Roasted Chicken with Orange Ginger Buttah (aka Aarti's I Ain't Chicken Chicken)

Roasted Chicken with Orange Ginger Buttah

Compound butters are so remarkably simple to make, you almost want to tap yourself on the head and say, "Why didn't I think of that?" Of course, you can make your own butter first, then add the other ingredients, but regular store-bought butter which you've allowed to sit out and soften works just as well. Basically, you add whatever herbs and seasonings you'd like to the softened butter and mix well (Basil Lime Buttah, anyone? Excellent over grilled corn on the cob!).

In this case, Aarti Sequeira..you know her, she's that excellent new chef they have over there at the Food Network..well, Aarti takes an ordinary piece of chicken and elevates it to another level with her I Ain't Chicken Chicken recipe. Fresh orange zest and freshly grated ginger, along with flowery cardamom spice infuse this extremely moist chicken with its flavor.

orange, ginger root, cardamom spice
orange, ginger and cardamom compound butter
Serves 4

Grill or Oven 500 degrees F (Aarti's recipe calls for roasting in the oven, however I prepared using an outdoor grill and I lined my baking sheet with foil. Expect splatter and smoking.)

4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, softened at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
zest of 1 large orange
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
4 chicken breasts, skin on (Aarti's recipe calls for bone in and skin on)

To make compound butter - in small bowl place butter, cardamom, orange zest, and grated ginger and mix well. Then add salt and pepper to taste. (Next time I make this I will also add freshly minced garlic.) Set aside.

Line a baking sheet with foil and place a cooling rack on top of that. Generously salt and pepper chicken breasts on both sides. On the skin side make a pocket between the skin and the flesh. Place butter in pocket, close and massage to distribute butter evenly under skin. Place chicken skin side up on rack fitted inside baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil.

Place pan on grill, close lid and cook for approximately 18-25 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees, or juices run clear. Remove from grill and allow to rest a few minutes before serving.

ready to go on grill
coming off grill
lining your baking sheet with foil will make for much easier clean-up

Note: Butter will drip down and when it makes contact with your very hot pan, there will inevitably be splatter and smoke. If I were going to make this in my oven next time, I would use a roasting pan fitted with a rack and still line the roasting pan with foil for easier clean-up. The deeper roasting pan should help prevent over-splatter.


Baby Spinach, Celery Root, and Fuji Apple Salad with Creamy Pistachio Dressing (aka Aarti's "The Ugly Duckling Salad")

Baby Spinach, Celery Root, and Fuji Apple Salad w/Creamy Pistachio Dressing

This salad is another Aarti Sequeira masterpiece. She calls it The Ugly Duckling Salad because of the celery root component which is sort of the "ugly duckling" of the vegetable world. It's gnarly and unattractive on the outside, but inside lies a beautiful, creamy and healthy vegetable.

I've long been a fan of celery root, which is what first attracted me to this recipe. Celery root makes a great potato substitute because it has a much lower glycemic index, and it's much lower in carbs and calories - steam it and make mashed "potatoes", thinly slice it to make a "potato" gratin, and the list goes on. For some reason, I hadn't tried it raw, though. I discovered it's delicious raw - mild in flavor and it added an almost creamy texture to the salad.

Incidentally, "celery" is not the same thing as "celery root". They are related but not the same. Celery root is a separate vegetable and is grown solely for its root ball.

pistachios, garlic, baby spinach, celery root
lemon, fuji apple and Sriracha sauce

Ok, let's talk about this dressing for a minute. This stuff is so good, I could drink it. It's creamy, citrusy, garlicky and most importantly, pistachio-y. Baby spinach has never tasted so good to me as it did in this salad. The dressing almost reminded me of a Caesar dressing infused with pistachio, only there's no parmesan, egg, or anchovy in this dressing. Regardless, it's delicious!

Serves 4

1/2 cup shelled pistachios
2 large cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 lemon, juiced
1/2 teaspoon Sriracha sauce (you can use the Huy Fong brand sold in most supermarkets or make your own: Homemade Sriracha Sauce)
1/2 cup hot water
1/2 cup canola oil, plus more if necessary
Kosher salt
freshly cracked black pepper
splash of extra-virgin olive oil (instead I used my La Tourangelle Pistachio Oil)

In skillet over medium heat, toast pistachios until lightly browned.

In blender or food processor, place toasted pistachios, garlic, lemon juice, Sriracha sauce, water, and oil, then blend till smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. If too watery, add more canola oil and blend to emulsify. Add drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and blend once more. Set aside.

