April – Tahini-Marinated Chicken Thighs with Cherry Tomato Salad

April – Tahini-Marinated Chicken Thighs with Cherry Tomato Salad

That’s a big mouth of a title!  But it belies the ease and absolute deliciousness of this dish. The tahini-marinated chicken thighs finish baking with a crisp coating  and the tomato salad is a preview of coming summer salads. I am finding very acceptable cherry tomatoes at the grocery store right now, even though summer tomatoes are months away. Even nicer, they are often of different types and colors, a good stand-in while we wait for that first amazing local vine ripened tomato.

Tahini-Marinated Chicken Thighs with Cucumber Tomato salad

It’s been awhile since I have had a blog worthy recipe, but this is it folks. I am not sure where I originally found this recipe and apologize for not giving credit. It has been in my files for quite some time, at least a year.

We have been eating very simply lately and I don’t think the blogosphere needs another post for grilled chicken or clean out your refrigerator salad. But it does need this delicious and interesting marinade for chicken. I bet it would be wonderful on fish as well, maybe I’ll try that next time. But back to this one, I used chicken thighs, skin on. You could also use it with breasts or skin off thighs. Keep the bone in though, I think it really does make a flavor difference especially with an overnight marination.

I do recommend that you marinate the thighs overnight, which take a bit of planning. The deep rich taste will make it worthwhile. Use a good brand of tahini, the one I use was highly recommended. It was not in any of my local stores but I found it on Amazon. A good tahini sauce will make a big difference both to this recipe and others such as hummus.

Tahini Sauce – this is the brand I use. Recommended by Yotam Ottolenghi

I made a couple of small modifications from the original recipe. I substituted lime zest and juice for the lemon and used sliced red onion in the salad. Feel free to use lemons if they are handy. I had used up all my lemons making preserved lemons a few weeks ago and forgot to buy them at the market. The ones on my backyard tree are still green.

Tahini-Marinated Chicken Thighs with Tomato and Cucumber Salad

Ingredients: 

  • 1/2 cup of tahini
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons of lime zest
  • 3 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons of parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely grated (I used a microplane)
  • 2 tablespoons grated onion (microplane again)
  • 6 chicken thighs, bone in

Method:

  1. Dry the chicken thighs with a paper towel. You could remove the skin if you want, I didn’t. Place them in a ziplock bag or bowl.
  2. Combine all the marinade ingredients, pour 3/4 of the mix into the bag or bowl with the chicken. Scrunch everything together so the marinade coats each thigh, this is easy to do in a ziplock bag. Keep in the fridge overnight. When I thought about it, I turned the bag over to remix. Reserve the remaining tahini mixture separately in the fridge.
  3. When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  4. Remove the chicken thighs from the marinade but try and keep as much sauce on them as possible. Place them on a foil lined baking sheet or in a roasting pan, try to leave a little space between each thigh. Sprinkle them with a little coarse salt. Discard any leftover chicken marinade from the bag or bowl.
  5. Roast for 30-40 minutes or until brown and done, the time will depend on the size of your thighs.
  6. Let the thighs rest while you make the salad.

Tomato and Cucumber Salad

Tomato and Cucumber Salad

Ingredients:

  1. 1 cup chopped cucumber, peeled and seeded if necessary
  2. 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved, different colors and types if possible
  3. 1/2 small red onion, sliced
  4. 1/2 cup parsley, roughly chopped
  5. 1 tablespoon mint, roughly chopped
  6. 1/2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  7. 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  8. coarse salt to taste

Method:

  1. Mix all of the ingredients together and give them a toss.
  2. Serve with the chicken.

Drizzle the extra tahini sauce over the chicken when serving.

Tahini Marinated Chicken Thighs with Tomato Cucumber Salad

The thighs were tender but lightly crisp.

Tahini Marinated Chicken Thighs with Tomato Cucumber Salad

And the tomato salad could be a stand in for this summers coming tomato salads. In the bay area we often have to wait until August or September…a long way away. It wouldn’t hurt to add a chopped avocado if you happen to have one laying around, just saying.

