Summer Grilling: Spiced Butterflied Chicken with Tahini Yogurt and Mint Chimichurri

 

Summer weather has finally arrived in New York City and with that an entirely new world of possibilities has opened up. Picnics in the park, drinks at a rooftop bar, and weekend beach escapes are just a few of the many options that New Yorkers have as an outlet to beat the scorching heat. Personally, I think nothing screams summer more than a barbecue.

Grilling outside feels primal somehow. Cooking outdoors over an open flame harkens back to the very first cooking methods, and even though we have evolved, it is still one of the most delicious. I love the crisp char of grilled meat or vegetables coupled with the smoky aroma that they release into the breeze. Over time, I have learned through trial and error what works best on the grill versus what proves to be a very messy or frustrating experience. In the end, the biggest problem for me has always been striking the balance between having an enjoyable outdoor grilling experience while keeping in mind that I live New York City, a place with almost no nature and an extremely low tolerance for open flames.

Once, about a year back, I got the opportunity to take a day off from chef life and attend a backyard party in the Lower East Side. The afternoon was beautiful, the drinks were flowing and the vision of so many “artisanal” bratwursts was a sight to behold. I watched as the grill was piled with burgers, steaks and franks. The grill cracked and popped at the influx of raw ingredients and flames began to lick up over the grate. The grill was obviously overloaded, but I was hesitant to jump into chef mode. Onlookers observed as the small flames and wisps of smoke steadily grew. The mood quickly escalated into panic as a full-fledged fire emerged and began to dance around the telephone wires six feet up. All ended quickly and safely but I have been forever traumatized by my first New York City grilling experience.

 
Summer grilling at sunset

I have since dedicated much time and practice to learning the art and grace of outdoor grilling. Cooking on my own rooftop has become an amazing dinnertime ritual now that the weather allows and the sun stays up later. Rian and I frequently experiment with new glazes or rubs, so I thought I would share last night’s delicious endeavor of grilling a butterflied chicken. This was a play on a chicken tagine that we have been making for clients of late. The result wa
s a charred and flavorful crust that gave way to tender and juicy meat. We enjoyed the entire bird over a swoosh of Tahini Yogurt and topped with a drizzle of mint chimichurri. I have since decided that I never want to go back to traditional roasting.

 

For the Chicken:

1 Chicken, butterflied

1 tbs chili powder

1 tbs Cumin

3 cloves Garlic, minced

1 tbs Smoked paprika

1 tbs Ground Coriander

1 tbs olive oil

For the Chimichurri:

1/2 cup cilantro

1/2 cup mint

1 clove garlic

2 tbs parsley

1/4 cup lime juice

1/2 cup olive oil

pinch of salt

To make the chimichurri: combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until chopped finely. Allow to rest and develop the flavors.

To make the chicken: In a bowl, combine the spices, garlic and olive oil until a paste forms. Rub the paste under the skin of the chicken and on top until evenly coated. Sprinkle a liberal amount of salt and pepper on top and head toward the grill!

Turn the grill on medium high and cook skin side down for 15 minutes. Flip the chicken and continue to cook for an additional 30 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before carving. Serve scattered with cracked green olives, a dollop of tahini yogurt and a drizzle with chimichurri.

With Love,  Kristina

 

Get to Know It: Chickpea Flour

Socca, an unleavened pancake made from chickpea flour and water.

Chickpeas are an ingredient we know and love. They’re satiating and a great source of plant-based protein. And, like most legumes, they provide an excellent canvas for flavor. You can really dress them up in any way you like.

We eat them chilled in our summer bean salads, warm in our winter stews. Pureed in our hummus, fried in our falafel. We love to roast them to crispy, baked perfection. To munch on them as a snack, to include them in our kitchen sink salads. Basically, we love to consume chickpeas pretty much any way, at pretty much any time.

But how often do you find yourself cooking with chickpea flour? If you’re anything like me, the answer is probably not too often.

Chickpea flourtraditionally made by grinding raw chickpeasis gluten free and nutrient dense. Like whole chickpeas, it’s a fantastic source of protein, and one that doesn’t come with an ominous use-by date. It has a really nice flavor and a rather dense texture, so it holds up well during cooking and tastes delicious once it’s done.

