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

 

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.

A Word on Smoothies

Fruits and vegetables for smoothies
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day–or so they say. I tend to start each morning full of healthy resolve but find that it crumbles with each passing moment. After an entire day of running around the city cooking delicious meals for other people, dinner often turns into a free-for-all in which I succumb to every craving.

With this honest acknowledgement, I have learned that one of the most successful and simplest routines to fall into is to start each morning on the right foot, with a quick, low-maintenance and nourishing meal. My ultimate to-go meal is a smoothie.

Herbs citrus and ginger for smoothie

I love smoothies for many reasons. First and foremost, they are easy to throw together. Literally just toss the ingredients in a blender and whizz until it has reached a smooth consistency. Second, it is a great way to use anything in the fridge that may be on its way out. No discrimination against a slightly overripe banana or ugly avocado when everything ends up pulverized in the blender anyway. Texture trumps appearance. For example, avocados add creaminess to a smoothie, as does banana.

Carrot Mise en place

Most people are comfortable with fruit smoothies but are more hesitant to add vegetables to the mix. The key is to make sure that there is a good balance between some of the more strongly flavored veggies (such as kale or parsley) and the sweetness of the fruit. The addition of veggies provides an opportunity to get even more vitamins and fiber into one cup and cut down a little bit on the sugar and calories.

Fruit mise en place

When making a smoothie, the main components are as follows:

A Base – Water, milk, almond milk, coconut milk or juice, etc.

Vegetables – Spinach, kale, cucumber, beet, carrot, celery, parsley, ginger, cilantro, avocado, mint, etc. I’ve been known to throw kale stems in here but this isn’t for everyone:)

Fruit – Endless but my favorites are apples, oranges, bananas, mangos, pineapples, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, grapes, etc. Using frozen fruit is great for texture.

Additions – Protein powder, nut butter,  yogurt, dates, flax seed, chia seed, cinnamon, etc.

Yogurt milk oats chia seeds and dates

Combos can be mixed and matched from any of the above ingredients, and really the sky is the limit. If you are green smoothie/veg-fruit smoothie newbie, start with a lower veg:fruit ratio and slowly increase the ratio as your taste allows. I can’t begin to describe some of the more unusual results I have subjected my roommate Rian to sampling in the past. Laura won’t even try some of these but my tastes buds are happy. Below are a few introductory options that even the most green-smoothie-averse will enjoy. For our clients, we prepackage the italicized ingredients in ziplock baggies in the freezer and then they can simply dump them into their blenders and add in their other ingredients day-of for a quick, healthy, kid-friendly breakfast or snack option. They serve one person very generously or two kids.  I hope you enjoy them too!

With love,

Kristina

Green Smoothie for health

 

Green Machine Smoothie

Ingredients:

1 Banana

1 Cup shredded kale

1/2 Avocado

1/2 Apple

1 Tsp Chia Seeds

1 Cup Almond Milk (plus optional 1/2 cup plain Greek or regular yogurt)

 

Berry Green Smoothie

Ingredients:

1 Cup Strawberries

1 Cup Blueberries

1 Cup Spinach

1 Cup Almond Milk (plus optional 1/2 cup plain Greek or regular yogurt)

 

Green Monster Smoothie

Ingredients:

1/2 Cup Pineapple

1/2 Cup Mango

1/2 Banana

1 Cup Spinach

1 Cup Almond Milk (plus optional 1/2 cup plain Greek or regular yogurt)

 

Banana Date Smoothie (This isn’t a green smoothie but its such a big hit, I wanted to share in anyways.)

Ingredients:

1 Banana, sliced

4 Dates, chopped

1 Pinch Cinnamon

1 Cup Almond Milk (plus optional 1/2 cup plain Greek or regular yogurt)

 

Method: Tumble into a blender and blend for consistent texture. Enjoy! We prepackage the italicized ingredients in ziplock baggies in the freezer. Each recipe serves one person very generously or two kids.

Sweet and Salty Olive Oil Granola Cookies

What We Eat: Sweet and salty olive oil cookie with dates, coconut flakes and nuts

A snowy Saturday several weeks ago, my husband, Chris, proclaimed, “I want to make healthy cookies today.” My first response was obviously, “Yes, let’s make cookies.” But the next was, “Why do they need to be healthy?”

As a nutritionist, I’m diligent about eating well. For me, that means a diet composed of about 80% produce, with the other 20% coming from

  • High quality starches like grains (usually whole like farro and quinoa, but also things like homemade pasta and really good bread and pizza:)) and starchy vegetables (potatoes of all stripes, winter squashes, etc.),
  • Protein (most often seafood, eggs, legumes, yogurt and milk but also chicken, pork and the occasional “worth it” burger or steak),
  • And high quality fats (nuts, cheese, olive oil, etc.).

I enjoy eating this way and find that it leaves wiggle room for the occasional treat.

I’m hesitant about making “healthy” versions of treat foods because, from personal and professional experience, I know it can backfire. This “health halo” gives license for larger portions usually consumed less mindfully, ultimately leading to less satisfaction. In other words, I’d usually recommend savoring every bite of an AMAZING cookie, real sugar, butter, refined flour and all.

