Baharat Spiced Persian Roasted Chicken

109726378_3067051656677298_2260557059472754986_oBaharat is often used in Arabic cooking- most commonly in Persian and Turkish dishes to add spice and a little heat to meat dishes, couscous, and tagines. The warm exotic flavors of Baharat are an easy way to spice up simple dishes and give them a little intrigue.

The word “Baharat” simply means “spices” in Arabic, and this wonderfully complex blend has a unique balance of flavors. The chicken is rubbed down with salt and Baharat Spice, seared on the stove and finished in the oven until golden and crispy. Serve with saffron rice, cucumber yogurt sauce and salad and you’ll have a simple, delicious, Middle Eastern style dinner.

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Photo Credit: Feasting at Home, 2014.

Baharat consists of cumin, cinnamon, coriander, nutmeg, peppercorns, allspice, star of anise and black lemon. For the record, black Lemons are actually dried limes, and owe their misnomer to the English translation from Arabic. They are typically used in Middle East cooking to add sourness or acidity to chutneys, soups and stews and even ground into flat breads.Ground Black Lemons have a sweet-tart flavor that is unique and really has no substitute. You can order black lemons from specialty gourmet markets found online. For this recipe, if you cannot find black lemons, you can omit them. However, in this case I used finely grated lime zest and a pinch of sugar.

Traditionally, to make the Baharat spice mix, you would normal roast whole spices and then place all the spices in a coffee grinder, and pulse until it is ground. In this version, ground spices were used. It’s perfectly fine to substitute ground spices, although the more whole seeds you have, the better the flavor. But don’t let the lack of the whole seeds stop you from making this dish.

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:
For the Chicken:
4 – 6 Chicken thighs, bone in, skin on.
Salt, to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil

For the Baharat Spice Blend:
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
3 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cardamon
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground star of anise
1/2 teaspoon finely ground lime zest

For the Cucumber Salad:
1 cup Greek yogurt
1 large English cucumber, thinly sliced
2 –3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, dill, parsley and cilantro
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 small  shallot, minced
Salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
A pinch of cayenne  pepper

For Serving:
Cooked Jasmine Rice
Cucumber Salad, see recipe below.

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 º F.

Place the cucumber in a colander and sprinkle with salt. Set aside.

To make the  Barahat Spice, add all the spices to a small bowl and stir to combine.

Sprinkle both sides of  the chicken generously with kosher salt. Rub in a generous amount , abut ¾ teaspoon of Baharat Spice on both sides of each piece of chicken.

Heat oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Sear chicken, in hot oil, skin side down for 3 – 4 minutes, until golden and crispy. Turn over and sear other side, turning heat down to medium. Sear another 3 – 4 minutes. Place the skillet in the middle of the oven, uncovered, and baked until cooked through, about 15 – 20 minutes or until internal temp reaches 170 º F ( for thighs) and juices run clear. Remove from the oven and let rest 5 minutes before serving.

To make cucumber salad, drain the cucumber slices and pat dry with paper towels. Add the cucumber the remaining salad ingredients to a medium bowl. Gently fold to combine.

To serve family style, arrange the chicken on a platter and garnish fresh mint leaves, if desired. Serve the chicken with the Jasmine rice and cucumber salad.

 

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Grilled Salmon Steaks and Cucumber Salad

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Salmon steaks, cut crosswise through the backbone, instead of fillets makes got the prefect grilled fish. The steaks are thicker, making them easier to flip while grilling. A yogurt-based cucumber salad packed with fresh herbs acts both as a sauce and a side dish for salmon in this low-carb seafood dinner.

Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 seedless English cucumber,thinly sliced
1/2 small red onion, very thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
4 salmon steaks
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh dill, finely chopped
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh mint, finely chopped

Directions:
Set grill or grill pan to medium-high. In a large bowl, season the cucumber and red onion with the salt, tossing to combine. Let stand at least 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, with paper towels, blot the salmon until dry. Brush on both sides with 2 tablespoons of oil. Season with salt and pepper. Place salmon on grill and cook 5 minutes per side, until cooked through. Meanwhile, drain cucumber and onion well.

In the same large bowl, whisk together the Greek yogurt, vinegar, dill, mint, and remaining 3 tablespoons of oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Fold in drained cucumber and onion. Serve with salmon.

Grilling Notes:
To prevent sticking, be sure your grill is very clean and very hot before placing the salmon on it. When flipping, if the salmon does not lift from the grate easily, wait 15–30 seconds, then try again.

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Roasted Shrimp Salad

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Summer cooking is all about keeping cool, and you can do just that with this herbaceous shrimp salad that can be served as an appetizer or as a main course. Feel free to add you own special twist with different herbs and citrus flavors.

Serves 6

Ingredients:
1 large seedless cucumber
2 pounds of 16-20 count raw shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 firm avocado
1 lime, juiced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
2 Tablespoons cilantro, chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh chives, snipped
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 450 ° F.

Chop the cucumber into 3/4 inch quarter chunks. Place the chunks in a colander and toss them with a pinch of salt or two. Place the colander over a bowl and allow the cumbers to stand for 20 minutes. After salting, remove the cucumbers from the colander and pat dry with clean paper towels, add to a salad bowl and set aside.

Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Pour the shrimp onto the baking sheet and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Toss the shrimp in the oil and spread them out on the baking sheet. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.

Roast the shrimp in the oven for 5-7 minutes, until pink. Cool the shrimp on the baking sheet.

Meanwhile, chop the avocado in 3/4 inch chunks. Add the avocado, minced garlic, chopped mint leaves, cilantro and chives into the salad bowl with the cucumber chunks. Pour the lime juice and 1 tablespoon olive oil over the salad and toss well to coat. Taste, and adjust with alt and pepper as needed.

Cover and place in the refrigerator and chill until ready to serve. Garnish with avocado slices and cilantro sprigs, if desired.

Cook’s Notes:
Cucumbers, with their delicate flavor and translucent flesh by nature are very watery. For the most part, it you are planning to combine them with any other ingredients, use the best variety of seedless cucumbers available to you.

Then, you must salt them to draw out as much liquid as possible. If you skip this step, a puddle of near-flavorless liquid will form quickly at the bottom of your salad bowl, your dip or soup will separate like curdled mayonnaise.

But if you can only find the kind with seeds, make sure, you must eviscerate them, cut them open length wise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Why, you may ask? Well, cucumber seeds, tend to springy, and evasive, will ruin the texture of any salad, soup, or dip.

To salt cucumbers, begin by lining a colander with paper towels, add the cut up cucumbers to the colander and light salt them. Allow them to stand for 20 to 25 minutes, then remove from the colander and pat dry with paper towels and you are good to go to use them as you please in your recipes.

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