You can use chickpea flour in many ways, most of which are easy, fast, healthy and economical. Read: this is an ingredient worth getting to know.

Not sure where to begin? I can’t think of a better way to break the ice than by making socca.

Socca, native to France, is an unleavened pancake that can be made from equal parts chickpea flour and water. The process will seem friendly to even the most novice cooks. It requires little more than whisking flour and water, heating a lightly oiled pan and cooking a pancake. Isn’t that lovely?

But there’s room for adventure, too.

For instance, you could amp up your socca with egg a la this genius recipe for “cromlet”, a chickpea-omelette hybrid developed at Bon Appetit and beloved by the team here at WWE.

Or perhaps you’d like to use it as a gluten and dairy free roux in your next vegan sauce, as Lindsey Love, a fellow chickpea flour evangelist, suggests.

Love also wrote this recipe for za’tar spiced chickpea crackers, which look to be delicious, healthful and minimalist all at once. They consist of little more than chickpea flour, olive oil and water.

Other intriguing uses: pizza, wraps, baking (it’s a trustworthy binder) and soups, to name a few.

But don’t let me get carried away. If you’re new to chickpea flour, how about a simple, anything-goes, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants Salad Socca? The guidelines are straightforward:

Purchase some chickpea flour (also called garbanzo or gram flour), then head to the farmer’s market and fill your tote with spring produce. Make your way home. Make a salad, then make socca, then top the socca with the salad. Easy, right?

A salad of baby greens, fennel and cucumber.

Below, a bit of inspiration: a recipe for a Salad Socca of my own creation. Let me know what you think of yours. Happy cooking!

 

Salad Socca

1 cup yogurt

1 tablespoon tahini

1 garlic clove, peeled and pressed

1 lemon, juiced and zested

Salt and pepper to taste

2 cups baby greens

1 fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced

1 small cucumber, thinly sliced

Olive oil to taste

½ teaspoon sumac (optional)

1 cup chickpea flour

1 cup water

 

In a small bowl, combine yogurt, tahini, garlic, half of the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Separately, combine greens, fennel and cucumber. Toss well with olive oil, remaining lemon juice, some lemon zest and salt and pepper to taste. Optionally, sprinkle with sumac.

In a medium bowl, combine 1 cup chickpea flour, 1 cup water and a healthy three-finger pinch of salt. Whisk until smooth.

Heat a medium (10-in or so) skillet, then add 1 tablespoon olive oil, or enough to lightly coat surface.

Pour socca batter into skillet and let cook, undisturbed, until golden brown on bottom. It will fill the entire skillet. Flip and repeat on other side.

Once done, top socca with a generous serving of tahini-yogurt. Using the back of a spoon or spatula, spread mixture to evenly coat. Using your hands, top with fennel and cucumber salad. Enjoy.

All You Need to Know About Pork Tenderloin

Currently sitting at my favorite neighborhood patisserie – nibbling on the best chocolate almond croissant in Park Slope (Colson at the corner of 9th and 6th ave) – piecing together the clips of my first totally solo video project. And it’s starting to feel like a mining operation: pealing away the jumbled parts of my 3-hour, single-take, cut-less footage and jerky tripod adjustments – a testament to the importance of asking for an extra set of hands. However, my favorite part of this whole process of making these videos has been the challenge of putting my film schooling to practice in this new food video domain. It’s not perfect and my standards are much too high but it’s really fun. I love the process of demonstrating a process. Food is a process. It’s practice and it’s putting your knowledge of ingredients and tools to the test. Sometimes it doesn’t turn out the way we envision but when it does the process of getting to that point makes you feel like an expert the next time around. Being confident and accepting the process is the key to success.

This video came about because some folks commented on one of our pork tenderloin Instagram posts, professing their frustration with pan-searing pork and that it never looks like “that”. But, I’ll be honest, neither did mine. It took me a few tries and lots of deep breaths to get it right. Laura and the crew would probably say it was my biggest hurdle. But I’m here to tell you that it is possible! Here are a few tips I picked up in the process 🙂

  • Prepping a pork tenderloin:
    • Pork is best seared, to get that crispy, unctuous crust, then popped in the oven at 425 degrees to finish.
    • First, you must trim off something called the “silverskin”. According to my research, “silverskin is connective tissue that doesn’t dissolve when the tenderloin is cooked, so it needs to be trimmed away” (finecooking.com). Hold it tightly with your fingertips and stick a sharp knife, preferably a boning knife or pairing knife, through to make a thin slit and follow the tissue until it’s removed.

