Chicken Marbella

Marbella is a beautiful coastal area in Southern Spain, in the Costa del Sol region, so you would think with a name like Chicken Marbella, this dish would be a Spanish recipe. Nope. It is actually a Jewish-American dish invented on Manhattan’s Upper West Side in the late 1970s, though it was inspired by Spanish and North African cuisines.  This delicious dish was introduced to us by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins, co authors of The Silver Palate Cookbook. Ms. Lukins said it was a family meal often served at Shabbat and Jewish holiday dinners, that later became very popular with her catering clients.

Chicken Marbella is a combination of olives, capers, prunes, oregano, garlic, red wine vinegar, brown sugar and white wine. And, while not intended specifically as a Jewish holiday recipe, it fits the bill perfectly and has been a stalwart in Ms. Lukins’ family for decades. The Mediterranean inspirations are deeply felt, the agrodolce of the Italian kitchen is stacked deep in this dish and yet it all feels like the sweet and sour flavors of your bubbe’s kitchen.

I find or create recipes first, then learn about their history after. I LOVE doing that. To me, it makes the dish all that more enticing once I learn about it’s history and background. 🙂 This recipe just sounded really good so I had to make it. And guess what?! It is really good!!!! I will most definitely be making this dish again, and again. 🙂

Chicken Marbella

1 1/2 – 2 lbs chicken

2 TBSP brown sugar

1 1/2 tsp oregano

3 TBSP red wine vinegar

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 TBSP garlic

1 TBSP capers

1/2 cup pitted prunes

1/2 cup green olives, cut in half

1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

I used chicken breasts, but you can use any parts of the chicken you like. You can slow cook this recipe or you can do a quicker version, on top of the stove. I did the latter version, and cooked it all on the stove top. It took about 20 minutes vs 4-5 hours in the slow cooker. I am giving you the stove top recipe.

Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel, then season both sides with coarse salt and fresh ground pepper. Brown both sides in a very hot skillet with a combination of olive oil and butter. Cook the chicken for about 3 minutes per side until it is browned. Then remove and set aside.

As the chicken was cooking, I combined all the rest of the ingredients together, except for the parsley.

In the same skillet, add the olive and prune mixture and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a medium heat and cook for about 5-7 minutes. Then re-add the chicken and continue to cook for an additional 7-10 minutes, or until the chicken is completely cooked.

Add the chopped parsley right before serving. I served this over cooked orzo, with some sauteed delicata squash, mushrooms and broccoli rabe on the side, with some warmed ciabatta and and more of the same white wine I used in the mix to complete the meal.

The flavors of the olives, capers and prunes just harmonized together perfctly. It was sweet and slightly sour and tangy all at the same time. Delicious!!!!! I will most definitely be making this dish again and again.

Have a great day and make everyday great. Stay safe and stay well. ‘Til next time.


Nature Walks – Black-Capped Chickadee

WHOOOOOO HOOOOOOO!!!!!!! Success at last. I FINALLY have been able to get some very good shots of the little Black-Capped Chickadee! They have been so elusive and hard to capture for quite some time. But today, I got very lucky!!!!

Colorado has two types of Chickadees native to our lands. The Mountain Chickadee and the Black-Capped Chickadee. The Black-Capped Chickadees like the lower elevations, so these are the ones we have around us. We are at 5,420 feet above sea level, but many of our mountainous areas are well over 14,000 feet above sea level. They also like to be around people and prefer the hustle and bustle of the more urban areas, rather than the quiet solitude of being in the woods, like their cousins, the Mountain Chickadees. They are usually around from January – summer. They get their name because of their scratchy chick-a-dee-dee-dee song.

Some Tunisian Tastes – Part 3 – Carrot Cumin Salad

Here is the last bit of my Tunisian Tastes series (for now) :). It is for another side dish, a carrot and cumin salad.

Cumin is one of the most popular, heavily used and oldest spices in the world. It is also one of the most used spices in all of Middle Eastern foods. Cumin is used predominantly in Mexican, North African, Indian, and Mediterranean foods. Cumin is a strong highly fragrant savory spice that is used for all kinds of dishes. It  is the perfect ingredient when you want to add warmth and earthiness to a wide variety of dishes and recipes. It is good for spicing up all kinds of vegetables, meats, potatoes, lentils, beans, dates, and just about anything else you can think of. Cumin adds a nutty warmth, pepperiness and smokiness to whatever recipes it is in. Cumin is also used in making garam masala and curries, which allows them to carry more heat.