1 bag baby spinach, pre-washed
1 Fuji apple, thinly sliced
1 celery root bulb (about the size of a softball or smaller), peeled and grated (see below)

In large bowl, place spinach and apple slices. To prepare celery root, wash thoroughly, then cut outer peel away from bulb revealing white inside. 

Cut bottom of root to make flat, then rest on cutting board and starting
at the top cut the peel down and away from the root ball.

Next grate celery root using a box grater. To prevent from turning brown you can squeeze a little lemon juice on the grated celery root.

Add celery root to bowl with the spinach and apple, then add enough dressing to coat. Toss to mix.

Note: I had quite a bit of extra dressing left over, but I refrigerated it and will use it on another salad in the next day or two.

Savory Spinach, Feta, and Peppadew Muffins

Savory Spinach, Feta, and Peppadew Muffins

Savory and delicious! Fresh spinach, feta cheese and my very favorite lesser-known ingredient...the peppadew. Wow, do I love those little guys. They're mildly sweet but also have just a tad bit of heat to them. They're great stuffed with blue cheese and eaten as an appetizer, and I always add them to my pasta sauces (see my Italian Chicken Cutlet recipe). Whatever the dish, you may be assured they will kick up the flavor. I usually buy them in the olive bar at my local market, but I've also gotten them in the jarred olives section.

I found this amazing recipe in the September 2010 issue of Bon Appetit magazine. They adapted it from a game lodge located in Kruger National Park in South Africa called Singita Sweni Lodge. I'm so glad they shared it because this will become a regular menu item in my home. In addition to being completely yummy, they're easy to freeze and take with you for lunch, or on the go.

peppadews, spinach, feta cheese

When making this dish, I recommend using fresh spinach (not frozen). I found this hearty, organic variety at Bristol Farms but the kind you get in the salad area of the market, pre-washed and in a bag will work fine, too. Also, I used a Pampered Chef 12-cup Stoneware Muffin Pan, which I totally love, but of course you can use any muffin pan you'd like. I've had really good luck with this stoneware pan as it cooks evenly and the sides of the muffins don't over-brown.

In my stoneware pan and about to go in the oven.

Makes 6-12 muffins depending on cup size (my pan yielded 8 generous muffins)

Oven 375 degrees F

nonstick vegetable oil spray
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon paprika
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup whole milk (I used 2%)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 cup thinly-sliced fresh spinach leaves
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup chopped peppadews (the hot ones)
butter to finish (optional)

Spray muffin pan with nonstick spray.

In medium bowl place flour, sugar, baking powder, paprika, and salt, then whisk together.

In large bowl place milk, oil, and eggs, then whisk together.

Add flour mixture to milk mixture, then whisk together just until blended. Do not overmix. Batter will be very thick and gooey. Fold in spinach, feta cheese, and peppadews.

Fill each muffin cup to the top until there is no more batter. Bake in oven for 25-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. I always start checking at the minimum recommended time. In this case, they were done in 27 minutes, but it will depend on your pan and the size of the muffin cups.

Top with butter (optional) and let cool for 5 minutes then remove from pan and place on cooling rack. If necessary, run your knife around the edges of the muffins to release them from the pan.

These are addictive!


Pistachio and Blue Corn Tortilla Crusted Pork Chops

Pistachio and Blue Corn Tortilla Crusted Pork Chops

This dish is all about the pistachios. If you like them, you'll love this. Center cut pork loin chops crusted in chopped pistachios and crushed blue corn tortilla chips, pan fried and finished with pistachio oil - Mmmmm!

Serves 4

2 Tablespoons grapeseed oil, or canola oil (or any oil that has a medium-high smoke point)
4 boneless center cut pork loin chops
10 blue corn tortilla chips, crushed or chopped
1/4 cup salted pistachios, chopped
1 egg, beaten with 1 Tablespoon water (egg wash)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour for dredging
kosher salt
freshly cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon pistachio oil, or extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Place flour in a shallow bowl, then place egg wash (beaten egg with water) in a separate shallow bowl. Salt and pepper pork chops then dredge each in flour, then egg wash, then flour again. On one side of pork chops press crushed tortilla chips and chopped pistachios.

coated, crusted and ready to be pan fried

Heat grapeseed or canola oil in skillet to medium, then place pork chops crusted side down into hot pan. Cook for about 3-4 minutes, then flip and cook for another 3-4 minutes or until pork chops are no longer pink inside.

Remove from pan and drizzle with pistachio oil (or extra-virgin olive oil) before serving. The pistachio oil gave it that extra punch of pistachio but these chops would be just as good using extra-virgin olive oil if you don't have, or don't want to invest in, pistachio oil.