  • The longer you marinate, the better.
    • Next, it’s important to marinate the tenderloin for as long as possible, at least an hour. Although, we all know apple and pork is a winning combo, pork is also great with almost any citrus. Pork absorbs flavors beautifully. You can adjust your seasonings to go along with whatever you’re making.
    • Make sure you strip the pork of excess marinade before you start searing but don’t pour it down the drain just yet! You’ll use it later. You can also add a little something extra to the marinade after you’ve stripped it like honey or agave, sriracha, anything that is likely to burn in the pan while it sears. We added honey to the recipe in this video and created a sweet glaze.
    • (Bonus tip: you can also make extra marinade before you add the pork to use as salad dressing!)

  • How to get the perfect sear every time:
    • When you’re searing pork, or anything for that matter, you want to make sure your pan is really really hot. You can test this with the water splash test, if it sizzles you’re ready to go. Add the oil. This can be anything you have laying around but if you’re getting really technical, you’ll want something with a “high-smoke-point” (things like grapeseed oil, safflower oil or canola oil). Make sure it covers the whole surface of the pan, then carefully layer the meat on top. It will splatter so watch out!
    • You’re going to create an even sear around the whole tenderloin so it’s crispy all the way around. To do this, you’ll roll the pork toward (or away) from you, allowing the pork to get a nice sear on each roll. On the last roll just turn, spread with your excess marinade or glaze and pop it in the oven.

  • Finish it off in the oven.
    • Oven timing is tricky here because oven temps vary, pork girth vary, and different pans transfer heat differently. Before you give up, there’s an easy solution. Welcome meat thermometer! Check the pork after about 6-8 minutes. Stick the thermometer in the thickest park of the meat. You want it to read 135-140. It will finish cooking while it settles.

  • Let it rest!
    • Probably the most important tip we can give you is to let it rest. Make sure the pork rests for at least 10 minutes – just enough time to whip up your salad or strain your rice. This will ensure juicy pork. Even if you think you overcooked it, it will still be delicious and juicy if you allow the meat to rest.
  • Save le jus.
    • The final tip I have is to pour the juices that pool on your cutting board over the meat. It’s a trick I learned long ago and will never serve meat to another living soul without it. Perhaps the simplest way to transform a piece of meat into a savory chef-d’oeuvre.

Our go-to pork marinade ingredients and pairings:

As shown in the video:

  • Roasted pork tenderloin with lots of fresh thyme, rosemary, garlic, salt + pepper and honey to finish.
    • Paired with delicate Boston lettuce, shaved radish, lightly blanched green beans, and brown rice with a lemon-dijon vinaigrette
  • Roasted pork tenderloin with orange zest, garlic, grainy Dijon mustard and honey to finish
    • Paired with roasted sweet potato wedges, quinoa and simple arugula salad with citrus Dijon vinaigrette
  • Laura’s Cooks vs. Cons pork tenderloin: http://whatweeat.nyc/cooks-vs-cons-behind-the-scenes/

The Green Goddess

Green goddess dressing.

I’ve known about green goddess dressing for a while now, but I have to admit that up until recently, its ingredients were somewhat of a mystery to me. Herbs, of course, and something creamy, for sure. But was that greek yogurt, or was it buttermilk? Avocado, or just green herbs? A hint of anchovy, or am I just making things up?

I don’t know about you, but when I hear “green goddess” notions of healthy grain bowls, sunny weather and glowing skin come to mind. New Californian cooking. As far as I’m concerned, it sounds like quintessential health food branding. Right?

While many recipes proved my theory correct, featuring fresh, healthful ingredients like herbs, avocado, greek yogurt and lemon, I was surprised to learn that a wholesome green goddess recipe is something of a reformed party girl.

The green goddess got its start in 1920s New York, when a broadway show of the same name premiered and gained popularity. Following its rise, a chef at The Palace Hotel in San Francisco invented a green dressing in its honor.

A green goddess with cilantro, greek yogurt, avocado and lime.