But, as with most things marriage-related, Chris and I met somewhere in the middle. I experimented with a recipe that felt decadent enough to be firmly in the delicious treat category, but also rich in nutrient-dense ingredients and lighter in the not so healthy ingredients usually associated with cookies (sugar, white flour and butter). These cookies leave your sweet tooth and your tummy satisfied. Because the base is pre-made granola, they come together in, no joke, less that five minutes as long as you have some of that on hand. So what are you waiting for?

Salty Sweet olive oil with dates and coconut flakes

Let me know what you think!

Always with love, Laura

*While I made these with our sweet and salty olive-oil granola, I’m sure any granola would do.

**Yes, these are better for you than your average cookie, but they aren’t low calorie, so savor responsibly! They’d make a great treat in kid’s lunch boxes, kind of akin to a granola bar.

Sweet and Salt Olive Oil Granola Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 banana, smashed
  • 1.5 cups granola
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 whole grain flour or white flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • large pinch salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Method

Melt the maple syrup and butter in a sauce pan. Off the heat, add in the smashed banana, vanilla extract and, when cool enough that the egg won’t scramble on you, mix in the egg.

In a larger bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients. Add in the wet ingredients and stir until just combined. Set aside the dough to rest while the oven preheats to 350.

When the oven is hot, divide the dough into either 6 large cookies mounds or 12 smaller cookies mounds and place equally dispersed on a cookie sheet.

Bake for 15 minutes +/- 3 minutes depending on the size of your cookies and the strength of your oven. From our experience cooking in so many different homes and artists studios, we find this can vary a lot. Just check after 12 minutes and be prepared to keep them in as long as 18 minutes so they are a nice golden brown.

 

Cooking for Family Gatherings

 
Thanksgiving holiday apple pie

I’m the new girl at What We Eat so I’ll start by introducing myself. My name is Charlotte and I’m here because cooking is the single most consistent thread in my life. Not necessarily the subject of cooking, but the social and communal aspects of it. Growing up in Chicago, my mom wasn’t home most nights as the committed breadwinner of our household and my father’s cooking ability didn’t extent beyond basting chicken wings with a bottle of “Open Pit” over the Weber grill. Although home cooked meals weren’t a nightly staple, we made up for it on weekends, holidays, family reunions, or just about any excuse we could think of to sit people around our dinning room table. My fondest memories as a kid were, without a doubt, hosting wedding showers for my big cousins in our back yard and travelling to my grandparent’s house with our ETA scheduled the moment the Christmas ham came out of the oven. I understood from a very early age that the key to making people happy and being happy myself was eating well and sharing good food with the people I care about.

Share a meal with family for the holidayIn college, cooking was what set me apart from almost everyone I lived with. I struggled to find the balance between expressing my predisposition toward cooking and going above and beyond for roommates who, for the most part, didn’t understand what was so great about homemade pizza crust. I (literally) fed off the satisfaction of pleasing others with food; no matter who it was or at what cost. I went out of my way to cook these elaborate meals for people that were just as content eating ramen for breakfast. I set ridiculous goals for myself and was always disappointed by the results. Ultimately, I lost touch with what cooking for others in a positive, fulfilling way feels like and knew it shouldn’t feel like I’m doing it to impress someone or make new friends. The food you bring to the table should be personal and it should reflect your taste, not just catered to what you think people will enjoy. With this attitude my menus evolved from simple spaghetti with tomato sauce to discovering my favorite combination of veal, pork and beef meatballs and spaghetti. My standards and tastes developed to appreciate new cuisines and adjust old ones. That being said the soul of my cooking originated from my most memorable family meals and to this day the most influential cookbook on my shelf was bound by my aunt and consists of a curated and expanding history of my family’s favorite, most craved and worshiped recipes. I still consult it’s oil-stained pages for my grandmother’s tried and true oatmeal cookies and my mother’s prized mushroom pate but I must admit that I’m motivated more and more by the excitement of trying new recipes with the tradition of family getting together the defining ingredient.

Roasted carrot and avocado salad
Now, I’m not saying that Thursday morning is the time to test out the cauliflower version of mashed potatoes or a deep fried turkey on your thanksgiving guests (or guinea pigs). So, stick to what you know but challenge yourself to come out of the green bean comfort zone. The easiest adjustment or addition you can make to the spread is to try a new salad or blend of roasted vegetables. It’s no surprise that salad is the most overlooked dish at the thanksgiving table. I mean who wants to compete with creamy mashed potatoes and savory stuffing? But after just three weeks at What We Eat, I’m a believer that salad could steal the show (not that we’re keeping score). Because salads are adaptable and easy to tweak, it makes them hard to screw up. This thanksgiving I’ve nominated myself to make the salad and based on the ones we’ve been making for clients lately, I’m pretty confident my family will be licking their salad plates.

 

A selection of meats cheeses and crackers for a holiday gatheringHere are some rough ideas:

Crispy shaved brussels sprout salad with tender farro, pomegranate seeds, pickled red onion, currents with a honey-lemon vinaigrette

Roasted carrots and beets with a red-wine vinegar dressing, toasted pistachios and crumbled goat cheese.

 

Stay tuned for the results! With love, Charlotte 🙂