Blackened Chicken with Grapefruit Chermoula & Sweet Potato with Ginger-Orange Butter

The past few weeks have been full of health issues for myself and my family. I spent a week out of work after a surgical procedure and Caleb’s mom was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. Things just seem to be hitting us non-stop right now. Needless to say, I haven’t exactly been on my A-game in the kitchen. This meal was one I was particularly excited about though. It struck the most perfect balance of flavors and Caleb just LOVED it. It just goes to show you that a good meal can make even the gloomiest times a little brighter.

My most recent food fascination has been with North African cuisine. When flipping through my most recent copy of  Bon Appétit, I came across a wonderful recipe for Grapefruit Chermoula from Chef Cassie Piuma of Sarma in Somerville, MA. The recipe calls for preserved lemon but like many sauces, you can simply use what suits your taste and what ingredients you have readily available. I declined to use the preserved lemon because I just couldn’t find it anywhere. Instead, I combined lemon juice with a little ginger syrup and added that in the same amount as the recipe called for preserved lemon. For anyone wondering what chermoula is, I found it to be very much like a salsa but with a different combination of flavors than the typical Latin American salsa. I served it atop blackened chicken and with a side of lightly baked and sliced sweet potato drizzled with ginger-orange butter. The result felt tropical and well-balanced while being hearty enough to satisfy a very hungry man.

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Grapefruit Chermoula (courtesty of Bon Appétit)

1 grapefruit
1 large shallot, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely grated
3 T fresh lemon juice
1 t kosher salt
1/2 small preserved lemon, flesh discard, peel finely chopped
1/2 c finely chopped fresh cilantro
2 T olive oil
2 t finely grated peeled ginger
2 t harissa paste (I subbed red chili paste)
1 1/2 t ground cumin
1 t honey
1/2 t tomato paste
Freshly ground black pepper

Using a sharp knife, cut all peel and white pith from grapefruit; discard. Working over medium bowl, cut between membranes to release segments into bowl. Squeeze in juice from membranes as needed to amke 2 T juice; discard membranes and reserve any extra juice for another use. Coarsely chop segments, return to bowl.

Combine shallot, garlic, lemon juice and 1 t salt in a medium bowl; let shand 10 minutes (this will mellow shallot and garlic). Mix in grapefruit, preserved lemon peel, cilantro, oil, ginger, harissa, cumin, honey and tomato paste; season with salt and pepper.

(Do ahead: Chermoula can be made 5 days ahead. Cover and chill.)

grapefruit-chermoula-940x600

Blackened Chicken

3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 c olive oil
1/4 c Chef Paul Blackened Redfish seasoning
1 t garlic powder
1/2 t chili powder
1/2 t dried oregano
1/4 t black pepper

Combine dry ingredients in a small shallow dish.

Pat chicken breasts dry with a paper towel and coat with olive oil. Dip olive-oil coated chicken breasts in seasoning mixture.

Heat cast iron pan to high heat; add remaining olive oil to pan and cook chicken breasts on just below-high heat for 5-7 minutes on each side or until juices run clear.

Sweet Potato with Ginger-Orange Butter

1 large sweet potato
4 T butter
1 1/2 t fresh, minced ginger
2 t minced orange peel

I cheated a bit here by baking the sweet potato in the microwave. The sweet potato I used was quite large and I cooked it for 10 minutes. It came out just tender enough but not at all mushy. The sweet potato should be able to be sliced into medallions and hold its shape.

In a small sauce pan, heat 2 T butter over med-low heat until almost completely melted. Add orange peel and cook for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add remaining 2 T butter and melt. Stir in ginger and allow to cook a little longer. Butter should bubble a bit but not start to brown.

Slice sweet potato into 1/2″ thick medallions and arrange on plate. Drizzle with ginger-orange butter.

PS – the sweet potato with ginger-orange butter is excellent with the chermoula as well. This a plate on which all components of the meal can definitely be cut up and mixed up. I’m a person who loves to mix up the food on my plate so this was just marvelous to me.

