Do you ever feel overwhelmed about cooking dinner?
I know I do sometimes.
It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that meals need to be complicated or follow a detailed recipe.
But they don’t! Weeknight dinners are best when they are easy, off the cuff, and use fresh wholesome ingredients.
I’ve recently been obsessed with serving things on a bed of spinach.
It’s so easy, refreshing, and quick!
Toss some spinach in a simple olive oil & vinegar dressing, and then top it with your favorite protein.
You can take this in so many different directions- asian with tofu & sesame oil, mediterranean with fish topped with feta, olives, & basil, Indian with curried chickpeas & paneer, & on and on!
This version is middle-eastern inspired, with sumac & tahini.
Sumac is a delicious middle eastern spice. It made by grinding the dried berries of the sumac bush into a course powder. It has a delicious tangy lemon flavor, and a vibrant red color. Just smelling it makes my mouth water! It’s a great way to add a vinegary tart flavor to dishes using a spice, rather than a liquid like lemon juice or vinegar.
Tahini is another awesome middle eastern treat. It’s similar to peanut butter, except it is made by grinding sesame seeds. It has a nutty rich flavor that pairs perfectly with the sumac.
You might not be able to find sumac at your local grocery store, but it can be purchased online or found in middle eastern grocery stores. Tahini is typically available in the ethnic section of grocery stores, but if you still can’t find it, you can also purchase it online.
Try making this delicious & simple meal this week.
It’s super satisfying, yet leaves you feeling light & nourished, rather than bogged down & over loaded by your meal.
This is a classic recipe to always keep in your back pocket & riff on forever.
Crispy Sumac Chicken with Lemon Tahini Sauce
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time35 mins
Total Time40 mins
- 1/4 cup tahini
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 medium shallot, minced
- 1/4 cup warm water, plus more as needed
- Freshly ground salt & pepper to taste
- 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (~6 oz each)
- 1 large egg
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon ground sumac (use lemon zest as a substitute if you need to)
- 1-2 cups panko bread crumbs
- 1/3 cup olive oil, divided
- 16 oz raw baby spinach
- Drizzle of apple cider vinegar
In a medium bowl, whisk together the tahini, lemon juice, shallot, & 1/4 cup warm water. Add more water as needed to get the sauce to have the thickness of creamy salad dressing. Season with a few twists of freshly ground salt & black pepper. Set aside.
Line a large cutting board with plastic wrap. Place one chicken breast on the board, cover with another sheet of plastic wrap, and use a meat mallet to pound the chicken into a cutlet that has a uniform thickness of roughly 1/2 inch. (If you don't have a meat mallet, you can use the bottom of a heavy frying pan to pound the chicken). Set the pounded chicken cutlet aside on a plate and repeat for the remaining 3 chicken breasts.
Crack the egg into a medium bowl, and whisk together with the Dijon mustard and sumac. Spread the panko on a large plate.
Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper, then, one at a time, dip them in the egg mixture to coat. One at a time, press each chicken breast onto the plate of panko to coat well on both sides. Use your hands as needed to press the panko onto the chicken to create a uniform coating.
Next, drizzle 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large nonstick skillet. You want the oil to evenly cover the pan, and provide a slight pool for the chicken to pan-fry in. Warm over medium-high heat.
When the oil is shimmering, place two of the breaded chicken cutlets in the warm skillet and cook for about 4 minutes per side, until crispy & golden. Remove from the pan & set aside. Add another splash of oil to the pan and repeat the process for the other two chicken cutlets.
Add the baby spinach to a large salad bowl. Drizzle with the remaining 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, and a splash of apple cider vinegar. Toss with your hands until evenly coated with dressing.
Place 1/4 of the spinach onto each serving plate. Top each with a chicken cutlet and drizzle with 1/4 of the tahini sauce. Season with additional black pepper & enjoy!
Fall is finally arriving here in Los Angeles.
We’ve dipped down into the low 70’s, rather than the typical low 80’s, and I couldn’t be more excited!
Fall makes me crave warm, comforting dishes.
Roasted meats, creamy pastas, squash of all kinds, and freshly baked bread.
Fall is such a fabulous time!
These slow-foods can take hours to make, so I have some quick & easy comfort-food recipes up my sleeve.
This is one of them 🙂
Sunflower seed pesto pasta with shredded chicken.
I mean, chicken & pesto are always a hit!
This is a 30-minute meal everyone will love.
Simply pan cook some chicken breasts in a mixture of olive oil and butter, shred into yummy morsels, & toss with some freshly cooked pasta.
Blend together a whole bunch of fresh basil, garlic, sunflower seeds, parmesan cheese, and extra virgin olive oil for a fragrant herbaceous pesto & mix it all together.
Finish with a sprinkle of freshly grated high quality parmesan cheese & flaky maldon sea salt & eat it up!
Sunflower seeds are an awesome alternative to expensive pine nuts.