Carrot and Cumin Salad

3 cups peeled shredded carrots

1/2 cup golden raisins

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

2 TBSP olive oil

1-2 TBSP lemon olive oil, optional

1-2 TBSP lemon balsamic vinegar, optional

1 tsp cumin

1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro

Mix everything together and chill or serve at room temperature. I personally like this salad more at room temperature because I find it brings the warmth of the flavors together and makes them really pop.

This is a simple salad that has a lot of bold flavors. It is a good side dish for just about anything you would like to serve it with. it goes well with everything.

Have a great day and make everyday great. Stay safe and stay well. ‘Til next time.

Some Tunisian Tastes – Part 2 – Blackened Pepper Couscous

Yesterday, I presented you with the Tunisian steak and harissa Some Tunisian Tastes – Part 1 – Steak With Harissa, but we all know we can’t live on just steak alone, although I think Larry probably could. 🙂 There has to be some side dishes that go with the steak too. I like keeping in theme as much as I can when cooking ethnic dishes, so of course my side dishes were Tunisian as well.

My first side dish was my Tunisian blackened pepper couscous. Couscous is the national dish of Tunisia, as well as Algeria, Morocco, Libya and Mauritania. It is thought that the original name of couscous (Arabic: كسكس) could have come from the Arabic word kaskasa, which means “to pound in small pieces” or from the Berber word seksu, which means “rounded” or “well rolled”. It is called kousksi in Tunisiataamkosksi or kesksu in Algeriaseksu in Morocco, and maftoul in Jordan and Lebanon. It is also used in Sicily where it is known as cuscusu.

There are different types of couscous that are available, depending on location. In Tunisia, the small couscous “pellets” are more readily available, and thus are more traditional for their dishes. However, in many other countries, the larger “pearls” are more abundant. I like them both and use them both. It depends on how I am using them and what i am using them for, but I actually prefer the larger pearl couscous to the smaller pellets for the most part.

For this particular couscous dish, I found some fun tri-colored pearl couscous. I had never seen that before, so of course when I saw it, I just had to try it. 🙂

I toasted it first in a skillet with just a dab of olive oil to give it more of a nutty taste. Then I cooked it according to the package directions.

Blackened Pepper Couscous

1/2 roasted red pepper, seeded, rinsed and diced

1/2 roasted orange pepper, seeded, rinsed and diced

1/2 roasted yellow pepper, seeded, rinsed and diced

1 TBSP garlic

1 cup uncooked pearl couscous

1 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp fresh ground black pepper

2 TBSP lemon olive oil, optional

2 TBSP olive oil

1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley

Cook the toasted couscous according to the package directions.

Combine the peppers, garlic, salt, pepper, olive oils and parsley and gently toss together.

When the couscous is ready, add it to the pepper mixture and toss together well. Serve warm or at room temperature to really enhance the flavors of the dish. This recipe is good on its own, or served with any kind of grilled meat.

Have a great day and make everyday great. Stay safe and stay well. ‘Til next time.

Some Tunisian Tastes – Part 1 – Steak With Harissa

You all know how much I love to eat international foods from all over the world. I love to eat all different kinds of ethnic foods in restaurants, but I really enjoy cooking them as authentically as I can in my own kitchen even more. In a way, it’s like traveling to far off, exotic lands all from the comfort of my own home and my own kitchen. Besides, it is mere pennies compared to what the actual travel costs would be. This time, my culinary travels took us to Tunisia.

Tunisia is a country in the Northern most part of Africa. It is bordered by Algeria to the west and southwest, Libya to the southeast, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north and east. It is a country that has many foreign influences including those from France, Italy, the Andalusians, many different Arabic countries, and from all the countries that surround the Mediterranean. Like many countries in the Mediterranean basin, the Tunisian cuisine is heavily based on olive oil, spices, tomatoes, seafood and meat. Yet, it has a distinctive spiciness that differs it from surrounding cuisines. Tunisian cuisine varies from north to south, from the coast to the Atlas Mountains, from urban areas to the countryside, and along religious affiliations. Unlike other North African cuisines, Tunisian food is quite spicy. A popular condiment and ingredient which is used extensively in Tunisian cooking, harissa, which is a mix of ground chili peppers, garlic, and caraway[3] or spices commonly sold together as a paste. It is usually the most important ingredient in different sauces and gravies.

I made my own version of Tunisian harissa that I used as a topping for steak/roast.

First I marinated the roast with balsamic vinegar, coarse salt and fresh ground black pepper for about 3-4 hours before searing it and cooking it to a delicious medium rare. While the meat was marinating, I started making all the other Tunisian treats to make up the rest of the meal.