Beet Vichyssoise

Fall activities might be in full swing by now but the weather is still hot and humid in the Lowcountry and sometimes a cool meal is in order for supper. Vichyssoise, the cool and creamy French classic is one of my favorite soups when the weather is hot but I still want something with a little substance. I’m not a fan of baked potato soups but vichyssoise is something else entirely; it’s also not all that different from the Irish potato soup my grandpa passed down to my mom and I, with the exception that his was always served hot. 

I make a huge shortcut in this soup by using store-bought juice instead of roasting and pureeing beets. This all occurred because I purchased a beet/purple carrot/purple sweet potato juice that I just could not bring myself to drink. It tasted great but not great for an actual drinking juice. Thus, I decided to make a soup out of it. I prepared a basic vichyssoise and tweaked it a little to suit the flavor of the juice. The result was bright, smooth and equally good served hot or cold. Cold is my preference but my hunny prefers his hot. Just a suggestion, really do try to use leeks instead of substituting with onion – the leeks produce a mellow flavor that onions don’t do justice.

 

Beet Vichyssoise

2 T butter
2 medium potatoes, thinly sliced
1 c chopped leeks
Leeks Chopped Leeks
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 c no sodium added chicken stock
1 c water
1/2 c sauvignon blanc or other dry white wine
2 c Bolthouse Farms Daily Roots or equal amount of beet juice
1/2 c cream or half & half
20 leaves fresh tarragon, finely chopped
splash lemon juice
sea salt, to taste
fresh ground black pepper, to taste (I didn’t use any but I’m sure some folks would want it)
ricotta or plain yogurt, for serving, if desired

In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add sliced potatoes and saute until soft and golden; add garlic and leeks, sauteing until translucent.                                                                                                                                                      

                                                     Potatoes & Leeks

Add chicken stock and water and simmer for 20 minutes, reducing heat if necessary. Using the back of a fork, gently press on the potatoes so that they begin to break up. 

Simmering

Add wine and simmer for 15 more minutes. Then whisk in cream, pouring in a little bit a time. Stir in tarragon and whisk in splash lemon juice.  Salt/pepper to taste.

Finishing Soup

Serve immediately or refrigerate overnight. Either way, serve with a dollop of ricotta or plain yogurt, if desired.

Along with a plate of Spanish manchego, yogurt cheese, charcuterie, raw almonds and grapes, this made for an excellent casually elegant meal.  What makes this soup super outstanding is that it’s even better after one or two days. 

Served Soup    Charcuterie Platter

Moroccan Shrimp and Red Onion Sauté

Lately, I’ve had trouble finding recipes to get really pumped about. With that being said, I’m the proud owner of a pretty extensive collection of cookbooks (for a 23 year-old at least), with cookbooks ranging from the South Carolina Wildlife Cookbook, which includes great tips and recipes for cooking anything from deer to snapping turtle to beaver, to one on Lebanese classics and comfort food. My favorite cookbooks tend to be Australian; the Aussies have a penchant for great Asian fusion as well as English classics. Despite my plethora of options for finding ideas, I rarely actually use recipes. Instead, I pour through about 5 cookbooks at a time and get ideas for flavor combinations that will work. 

Last night, while trying to decide what to do with the pound of shrimp I had just purchased, I stumbled upon a great recipe in one of my go-to cookbooks. If you do not own The Bon Appetit Cookbook: Fast Easy Fresh, you must find it ASAP. This gem includes 1100 recipes that are quick, easy to follow and cover a spread of ethnic and American flavor palettes. 

The recipe for Moroccan Shrimp and Red Onion Sauté is so vibrant and full of spice – not the hot kind of spice but the delicious, fragrant kind. I served it atop roasted chick peas and brown rice but lentils and greens would be just lovely as well. Whatever you choose to serve with it, be sure it simply seasoned – this dish calls for subtle sides the balance it’s dynamism.