It’s not authentic, but it still tastes fab. Walnuts & almonds work here as well!
I love to balance this rich bowl of pasta with some veggies.
Pan sautéed zucchini, a simple side salad, or any other fresh produce you enjoy makes a perfect complement.
It’s a great way to round out the meal & fill up with nourishing veggies.
- Basil is an amazing natural antibacterial. It contains a variety of natural oils that kill pathogens such as E. coli, Listeria, and S. aureus, which are common causes of food poisoning. Some researchers/anthropologists believe that humans began cooking with herbs and spices because of their antimicrobial properties. Since they helped us stay well, we developed a taste preference for them and continued to work them into our local cuisines.
Sunflower Seed Pesto Chicken
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time35 mins
- 2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts
- Freshly cracked salt & black pepper
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3/4 lb dried spaghetti pasta
- 2 packed cups fresh basil leaves
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/3 cup roasted unsalted sunflower seeds
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Flaky Maldon sea salt, for serving
Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil.
Meanwhile, season the chicken breasts with salt & pepper. Add the butter & olive oil to a medium skillet over medium-high heat until the butter is melted. Swirl the pan to coat evenly and add the chicken breasts. Cook 6-8 minutes on each side, until the outside of the breasts are golden and the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove the chicken from the skillet to a plate, and let cool.
As the chicken cools, add the spaghetti to the pot of boiling water & cook according to package directions.
While the pasta cooks, make the pesto. Place the basil, parmesan cheese, sunflower seeds, garlic, olive oil, salt, & pepper in a small food processor. Blend until smooth.
When the pasta is done cooking, drain & place in a large serving bowl. Shred the chicken breasts into bite sized strips and add to the bowl with the pasta. Pour the pesto over top & mix well by tossing with 2 large forks.
Plate each individual serving, sprinkle with extra cheese, fresh cracked pepper, and flaky maldon sea salt. Enjoy with a nice side salad.
I’m going old-school with this recipe.
Circa the ’90s with these delicious pistachio-crusted goat cheese balls.
(The closest recipe I could find on FoodNetwork.com was from the year 2000 😉 )
I’m not sure why goat cheese balls ever left the scene… cause they’re amazing.
I was totally conflicted when developing this recipe about whether I should pan fry the goat cheese balls & make them warm & gooey, or whether I should leave them cool & fresh.
Although I absolutely love fried goat cheese, I went with the later to help balance out the roasted flavors of the beets and butternut squash.
To make things more interesting, I also added a nice kick of fresh minced thyme to the pistachio coating. It bumps up volume & adds another layer of flavor to each yummy cheesy bite.
This recipe is totally impressive & hits all the right notes (salty, sweet, savory, yum).
It makes a great light supper when served with some creamy tomato soup topped with croutons. Mmm.
What do you think? Do you still love goat cheese balls?? Let me know in the comments below.
Butternut Squash & Beet Salad with Pistachio Crusted Goat Cheese
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time40 mins
Total Time1 hr
- 2 cups of butternut squash, cut into 1/2 inch dice
- 2 cups of peeled beets, cut into 1/2 inch dice
- Drizzle of olive oil, for roasting
- Kosher salt & cracked black pepper, for seasoning
- 1 cup roasted salted shelled pistachio pieces
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme
- 10 oz log of goat cheese
- 8 oz herb salad mix mixed baby greens with fresh herbs
- Juice of 1/2 large lemon
- 1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 2 tablespoons minced shallot
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Freshly shaved parmesan cheese optional, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the butternut squash on one half of a large rimmed baking sheet, and place the beets on the other half. Drizzle the squash & beet with olive oil & season with kosher salt & ground black pepper. Use your hands to mix the butternut squash & evenly coat with oil & seasoning. Then do the same for the beets (don't do the beets first or you'll turn all the squash red!).
Place the baking sheet in the oven & roast the squash & beets for 40 minutes, or until the beets are fork tender. Remove from the oven & set aside.
Meanwhile, prep the goat cheese balls. Place the pistachios in a mini food processor & grind until finely chopped (you can hand chop them if you don't have a food processor). Place in a small bowl & toss with the fresh thyme.
Form the fresh goat cheese into 16 evenly sized balls (there will be 4 balls per salad serving). Roll the balls in the pistachio-thyme mixture, & set aside on a plate. Reserve the leftover pistachio mixture for sprinkling on the salads when serving.
In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, dijon mustard, honey, shallot, extra virgin olive oil, salt, & pepper. Place the herb salad mix in a large bowl & drizzle lightly with dressing (just enough to lightly coat). Use your hands to toss the salad & evenly coat.
Divide the salad amongst 4 serving plate. Top with 1/4th of the beets and butternut squash, 4 goat cheese balls, & some fresh shaved parmesan cheese, if desired. Sprinkle with extra pistachio-thyme mixture & drizzle with some more dressing. Serve immediately. (It makes a great meal served with some warm tomato soup)