I picked up this La Tourangelle Pistachio Oil at Bristol Farms  and it is really, really good (but expensive). In this case, I felt it was worth it because I'll use it over and over again in salad dressings, as a dipping oil, drizzled over pasta, etc. Some oils are not very flavorful, however, this 100% pure pistachio oil was the exception. Close your eyes, taste, and it's like you're eating a pistachio.


Blueberry Crumb Cake (inspired by Ina Garten)

Blueberry Crumb Cake

I love this blueberry crumb cake. It's not too sweet, plus it's moist, delicious and bursting with blueberry goodness. And, well, anything with crumble on top has to be good, right?

I'm a big fan of Ina Garten's so when I was at the farmer's market this past weekend and realized that it would be the last time this season to pick up fresh, wild blueberries - I immediately thought, "I've got to make Ina's Blueberry Crumb Cake" and picked some up.

This crumb cake is excellent with a freshly brewed cup of coffee in the morning, or equally wonderful as a dessert - perhaps with a dollop of freshly whipped vanilla or lemon-scented cream.

pretty with a few sprigs of mint
ingredients for crumble

Makes 1 (9-inch) round cake
Oven 350 degrees F

  • 2 extra-large eggs at room temperature (still in shells, make sure there are no cracks)
  • 3/4 stick butter at room temperature/softened, plus 1 stick butter melted
  • (I leave the butter and the eggs out on the counter the night before)
  • butter and flour the inside of a 9-inch round cake pan (I use the wrapper from the butter to coat the pan)

1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

Combine sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl. Stir in melted butter and then flour. Mix until it becomes a crumbly texture, then set aside.

6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature (3/4 stick)
3/4 cup sugar
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest (zest of about 1/2 lemon)
2/3 cup sour cream (I've also used 2/3 cup Greek yogurt and the result is the same)
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup fresh blueberries
confectioners sugar (powdered sugar) for sprinkling

Cream butter and sugar together using electric mixer with paddle attachment (or hand mixer) on high speed. Reduce speed to low and add eggs one at a time. Then add vanilla, lemon zest, and sour cream.

Tips: 1) Place sifter over bowl and add flour, then add baking powder,
baking soda, and salt in little piles so you can tell what
you've already added. 2) Lightly coat blueberries in a little
of the flour to help prevent sinking.
then sift dry ingredients into bowl

In separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With mixer on low speed add flour mixture to batter until just combined - do not overmix. With spatula, gently fold in the blueberries and stir until evenly spread throughout the batter.

Spoon batter into prepared pan and spread out evenly. Place the crumble mixture evenly over the batter and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on rack and then remove from pan and dust top with confectioners sugar. Excellent served warm, too.

Baking Tip:  Baking is a science and ingredients must be measured carefully. The most accurate way to measure is by weight. I'm particularly careful with flour because the weight has a tendency to fluctuate based on how compacted it is. If you don't have a scale that measures by weight and converts to quantity measurements, just use this method - fluff the flour with a spoon, then drop spoonfulls into your measuring cup until it's over-filled and using the straight edge of a knife or spatula level the top, being careful not to compact it. This will usually get you very close.

Also, if you're having trouble with your baking, be sure to invest in an inexpensive oven temperature guage. Chances are it's not your baking expertise, but rather fluctuations in the temperature of your oven. Some ovens have hot spots, and others can be a few degrees off. With baking it all matters.

eat dessert first!


Massaged Kale Salad (inspired by Aarti Sequeira)

Massaged Kale Salad

Okay, now it's just getting embarrassing. I mean first it's the Friday Shrimp and it's the best shrimp I've ever had. Then it's the Sloppy Bombay Joes and they're insanely good. Now it's this amazing - yes, that's right AMAZING - kale salad. I just can't help myself. When I try something new and it works and it's fantastic, I just want to shout it from the rooftops. So here I go again - Aarti Sequeira's recipes rock and this one is no exception!

Kale is loaded with nutrients and really good for you, and in this salad you get to eat it in its raw state (healthiest) and really enjoy the taste. Sometimes kale can be bitter but with Aarti's technique and additions, I promise you - you will become a kale fan, if not already. I use my husband as a barometer and he has said for years that he didn't like kale, nor mangos. This dish has both kale and mangos and he devoured it.


The firm kale seemed to make the mango almost taste creamy, and draped in the citrusy but lightly sweet dressing it was only enhanced further by the crispy, toasted pepitas. See Aarti's recipe here: Massaged Kale Salad and below is how I made it.