Fast Easy Fresh

Moroccan Shrimp and Red Onion Sauté

1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
3/4 teaspoon cardamom seeds
3/4 teaspoon cumin
3 tablespoons good olive oil
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger (I subbed Gourmet Garden ginger in equal quantity and I honestly don’t think it made any difference)
2 teaspoons hot chili sauce (ex. Sriracha)
12 uncooked large shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails left intact
1 red onion, halved, peeled, each half cut into 4 wedges through root end
Fresh cilantro leaves, chopped (for serving)

Ingredients

Toast coriander seeds, cardamom seeds and cumin in small skillet over medium-high heat until fragrant, shaking skillet, about 1 minute.

Toasting Spices

Coarsely grind spices in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder (or just crush spices with the end of a wooden spoon). Transfer to large bowl; mix in oil, ginger, chili sauce, cinnamon and honey. Season with salt and pepper. Add shrimp and onion; toss to coat.

Heat large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion; cook until blackened in spots, turning occasionally, about 5 minutes.

       Red Onion in PanRaw Shrimp Added to PanAll Cooked in Pan

Add shrimp and marinade; sauté until just cooked through; about 3 minutes. Transfer shrimp and onion to plate. Top with cilantro. 

Served

Break the Silence: My Story

In light of a recent news story (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/03/emma-sulkowicz-mattress-rape-columbia-university_n_5755612.html) that’s been circulating on social media, I feel compelled to share a story of my own. 

While pro-women’s rights and feminist articles and statements are prevalent online, sexual assault and rape happen everyday regardless of background and circumstance. On one hand, women are encouraged to speak out and support each other while on the other hand denial and victim-blame are still the harsh reality. Emma Sulkowicz, the Columbia University student in the linked article is a rarity in that she was brave enough to actually report the atrocity that happened to her. 

It is nearly impossible to know how many rapes and assaults occur because most go unreported. Why? For a variety of reasons. I have been assaulted and raped, and by more than one man. Have I reported anything? Never. Being assaulted eats at you from the inside out. Personally, I went into shock after the incidents, told no one and then inadvertently, thoughts of what happened went away. Even though thoughts of what happened went away, I was an oscillating mess of depression, anxiety and panic attacks. Many months after, I had nightmares and thoughts of what happened would hit me out of the blue. After revealing what happened to a close friend, I decided I needed to go to therapy.

My therapist helped me sort through what happened in a way that worked for me and I do think I’ve recovered. I have only told my whole story to three people and live my life happily yet still feel as if there is a chunk out of my heart. Support groups for rape victims have proved impossible to find, at least in my little corner of the world. What helps me most is writing poems and talking out my thoughts on issues relating to assault in our society. 

Back to a question I posed earlier. Why do assaults go unreported? These reasons are hard to explain and differ based on the individual. After a year and a half, I feel more able to sort out my reasons which include the following: 

  • Because I didn’t think they’d believe me.
  • Because I didn’t think they’d take it seriously.
  • Because he was my boyfriend.
  • Because I thought they’d blame me.
  • Because they’d say I had it coming. Had it coming because I enjoy sex and have a open attitude about it.
  • Because I was scared.
  • Because I felt ashamed.
  • Because, in part, I blamed myself.
  • Because I was afraid of what would happen to him.
  • Because I didn’t want our mutual friends to know. 
  • Because I made excuses for his actions.
  • Because I felt bad for him.
  • Because I felt lost.

Even if you don’t report what happened to you, tell someone you trust. Someone who will keep your confidence. Don’t hold it in. Let yourself have as healthy a release as possible. Don’t let what happened to you make you feel permanently broken and unwanted. Let yourself heal. Even though it may feel like a chunk is missing, you are still wholey and entirely yourself. 

Raise awareness. Offer support. Find your strength. 

Emma, you’re a hero in my book. Fight on. 

Speak out. End this pervasive cycle.