Chicken Monterey

This recipe highlights California fruits and vegetables using summer squash, oregano and orange. It's light, packed with vegetables and refreshing. It's pretty enough for a special meal and great to prep in the cool of the morning then finish in the crockpot. 

  • 5 Tbls olive oil
  • 1 frying chicken, cut into pieces
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 carrots, chopped (I like the red & yellow carrots)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup or more chicken broth
  • Zest of one orange
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/2 cup canned tomatoes, crushed 
  • 1 lg. sprig fresh oregano or rosemary, minced 
  • 1 red pepper, cored and stemmed, cut julienne (matchsticks)
  • 1 red pepper, cored and stemmed, cut julienne (matchsticks)
  • 1 small zucchini, cut julienne (matchsticks)
  • 1 small yellow zucchini, cut julienne (matchsticks)
  •     For the garnish:
  • 1/3 cup parsley, minced and mixed with 1 Tbls. orange zest
  • Salt and pepper (white pepper is nice here)

On medium-high, heat 3 Tbls. of the oil in a large skillet. Pat the chicken pieces dry, lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper and sauté until a light golden on both sides. Remove to a plate and set aside. 

Turn the heat down to low and add the onions, carrots and garlic to the oil. Cover and sweat, cooking until tender, about 5 minutes. Uncover the skillet and add the stock, orange juice, tomatoes, and oregano. Simmer uncovered, for 15 minutes. 

Return chicken pieces to the pan and simmer for 15 minutes. Turn and baste the chicken and simmer for an additional 10 minutes or until the chicken is done.

  • At this point, the chicken can be cooled and then chilled to use another day. Gently reheat the chicken in the sauce and proceed. 
  • To cook in a crockpot, instead of simmering on the stove, add the pieces, broth, juice, etc. to the crockpot and proceed following your crockpot recommendations for chicken.

To serve:

In a clean skillet, over medium heat, add remaining 2 Tbls. olive oil and sauté the red peppers for 5 minutes. Raise the heat and add the zucchini. Sauté until tender but firm, about 3 to 5 minutes. Place the chicken in a deep platter or on individual plates and cover with the sauce-vegetable mixture.

Top each piece with a mound of the pepper-zucchini mixture and garnish with a sprinkle of the parsley-orange zest mixture.

Adapted years ago from The Silver Palate Cookbook



Salt & Sugar-Cured Tomatoes with Fried Pistachios

This is a beautiful and quick salad using heirloom tomatoes available in summer. The orange flower water (available at Mediterranean markets) gives the salad a lovely fragrance. Keep your tomatoes on the counter. Don't put them in the fridge; the will feel depressed and loose their flavor.

  • Firm heirloom and/or tangy green tomatoes
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • Sugar
  • Sicilian pistachios
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Orange blossom water

Slice tomatoes as thin as possible without shredding-1/8" ideal. In ceramic or glass dish, lay out 1 layer of slices neatly without overlapping. Season very carefully with salt and tiniest pinch of sugar to quick-cure them. Build another layer on top and repeat the cure, until you have stacked all your tomatoes. Cure tomatoes for one hour. Tomatoes will weep so make sure your vessel has a rim to collect the "tears". 

Fry pistachios in EVOO in small pot on stove just until they sizzle. Cool.

To Serve:

Arrange a neat, shingled, circle of tomato slices in shallow bowls or a platter with a rim, leaving 1/2" of plate perimeter where the green oil will pool up. 

Very sparingly splash some drops of orange blossom water over the tomatoes. You want to smell it and taste it, but in a fleeting way. Scatter small spoonful of fried pistachios on the tomatoes and then spoon the olive oil they were fried in around the empty white perimeter left on the plate. 

This recipe is slightly adapted from Prune by Gabrielle Hamilton


Bapa's Chouchouka

Bapa’s Chouchouka

Makes about 2 cups

Chouchouka is a cooked tomato and pepper dish from Israel and North Africa (especially Tunisia) where my father in law is from. Every year at our family summer picnic, a serious competition ensues with a trophy for the winner of the years best Chouchouka. The competition is fierce and I have yet to win.

It’s delicious room temperature piled on baguette or pita bread. It can also be simmered in a frying pan with eggs floating on top or with merguez, a spicy lamb sausage added. 

  • 2 to 3 bell or other meaty sweet peppers of equal weight, roasted* 
  • 4 to 6 Tbls. olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, two minced and two sliced thinly
  • 1 14-oz. can good quality peeled Italian plum tomatoes with juice
  • 1 small spoonful harissa, a North African chili paste, mild to hot depending on your liking or 1 Tbls. smoked paprika and cayenne pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbls. tomato paste (optional)
  • Fresh parsley or cilantro, coarsely chopped

Pour the tomatoes and juice into a bowl and break up the tomatoes with your hands into small pieces. In a skillet just big enough to fit the ingredients with room to simmer, warm the olive oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the minced garlic and stir until wilted. Do Not brown. Add the tomato pieces and their juice into the pan. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes.

Peel, seed and devein the peppers and cut them into thin strips 1/4-inch or so. Add the peppers and the sliced garlic to the pan. Allow the sauce to simmer, stirring often for 30 to 45 minutes until it thickens and the oil rises to the top. Stir often. A bit of water can be added to keep it from burning however one of Bapa’s secrets (and please don’t share this) is to allow the sauce to burn “just a bit” for added flavor. Season with salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature sprinkled with parsley or cilantro.

Chouchouka with Eggs and Merguez

Serves 4 to 8

  • Double recipe of chouchouka
  • 1 pound merguez sausage, skinned (the eggs are also good with just the Chouchouka)
  • 8 large eggs

Heat a skillet to medium and add merguez breaking up the sausage into small pieces. Fry the sausage until crispy and done. Drain the fat and add the chouchouka to the pan. Gently heat the mixture over medium heat. Stir often and add a bit of water if needed. 

Once hot, break the eggs one at a time into a small dish. Make a dent in the Chouchouka and add an egg. Repeat with remaining eggs placing eggs in their own “nest”. Cover and continue to cook for about 7 to 8 minutes, until the eggs are set. Sprinkle with parsley or cilantro and serve.

Roasting Peppers

Peppers can be roasted over or under any direct heat. You can grill, broil, or use my favorite method, over a gas flame on the stove. I've also done this on an electric burner. If using the oven, set on broil and cover cookie sheets with foil.

Place the peppers over (or under) heat and allow them to blister and char on all sides, top and bottom. Once blackened, place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to steam or put them in a plastic bag and seal it. Allow to cool enough to handle.

Once cool, peel the peppers. You can use a dull knife to scrape stubborn bits and don't feel that you have to remove all of the skin. Remove stem and seeds. I prefer not to rinse the peppers as you loose some flavor.