Tahini Marinated Chicken Thighs with Tomato Cucumber Salad

This is a Fiesta Friday worthy recipe. It has been a few months since I joined the party and I think this is one the group will enjoy. This week is is Fiesta Friday #221.

What is Fiesta Friday? It is a gathering of bloggers with links to their posts, all hosted by Angie on her Fiesta Friday site. you can think click on any links that interest you. Angie usually have one or two co-hosts and this week it is Jenny @ Dragonfly Home Recipes.

Each week Angie and her co-host select four outstanding recipes or posts from the previous week’s group to feature. There are some amazing blogs out there!

Please stop by the party.

 

 

In My Kitchen – April 2018

In My Kitchen – April 2018

It’s that time of the month again, time for an update from kitchens around the globe. In My Kitchen (sometimes simply termed IMK) is hosted by Sherry of Sherry’s Pickings. You can read this month’s posts here. You will find a fascinating private tour around an amazing variety of kitchens.

To get on to my own, I am now down to a manageable two kitchens as our Oakland house has sold and we have moved out of temporary digs into a lovely apartment in Oakland. We now have our rural kitchen on the Northern California coast (Fort Bragg, CA); and the urban one in downtown Oakland. The absolute best of two worlds.

This will be your first peak into the new apartment kitchen. The layout is sometimes termed a galley kitchen. Everything is very compact and economical, on two sides opposite each other.

From the kitchen I have a view right into the living/dining area plus greenery from the tree outside the living area window. It works very well indeed.

Much to my joy we were able to bring our antique pine armoire with us to the apartment. It was our coat closet at the house in Oakland. Now my very clever husband was able to repurpose it as a pantry, as well as fitting spice and condiment  shelves on the kitchen closet door.

So, I have tons of storage in a comparatively small space.

The corner window seen from the kitchen is the perfect place for a large houseplant, but so far I haven’t had time to do a proper search. It’s been years since my “hippy” days when houseplants were all over my apartment, now I generally concentrate on my outdoor garden. However, the corner is the perfect spot with tons of indirect light. I discovered (thank you for contacting me Gary), this very helpful article on the best houseplants. Houseplants are actually recommended by NASA because of their positive impact on our home environment. You can read more about the top 35 houseplants by clinking on the link. I found it very helpful in narrowing my search. And will keep you posted on the final results.

Good light even on a rainy day

Best news is that the apartment is near the “Urban Wine Trail”, plus walking distance to the ferry to San Francisco, Bart, and the Oakland waterfront.

Rosenblum Cellars

No, the best part Mom is that we get to be in the apartment with you. Dogs not only allowed but welcomed.

On to what is new in my kitchen.

In my kitchen is this strange fruit. I do volunteer work in the botanical garden in Mendocino and was gifted with it. The tree was growing right through the greenhouse roof. Do you know it? It is called a Tamarillo and also sometimes a tree tomato. The other gardeners were not crazy about the taste but didn’t think they had let it ripen enough. Have any of you tried it? I thought it was beautiful, a lovely color. How do you know when it is ripe?

Tamarillo

In My Kitchen I have this lovely tea towel a friend brought back from her trip to Brittany. It is almost the same color as the tamarillo.

Tea towel from Brittany

In My Kitchen I have preserved lemons. These are Meyer lemons, harvested from the backyard tree in Oakland before the house sale was finalized. Elaine at the Foodbod gave me the idea of using different flavors when preserving them in salt. I drooled over her idea of Christmas flavors. I salted the lemons and let them sit for a week, then added additional lemon juice to cover plus a cinnamon stick, star anise, cardamon pods, and cloves. To the other jar I added turmeric, ginger, peppercorns and chili flakes. They will need to sit for several months before using them. I will let you know how they turn out. You can read more about the process on her link. The ones you preserve yourself are way better than any you can buy at the store.

Lastly, as a result of reading a blog post for bacon fried rice written by Chef Mimi, I ordered this fish sauce on Amazon. It wasn’t available at any of the local stores and was highly recommended by her and several others. I look forward to trying it.