And the original recipe had absolutely nothing to do with health. Think mayonnaise, sour cream, anchovies, tarragon and chives. Delicious? Definitely. Wholesome? Not so much.

That said, this recipe – now nearly a century old – is far from obsolete. Many contemporary green goddesses have decadent, old-school vibes, requesting a heavy hand with rich dairy and classic French herbs.

Personally, I prefer a green goddess with greek yogurt and lots of citrus. To me, these versions are cleaner and brighter.

But that’s what’s great about the green goddess. She’s a chameleon. You can really make this dressing your own. Craving something avocado-forward? Go for it. Need to finish that buttermilk before it goes bad? Use it. Want to make anchovies your star? Sounds great. Forgot them at the grocery store? It will still be delicious!

I suggest preparing a batch of green goddess on Sunday evening to get you through the start of your work week. It’s versatile, so making it doesn’t require committing to one specific dinner idea. You can dress your salads with it, marinate your proteins in it, use it to amp up your grain bowls, or even let it guest star on taco night.

Below, you’ll find a few renditions I know and like. If you’re going to marinate a protein, I suggest following this recipe by Melissa Clark. Otherwise, simply use the ideas below to spark your creativity. After all, that’s what the green goddess is all about.

Green Goddess I

Combine parsley, basil, greek yogurt, garlic, lemon juice and zest, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Blend until smooth.

Green Goddess II

Combine parsley, mint, basil, cilantro, sour cream, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Blend until smooth.

Adapted ever so slightly from Mina Stone’s recipe in Cooking For Artists (p 33).

Green Goddess III

Combine tarragon, chives, greek yogurt, anchovies*, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Blend until smooth.

*I suggest using 1-2 anchovies. If using, be sure to season less aggressively; anchovies add a lot of salt!

Green Goddess IV

Combine cilantro, avocado, greek yogurt, garlic, lime juice and zest, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.

Spring Cleaning Your Diet

There are certain times of year when it seems like everyone is trying to “get back on the wagon.” January is the most obvious. We’re genuinely tired of holiday indulgences and habituated to setting health-related resolutions come the new year. Spring is a close second. Maybe it’s the changing of wardrobes, the thought of upcoming summer vacation, or inspiration from nature’s rebirth all around us. Who knows? But why not take advantage of this extra push.

In my work with nutrition clients, anxiety around failed New Year’s resolutions is a big stumbling block to reviving healthy habits. After making sure that their original goals are the right ones for now to begin with, there is an exercise I turn to time and again to help clients work through any indecision that might have caused them to lose track. We assess the benefits of change, benefits of staying the same, drawbacks of change, and drawbacks of staying the same. We then illustrate our findings in a table.

Let me give you an example. A weight loss client’s new year’s resolution was to decrease portion sizes at dinner by leaving a quarter of the food on his dinner plate untouched. A perfect SMART goal. It felt easy at first but as his motivation flagged throughout the last month or so, the scale has stubbornly stayed put. While he wants to continue losing weight, he also hates the idea of always having to keep nutrition top of mind. He doesn’t feel like he’s made any unsustainable changes to lose weight yet, but he’s concerned that any additional changes he’ll have to make in the future will feel more difficult. He’s actually comfortable at his current weight, but thinks it’s impossible to maintain unless he’s focused on losing. This is a major cause of anxiety. When he’s successfully executing his goals, he feels a sense of control that pervades the rest of his life. That’s almost a greater benefit to him than any change in appearance (although he likes that too). He also has a family history of diabetes and understands that continued weight loss would be beneficial for disease prevention.  Most of all, he doesn’t want his weight to go back up. He remembers how hard it was to lose and doesn’t want to start all over again.

Here is how we charted these points in a benefits-drawbacks table:

When he saw the above, he felt it was clear the benefits of change coupled with the drawbacks of staying the same far outweighed the benefits of staying the same and drawbacks of change. The anxiety he felt around regaining weight was the clearest motivating factor.

There is no reason that you need the support of a registered dietitian/nutritionist to explore your own indifference. As you plan your goals for spring cleaning your diet, take a few minutes to fill out your own chart. Keep it somewhere handy to refer back to when the going gets tough. And if you think it might help, share your chart in the comments section here. You have your own answers but a community can provide the support you need to follow them.