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.

baharat-spice-mix

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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Turkish Red Lentil and Rice Soup

IMG_0335 lentils

Did you know that lentils are edible seeds from the legume family? They are well known for their lens shape and sold with or without their outer husks intact.Though they are  a common food staple in Asian and North African cuisines, the greatest production of lentils nowadays is in Canada.

For the most part, lentils have a number of health benefits. They are low in calories, rich in iron and folate and serve as an excellent source of protein. They  also pack health-promoting polyphenols and may reduce several heart disease risk factors and type 2 diabetes.

Lentils are often categorized by their color, which can range from yellow and red to green, brown or black. Red lentils are  are split and cook quickly. They’re great for making dal and soups and have a somewhat sweet and nutty flavor.  And the best part about lentils is that they are easy to cook and do not require pre soaking prior to cooking, making them perfect for soups and stews.

And with that being said, Turkish Red Lentil and Rice Soup fits the bill for healthy eating on a budget, especially during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

 

This simple, yet robust soup is rich with spices and tomato. It gets a pleasantly thick body from white rice and  red lentils, which soften and break down during cooking. The Aleppo pepper is a wonderful addition, lending a gentle heat. If you can’t find it, order online or substitute with an additional teaspoon of paprika and ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes. 

 

Serves 4

Ingredients:

For the Soup:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion cut into ½-inch dice (about 1 cup)
1 medium garlic clove, finely grated
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup red lentils
2 tablespoons long-grain white rice
3 cups water
2 cups vegetable broth
Kosher salt, to taste
For the Aleppo pepper oil:
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons Aleppo pepper
For Serving:
Chopped fresh mint leaves or basil leaves
Lemon wedges 

In a large saucepan over medium, melt the butter. Once it has stopped foaming, add the onion then sauté until softened and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add the tomato paste, paprika and cumin, then sauté for 1 minute.
Add the lentils, rice, water, vegetable broth and 2 teaspoons salt, then bring to a boil. Adjust heat to maintain a lively simmer, cover and cook until the lentils and rice are tender and broken down, about 30 minutes. Taste and adjust salt.
Meanwhile, in a small skillet over medium, heat the olive oil, swirling to coat the pan. Add the Aleppo pepper and cook until a few bubbles appear and the oil is bright red. Remove from heat and set aside. Serve the soup with Aleppo pepper oil drizzled over each serving.
Serve with mint or basil and lemon wedges.

Catfish and Crab Creole Gumbo

catfish crab gumbo

Some version of gumbo is always on the menu at any given restaurant in New Orleans. This classic seafood version, which is chock-full chicken, Jonah crab claws and vegetables swimming in a broth richly flavored, is always a hit with a crowd. You can also make it the centerpiece of a Mardi Gras meal.

Yields: 3 quarts, 8 to 10 servings

Ingredients:
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onions
3/4 cup finely chopped green bell peppers
3/4 cup finely chopped celery
3 to 5 medium tomatoes, diced
2 tablespoons minced garlic
6 cups fish stock
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
2 bay leaves
6 chicken drumsticks
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon file pepper
4 cups chicken stock
1 pound catfish, cut into large chunks
1 1/2 teaspoons dry Creole seasoning*
1 dozen Jonah crab legs
1/2 pound lump crab meat, picked over
1 10-ounce package of frozen okra
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup chopped tender green onion tops
White Rice, for serving

Directions:
Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Add the oil allowing it to heat for about 5 minutes until it begins to shimmer, then add the flour to the skillet. With a wooden spoon, stir the oil and flour together to form a roux. Lower the heat to medium low and continue to stir the roux for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the color of dark chocolate. Add the onions, bell peppers, and celery to the roux and stir to blend. Stir the vegetables for 5 minutes, then add the garlic. Cook the garlic for 30 seconds before adding the the stock to the pot.

Heat an 8-quart stockpot over medium heat, add the roux to the pot and season with with the thyme, bay leaves, salt,pepper, and file powder. Add the chicken stock. Add the chicken. Bring the gumbo to a boil and lower the heat to a simmer. Continue to simmer the gumbo for 1 hour, skimming the foam and any oil that rises to the surface.

Season the catfish with creole seasoning. Stir in the crab legs and the catfish into the gumbo and cook for 10 minutes. Add the okra to the pot and cook, stirring often, for an additional 5 minutes. Taste the gumbo and season with salt and black pepper, if necessary. Remove the bay leaves and chicken bones and discard.

To serve, garnish with the parsley and green onions and serve in shallow bowls over white rice.

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