Fish Sauce

Although there are several other new things, I will wait for next month. What is new in your kitchen?

 

 

In My Garden – April 2018

In My Garden – April 2018

 

Spring is definitely in the air, and my first crazy wave of planting is over. Now I just have to wait and see what likes the (very compost enriched) soil and the Fort Bragg weather. We are expecting a major rain system later this week, very late in the season. Fort Bragg usually gets about 40 inches of rain during the winter, we are about 60% of that so far this season. We are going to be spending a good chunk of the spring and summer clearing the underbrush and lower branches from the trees in preparation for fire season.

The daffodils have been blooming in waves, continuously since late January.

Amazingly the hellebores, also called the Christmas Rose because they bloom in mid-winter, are still going strong.

Hellebores

I was gifted some tulip bulbs several years ago at Christmas. At the time we were only spending occasional weekends at the cabin so I planted them in a half wine barrel with a butterfly bush. Even though the container was close to the house, the deer still managed to get to them before they bloomed. This year has been different, the barking of the dogs has kept the deer at a distance even without a fence and they are lovely.

Tulips

This unusual variety came with the daffodil bulbs I ordered in the fall.

Tulips

The Dutch Bearded Iris bulbs I transplanted along the driveway from the Oakland garden have take off, several are showing flower stalks. I expect there will be a long bloom period for them since there are multiple varieties and sizes.

Bearded Siberian Irises

 

It is almost time to trim the grass in the front meadow. We had to re-seed much of it because of work on the septic leach field.

The Lily of the Valley bush continues to flower but now has the most brilliant colored new growth. There are four on the property, two in the front as foundation plantings and two in the back near the tool shed. The ones in the front have bright red new growth, i understand that this is the Mountain Fire variety.

Mountain Fire Lily of the Valley Bush – Pieris japonica ‘Mountain Fire’

The two near the tool shed could be the ‘Compacta’ variety, they are definitely smaller and the new growth is yellow to orange.

Lily of the Valley Bush

I have been encouraging more birds into the yard with multiple feeders. We live in the middle of a redwood forest, which is generally a quiet place with few birds. Along with the birds came a midnight visitor to raid the sunflower seeds, he bend the feeder to the ground. The second night he came back we caught him on camera.

The midnight marauder

i’ve decided to leave the sunflower seeds off the feeder, he doesn’t seem to bother with the thistle seeds. We are hopeful our new fence will encourage him or her to seek easier food sources.

Meanwhile, the dogs like to be in the garden with me enjoying the spring sunshine. In lieu of the fence we settle for a long leach. They are entirely too interested in mountain lions, bears and deer.

Casey and Quinn enjoying the sunshine

Their favorite form of gardening is digging for gophers.

 

 

 

 

In My Garden – March 2018

In My Garden – March 2018

It’s time to chronicle the progress of the garden in Fort Bragg (CA), this a monthly update on progress with the new garden. At the end of the year I will post a summary so you can see the changes throughout the season as the garden matures and I learn my way around.

A new garden is exciting and definitely a learning experience; often by trial and (many times) error as well. It’s a challenge to learn the soil, climate (not to mention mini climate zones throughout the garden), as well as how the sunlight changes through the year. All those influence what will flourish. The soil of the Fort Bragg garden is very different from that in Oakland. Fort Bragg has sandy soil which is very low in nutrients (Oakland was clay), but Fort Bragg drains nicely which was a problem in Oakland. It is also quite acid due to all the conifers surrounding it, Oakland was more alkaline. Both gardens are cursed with browsing deer; but add rabbits and gophers in Fort Bragg (plus the occasional mountain lion and bear).  In Fort Bragg I am about 1/2 mile inland from the coast, so thankfully I don’t have to worry about the salt spray.

