Foods and it was on sale.  One of life’s little treats is when the very thing you came to buy is on sale!  Randy and I both loved this dish and it paired perfectly with the “robust rose” from Spain that was recommended.  Randy helped me cook and said to make sure that I told you all to be sure and have a sous chef when you are making this dish.  It is not difficult at all but requires a lot of chopping – thank you, Randy!

The Shrimp

1/4 cup each chopped flat-leaf parsley and cilantro

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon sweet paprika

1 teaspoon ground ginger

Small pinch of saffron threads, crumbled

1/3 cup EV olive oil

1 1/4 pounds medium shrimp, shelled and deveined, tails left on

Whisk the lemon juice, paprika, ginger, saffron and olive oil together.  Sprinkle the herbs and pour the marinade over the shrimp and stir to blend.  Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.

 

The Vegetables

2 pounds of tomatoes , seeded and chopped (I used 1/2 plum and 1/2 regular)

3 garlic cloves

1 1/2 tsp cumin

Place these ingredients into a saucepan.  Bring to a bubble and simmer for 10-15 minutes until the tomatoes break down and the sauce starts to thicken.  Set aside.

3 large carrots, thinly sliced

1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced

1 1/2 pounds red new potatoes, thinly sliced

1 red and 1 yellow bell pepper, cut into thin strips

Place the sliced ingredients in a dutch oven (or a tagine if you are lucky enough to have one!) in layers in the order listed.  After each layer, add a little salt and pepper.  In case you’re wondering what those dark things are in the photo with the peppers, I bought a package of tiny red, yellow and purple bell peppers and used those.  Pour the tomato sauce on top of the layered vegetables and push down a little with a spoon.  Turn heat to medium high to get the juices bubbling.  Turn down heat to medium low and cook for 20-25 minutes, until all vegetables are cooked.  Check occasionally so the vegetables on the bottom don’t burn.  I was nervous about how the dish looked while it was cooking, but it all turned out in the end, so don’t worry if it doesn’t look like it’s going to come together.

 

 

 Finishing the Tagine

1/2 preserved lemon, peel only, diced

2/3 cup pitted green olives, sliced in half

When vegetables are cooked through, add the preserved lemon, olives and the marinated shrimp.  Cook about 5 minutes until the shrimp is just pink and curled.  Remove the shrimp from the pot and set aside.  Stir the vegetables and turn the heat up a little to cook off excess liquid.  Be careful not to burn the bottom of the pot, although Randy and I agreed that we liked the bits of carrot and potato that carmelized a little while doing this.  Transfer the vegetables to a serving bowl or individual serving bowls and top with the shrimp and a few cilantro (or parsley) leaves for garnish.