Serves 2-4

1 bunch kale, stalks removed and discarded, leaves thinly sliced (I used the kale with the small, curly leaves and it was perfect)
1 lemon, juiced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
kosher salt
2 teaspoons honey
freshly cracked black pepper
1 mango, diced small (about 1 cup) (I used a Keitt Green Mango)
handful of pepitas (pumpkin seeds), lightly toasted

In large bowl, place kale, half the fresh squeezed lemon juice, a drizzle of oil, and a couple of pinches of kosher salt. Massage the kale with your hands until it starts to soften and slightly wilt. With the kale I used, this happened almost immediately, but it could take 2-3 minutes. Set aside.

In small bowl, whisk remaining lemon juice, honey and lots of freshly cracked black pepper. Then stream in the oil while whisking until it starts to emulsify and look like a dressing. Pour dressing over kale, add mango and pepitas, toss and serve.

Btw, this salad holds up well even after adding the dressing. The kale holds its shape and doesn't get soggy even when sitting for quite some time.

Cook's Note: To toast the pepitas, just place in a skillet over medium heat and lightly toast on each side, about 1-2 minutes per side.

raw pepitas


Sloppy Bombay Joes (totally inspired by Aarti Sequeira!)

Sloppy Bombay Joes

Wow - where do I start? Finger-lickin' good?! Can't stop at just one?! All true and then some when it comes to these Sloppy Joes.

That Food Network is onto something SPECTACULAR with their newest Chef - Aarti Sequeira. Not too long ago, I had the distinct pleasure of making Aarti's "Friday Shrimp" and absolutely loved it. So much so, that I'm making it again tomorrow night. Today I made her Sloppy Bombay Joes...

I honestly was not sure what to expect. I was born and raised in the south and Sloppy Joes were a regular in our household. So imagine what I must've been thinking when I saw pistachios?? and raisins??, not to mention honey? and cream? in the recipe. Let me just say, I shall never question Aarti again and the next time I make these Sloppy Bombay Joes and there WILL be a next time - I'll double down on the the pistachios and raisins! It's hard to describe the complexity to the dish they added, but they did. Imagine good old-fashioned Sloppy Joes but with something special that you can't quite put your finger on. Maybe it's the garam masala? The toasted cumin seeds? The creamy tomato sauce? Somehow it just all plays nicely together.

I made some minor tweaks to Aarti's recipe to suit my taste and I'll try to call those out below. If you'd like to follow her recipe exactly, here's the link: Sloppy Bombay Joes.

before the tomato sauce is added

Serves 4 - 6

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon minced ginger
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 serrano pepper, seeded and finely minced (reserve other half in tact for the meat mixture)
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
1/2 cup water (Aarti's recipe calls for 1 cup of water but mine was too soupy when done and I had to use a thickener, next time I will only use 1/2 cup of water)

Heat oil in medium sauce pan on medium heat. Add ginger, garlic, and pepper. Saute until lightly brown, which will be almost immediate. Add garam masala and paprika and saute for 30 more seconds. Stir in tomato sauce and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered until thickened, about 15 minutes.

Beef (Aarti's recipe calls for turkey):
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil (since I was using 85/15 ground beef, I only used 2 Tablespoons oil, Aarti's recipe calls for turkey and 3 to 4 Tablespoons oil)
1/4 cup shelled pistachios, or more
1/4 cup raisins, or more
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 large white onion, finely diced
1 red bell pepper, seeds and membrane removed, finely diced
1/2 serrano chile, seeds intact
heavy pinch kosher salt
couple of turns of freshly cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (not in Aarti's recipe)
1 pound ground beef (or turkey)
1/2 teaspoon honey
1/4 cup heavy cream (Aarti's recipe calls for half and half)
chopped fresh cilantro for garnish, leaves only
4 to 6 hamburger buns, toasted

In large skillet heat oil over medium heat. Add pistachios and raisins and cook until raisins plump up and pistachios toast, this will happen quickly. (I've never seen raisins do this before and it's kind of cool!) Remove raisins and pistachios from pan, place in bowl and set aside.

Add the cumin seeds to the pan and allow to sizzle for about 10 seconds (mine actually didn't sizzle, but they did brown). Stir in the onions and bell pepper and saute until starting to soften and lightly brown. Add the other 1/2 of the serrano pepper, salt, fresh cracked black pepper, and crushed red pepper and saute for a couple more minutes. (You could leave out the crushed red pepper until the end and decide if you'd like more spice or not.)

Add ground beef and cook for about 5 minutes or so, breaking up the large chunks. Pour tomato sauce into skillet with meat and stir together, bring to a boil then reduce and simmer for about 10 minutes until meat is fully cooked. Remove serrano pepper and discard. Add honey, cream, pistachios and raisins and stir until mixed. Spoon over toasted bun and garnish with fresh cilantro.