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Garden Plan

The garden came with mature plantings of rhododendrons, Lily of the Valley bush, bottle brush bush, ferns, and a few azaleas. The rhododendrons bloom in late March into April and May. They are gorgeous. In planting additional garden beds my preference is to have flowers throughout the seasons, emphasizing plants for pollinators and birds. I was shocked to hear almost no birds for the first year we owned the garden, that was 5 years ago. Since retiring we have spent most of our time at the house and the birds have found us…much to my joy (after spending many dollars on bird seed and feeders). We now have flocks of junkos, chickadees, song sparrows, goldfinches, robins, hummingbirds, and an occasional thrush (seen for the first time last week). The property sings.

As you saw in last month’s garden post, hellebores do well here. They have been blooming continuously since late January. They were among my very first plantings when we bought the property because nothing eats them. They have not only thrived in a long bed beside the garage, but self seeded themselves as well. They are happy with very occasional summer water and a side dressing of compost in early winter. You can see pictures in my post from last month. This year I planted 5 new ones of various colors, some in a new island bed with a transplanted rhododendron and a couple of azaleas.

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Lots of buds on the rhododendrons 

Dahlias do very well here, the Mendocino botanical garden is famous for their dahlia show. In Summer that area is completely booked for weddings and other events. Before putting the house on the market, I dug up most of the tubers from the garden in Oakland. Here is the beginning of a new dahlia bed. It needs to have a lot more compost added to enrich the soil. I am reluctant to put them in with the rest of the plants because their water and nutrient needs are so different. But I originally put them in pots, where they did not thrive. So, hopefully they will sprout once the weather warms and I can move them to a new home which meets their needs.

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Future Dahlia Bed

The Daffodils are blooming (both in the garden and pots) like crazy, new ones coming out almost daily. IMG_7227

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There were several mature plants that the landscaping stager used in the Oakland garden. The ones in the ground I left for the new owners. But the ones in pots I brought to Fort Bragg. This lilac vine will grace the railing near the front door, blooming in winter. I understand it is a native of Australia and only needs a deep watering once a week or so, which will suit the other plants nearby nicely.

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The bearded iris tubers I transplanted from Oakland seem to like their new location in full sun along the driveway.

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Along the side of the back patio I planted a row of candy corn (Manettia Luteo) along with lime colored creeping thyme and some red sedum. The candy corn plants are supposed to reach a shrubby 4 feet at maturity, be drought tolerant, and a magnet for hummingbirds. We shall see if they live up to their hype.

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They look a little sad at this point but I see new growth.

I am a sucker for hummingbirds, this mature  bottle brush tree has been a favorite for the local Allen’s hummingbirds. It is just starting to bloom, and I have seen a couple of males at the feeder in the last few weeks. The Allen’s migrate and are just now returning. I have read that the males will stake out a territory before the females arrive. Last spring there were several nests in the tree as well as a nearby rhododendron; I was buzzed when I passed close by them in the garden.

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The flowering current beside the garage is starting to bloom. The new growth is a lovely shade of green which sets off the bright pink flowers.

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And lastly there are a couple of rather messy island beds, recently dug and planted.

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I found digging garden beds very therapeutic and calming. They keep expanding in size and may eventually have a nice even shape, or maybe not.

I planted sweet peas in a half wine barrel. They are one of my favorite flowers, my English grandmother always had a trellis of them in her garden outside London. They are just getting started but should take off as the weather warms. The wire baskets are there to protect them, or at least give them a bit of a head start.

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Most of the plants in the garden are listed as deer resistant, but nothing is really safe if the deer are hungry. We are starting to look at fencing which will keep the deer outside and our dogs safe inside.

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You talking about us?

 

In My Kitchen – March 2018

In My Kitchen – March 2018

Thank you Sherry for again hosting this month’s In My Kitchen at Sherrys Pickings. This is an opportunity for us to take a fascinating look into kitchens around the world. While we in the Northern Hemisphere are in tail end of winter, the Southern is finishing up summer and heading into fall. What is new in your kitchen? Link up to share with us all.

What happened to February?! It passed in a blur because of the preparation and sale of our Oakland house. Dealing with last minute repairs and upgrades, staging (inside and out), documents to sign, moving trucks, the search for an apartment, not to mention the ensuing celebrations with friends when the sale when through (final on February 27)…things happened way too quickly for me to get around to writing an IMK post last month. In truth, there wasn’t much time to do any ‘fancy’ cooking at all. Several on-line and in-person friends were participating in the 28 day Metabolic Diet with me for much of the time. Meals were thankfully very simple.