I am only going to share the harissa with you today. Harissa is a Tunisian staple, and like the foods of Morocco and Algeria, “the foods are a genuine, organic cross fertilization of flavors and ingredients”. (The New Steak, Cree Le Favor) You will just have to wait a bit for my other Tunisian tastes. Patience my friends. 🙂

Tunisian Harissa

As with many things that are popular in many different countries, there are always many different variations. These variations are regional. There is NEVER just one way to make anything. 🙂 I used jalapenos instead of Serrano chilies this time, only because I could not find the Serranos when I was looking for them. As I have said many times, use what you have and use what you like. Don’t stress yourself out if you can’t find certain ingredients. There are always things that can be substituted. Cooking is supposed to be fun. It’s NOT rocket science!

1 orange bell pepper

3 Serrano chilies or 1-2 jalapenos

olive oil

3 TBSP lemon olive oil

2 tsp garlic

1 tsp kosher or coarse salt

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp caraway seeds

1 tsp corriander

3 TBSP lemon juice or lemon balsamic vinegar

You can use either whole or ground spices. I tend to have more ground spices on hand than whole, and my dishes turn out just fine. Toast the spices first, for about 1-2 minutes, or until they become aromatic.

Roast the peppers and and bell pepper until they are completely charred, then let them sweat for about 30 minutes before peeling off the charred skins. Cut the peppers, remove all the seeds and rinse.

Throw everything into a food processor and pulse until it has been liquified. Cover and set aside until ready to use.

I liked it at room temperature, but hot, room temperature or cold, it is still delicious.

When you are ready to cook your steak, sear it for about 3 minutes per side, then continue to cook it longer as needed, depending on the thickness of the meat. This particular roast was very thick. So, after the 3 minutes per side, I seared it all around again, for about 1-2 minutes per side once more. You can do this on the stove or atop a grill. Let it rest for about 5-10 minutes before slicing. I LOVE a good medium rare steak, so for me, this was just perfect! It came out so flavorful and tender. It literally just melted in my mouth. YUM!

When the meat is done, add the harissa on top and serve. I served my harissa steak alongside some tri-colored couscous with peppers and a Tunisian carrot salad, pita bread and hummus, and of course, a very smooth red blend. It was so colorful and good, and definitely full of flavor.

Have a great day and make everyday great. Stay safe and stay well. ‘Til next time.

One Eye Done – Follow Up

What a week this has been! I am now 24 hours post surgery on my first eye. I went in for a follow-up this morning. The good news is this eye is already back to 20/20. WHOOOOOO HOOOOOO!!!!! My doctor was very pleased with this. But ……. I have high pressure in both eyes, especially my non-surgical eye, and he is very concerned about that. So I am on even more eye drops for now. I meet with my regular eye doctor next Thursday, and we have to check for glaucoma. Then eye surgery #2 will take place on Friday, April 7, and I have to go through this all over again. ARRRGGGGHHHHH!!!!!! Getting old sucks!!!!!! My advice, try your best NOT to get old! 🙂 Other than that, have a great day and try to make every day great. Stay safe and STAY WELL!!!!! ‘Til next time.

One Eye Done

I will keep this short and, hopefully sweet. Yesterday was a very sad day. Thank you all for your loving support and kind words. Today was a little better. We are just kind of numb.

Yesterday, it was about Vinnie. This morning, I had my first of 2 cataract surgeries. My right eye is all gooped up right now, but at least it has a new lens. I just got home from the surgery, so I am having difficulty focusing right now. I will know how successful it was within a couple of days.

Of course we had to have some drama for the day too. As I was waiting for my procedure to be done, the whole building had to be evacuated. The fire department was called in because they believed there was a gas leak. False alarm though, thankfully.

I can barely see right now, but just wanted to let you know, one eye is now done, and so far, so good.

We Had To Say Goodbye

It is with a very heavy heart that I write this today. We had to say goodbye to our big boy Vinnie. He was riddled with lymphoma and the cancer was too much for him. He couldn’t beat it. He was 9, which for a giant breed dog is considered geriatric. When we took him in for his shots and annual 6 months ago, he was fine. Then the cancer hit, and hit him hard. He lost 25 lbs from then til now, and was skin and bones. He was riddled with lymphoma all over his body. We had hope once we put him on steroids, but it was a false hope that only lasted for a few days. He lived a very good life. But he was a trooper, right up until the end, and he still had his big happy smile. He knew he was very well loved. And he had a heart that was even bigger than he was.

Mommy and his sisters spent last night with him. Daddy took him on last walk this morning.

He even got his last snow.