As a result, this month is a combination of new things from both February and March.

Stock

The staging of our Oakland home included some extensive landscaping as well; mostly trimming, mulching, replacing gravel on pathways, plus a few in ground plantings. I took some pictures of the final result and will share in another post. Included in the staging were some lovely plants in pots. Once the house was sold, I brought the pots with me up to our home on the coast. Most have already been planted in the new garden. I cut the stock flowers before the heavy rains could destroy them. Fingers crossed the plants put out another bloom cycle. Stock has a special place in my heart because it was one of the first flowering plants I put in when we originally purchased the Oakland house. These are a beautiful lavender blue. We will see if the plants thrive up here on the coast. In Oakland I found they were a treat for the deer and sadly never planted them again after that first year.

On our last day of official ownership I harvested some lemons from the Meyer tree in the back yard. I will preserve these in salt.

Meyer lemons

I have found that I am a total failure at cooking rice without a rice cooker. Carrying one back and forth from the coastal kitchen to the urban one in Oakland is way too much trouble (although I would do it since rice is a stable in our home). So, I purchased a very simple one on-line. My Oakland rice cooker is now over 40 years old and going strong, it only has ‘on and off’. I didn’t want a fancy one for the other kitchen.

Electric Rice Cooker

The first time I cooked this sprouted brown rice in the new rice cooker, it was a complete success. I am not sure it tasted any different from regular brown basmati rice although they say that sprouting releases more vitamins.

Sprouted Brown Basmati Rice

I have been searching for ways to make my sous-vide cooking more efficient. I found these reusable bags with a manual pump for vacuum sealing them. I haven’t had a chance to try them yet but will let you know how it goes.

 

I did find this energy conserving padded cover for my sous vide water bath, it will help maintain the constant temperature. It’s made from wetsuit material. On the same web search I found this nifty cover to capture the condensation (otherwise you need to constantly check and refill the water level…not something I want to do in the middle of the night). They make them to fit most brands of sous vide machines. With the cover I don’t need to use plastic wrap (which is what I was doing) when cooking for an extended period (such as overnight oatmeal). Again, less waste.

 

We finally have some winter weather here in Northern California. It has been unseasonably warm, then freezing temperatures, but not much rain. This week winter storm ‘Quinn’ struck bringing heavy rain, cold, and some hail. The ski resorts are happy. Rain is woefully low this winter, the snow pack (which we depend on for summer water) is low as well.

Heavy Rain and Hail

The cold has made winter stews and soups attractive. I finally pulled out my Instant Pot (although another brand) and and have been experimenting with various kinds of soups. I will post the most successful version.

Cold weather puts me in the mood for Mexican and other spicy foods.

Trader Joe’s has both frozen mashed cauliflower and winter squash. I did some experimenting with the cauliflower, it was quite good. Even better was mixing the cauliflower and winter squash together. They would have been quite wonderful with the addition of butter and cream but I was on my 28 day Metabolic Diet. All the recipes above were made while on the diet (BTW, it was a roaring success for all participants).

5 Hour Beef Stew with Mashed Cauliflower

Winter has been dreaming of spring, perusing seed and plant catalogs and planning a new garden for the home on the coast in Fort Bragg. I visited Annie’s in Richmond last week and went a little crazy. It is unbelievable that I haven’t been to this nursery before. There are acres of small plants just ready for the garden. If you live in the US you need to check out their on-line shipping and catalog. I have been doing  a lot of digging and amending new beds for plantings up on the coast. I find digging very therapeutic and it has been a month full of nerves.

So, in my kitchen are colored pencils and the beginnings of a garden plan.

Garden Plan

You can see that my cat walked across the pages with muddy feet while I was out in the garden, she likes the plan.

Stay tuned for my monthly garden post and progress report.

What is this month like for you?

IMK Sherries Pickings