The vet came to the house around 10:30 this morning to help him cross over the rainbow bridge. He is no longer in any pain. He is once again with his beloved sister, Lucie.

I know, he will be there waiting for us, along with all his other sisters and brothers. Their tails will all be wagging gleefully when we see each other once again.

Goodbye big boy. Mommy and daddy love you always and forever.

Nature Walks – The Cassin’s Finch

Spring is most definitely in the air, and all my little spring birds are now starting to show up and make their appearances as well. I saw my first Cassin’s finch of the season. He was so bright red, and was just posing for the camera. How could I resist?! I think he was happy to see me as I was to see him. 🙂

There is beauty in everyday. You just have to open your eyes to see it. It’s all around. Have a great, beautiful day.

Indonesian Chicken

The other day, when it came time to preparing dinner, I asked Larry what he was in the mood for, and he just simply said something with chicken and something Asian. OK! That’s is a pretty broad request, but no problem. I decided on some Indonesian chicken over lo mein noodles.

Indonesia is a country in Southeast Asia that is nestled between the Pacific and Indian oceans. It is a country that is comprised of over 17,000 islands. Indonesia is the world’s largest archipelagic state and the 14th-largest country by area, at 1,904,569 square kilometres (735,358 square miles). With over 275 million people, Indonesia is the world’s fourth-most populous country and the most populous Muslim-majority country. Java, the world’s most populous island, is home to more than half of the country’s population.

Indonesia is a mixed country that has many different cultural and religious influences. These influences are found in the Indonesian cooking as well. There are many different influences from China, the Middle East and from Europe, though for cooking, China has the most influence. Chinese ingredients like noodles and tofu are now an integral part of Indonesian cooking, and the Dutch left an abiding love for breads and cakes. Rice, coconut, banana, peanut and soya bean are the five pillars of Indonesian cuisine, and it is almost impossible to find a meal that does not include at least one of these items. Rice is the staple food on most of the islands, particularly the more fertile Sumatra, Java and Bali. Most Indonesian dishes use fresh herbs such as onion and garlic, spring onion, ginger roots, turmeric, galangal, candlenuts, lemon basil, lemon grass, and not to mention chilies. In addition to these fresh herbs, the inclusion of spices is at the heart of almost every Indonesian dish.

My Indonesian chicken was inspired by the restaurant Pei Wei, but of course, I made it into my own recipe. I substituted spinach for Swiss chard or bok choy. I thought I had peanuts, but didn’t, so I topped my dish with cashews instead. I like cashews better than peanuts anyway though. 🙂 The meal was yet again a success. In fact in Larry’s own words, “this is a definite do-over”. Good to know.

Indonesian Chicken

I made the sauce first and set it aside until I was ready to use it. You can also use shrimp or pork or tofu for this dish as well.

The Sauce

6 TBSP peanut butter

1/4 cup soy sauce

1 TBSP rice vinegar

1 TBSP packed brown sugar

1 TBSP siracha sauce

2 tsp ginger

2-3 tsp garlic

2 tsp sesame oil

Whisk everything together and set aside.

The Chicken Stir-Fry

1 package chow mein noodles, cooked according to package directions

1- 1 1/2 lbs chicken, cubed

1/2 cup cornstarch

3 TBSP oil

1 carrot, cut at an angle or Asian style

1 red bell pepper, cut into thin matchsticks

1/2 onion, sliced very thin

2-3 cups Spinach, chopped rough

Peanuts or cashews for topping

fresh cilantro for topping

Coat the chicken in the cornstarch. Get a large skillet or wok very hot. Add most of the oil, and cook the chicken for about 5 minutes, or until it is cooked through and is golden brown. Once the chicken is cooked, remove it from the heat and set aside.

In the same pan, add the remaining oil and cook all the vegetables, except for the spinach, for about 5 minutes, or until the onions and peppers are softened and the onions are translucent.

Add the spinach and continue to cook for an additional 1-2 minutes.

Re-add the chicken and mix thoroughly. Add a dash of water to the sauce and add the sauce as well.

Add the cooked noodles and toss together well, then serve. Top with chopped peanuts or cashews and cilantro.

Because of the spiciness of the dish, a chilled white wine, and even a sweeter wine like a Riesling or a Gewurztraminer, will pair very nicely with this dish.

This is a restaurant meal that you can prepare in the comfort of your own kitchen at about 1/2 the cost of going to the restaurant. As always, make it your own, and add or delete what you want. There are NO set rules when it comes to cooking. You get to reinvent the meal every time you cook it. 🙂

Have a great day and make everyday great. Stay safe and stay well. ‘Til next time.

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