French Onion Chicken Zoodles

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I’ve had this idea of French Onion soup combined with zoodles for awhile. I’d seen similar ideas on other blogs in the past, but have never tried it myself. The ones I drew from the most were this one from Climbing Grier Mountain and this one from Mother Thyme.

True to form, I tried to keep tonight’s new recipe a secret from Selim. And true to form, he guessed it by the ingredients I wanted in the grocery store. The man is ridiculous! I told him that the only ingredients we needed to buy for tonight’s dinner were onions and cheese, that we had everything else I needed at home. From there, he thought about it for a few minutes, made one wrong guess (enchiladas), and then came up with, “French onion soup…?” It’s maddening I tell you. I mean, how many entrees can you think of that involve onions and cheese? I can think of a million! Off the top of my head, I could’ve been making: a cheeseburger, tacos/enchiladas/burritos/etc, spaghetti, meatballs, spaghetti & meatballs, a big ol’ omelette, scalloped potatoes, a loaded baked potato, a loaded hot dog, or maybe a cheesy onion dip! The possibilities are endless, but Mr. Mind-reader/Surprise-ruiner won again.

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French Onion Chicken Zoodles

Ingredients: 
  • 10oz chicken, cubed
  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • 2 large zucchini
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp oil, divided
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 turns of black pepper
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 2 cups cheese, shredded (We used Asiago today. Julia Child would suggest Gruyere.)
Instructions: 
  1. Heat 1 tbsp of oil over medium heat in a dutch oven or other stove + oven – safe dish. Add the cubes of chicken and cook for ~5 minutes, until they are no longer translucent. Remove to the side.
  2. Now add the other 1 tbsp of oil and the butter. Wait until the butter has melted.
  3. Add the onions and stir to coat all of the onions. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until caramelized, ~45 minutes. Stir every few minutes. You want them to brown and start to stick to the pan, but not so much so they burn. You’ll be doing this for awhile.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare your zoodles. I use a hand spiralizer. You can also slice the zucchini in ribbons if you don’t have a spiralizer. Set in the sink in a strainer. Toss with a few shakes of salt. This draws the excess water from the zucchini.
  5. After about 40 minutes (earlier if you find them drying up/starting to burn), add the balsamic vinegar to your onions. Continue cooking the onions, stirring frequently. The total onion caramelizing time should be roughly 45 minutes.
  6. Deglaze the pan with the beef broth. Add the bay leaf and thyme to the liquid. Also return the chicken to the pan. Increase heat just a bit so the liquid is simmering. Simmer for 15 minutes.
  7. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
  8. Now here you have two options. The result is the same, but the aesthetics are a bit different.
    • Option A – stir the zoodles into your dish so they are well coated and submerged in the liquid. Top with the cheese. Bake just a few minutes until cheese is bubbly and slightly browned.
    • Option B – if you have oven-safe individual-sized dishes (like large ramekins), portion out your zoodles among them. Top with the liquid and then cheese. Bake as in Option A. (In your excitement to dig in to your dinner, don’t forget that the dish is HOT!!)
  9. Enjoy! A nice crusty piece of bread would be a great compliment to this dish too! Gotta soak up all that onion-y deliciousness ūüôā
Serves 4.

High Plateau Soup

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Do you love soup as much as I do? Are you looking for a little variety in your soup life? Then this might be the soup for you. A few years ago, we were in Turkey visiting Selim’s family. Over there, I basically hit the soup jackpot. Not only does Turkish cuisine include soup with most meals, which I think is a great idea, but I also got to taste several homemade varieties from Selim’s aunts and grandmother. These women sure know how to cook. While they didn’t make this particular soup while we were there, the flavors bring me right back to their kitchens in Istanbul.

If you’re reading the ingredients, you might be thinking two thoughts… 1) “Umm… isn’t yogurt supposed to be cold?” Or 2) “Uhhh… that sounds pretty simple. It’s probably not worth my time.”

Move past those thoughts. This soup is delicious! It’s creamy and comforting. It also has amazing flavor, belying its few ingredients. The flavor profile is unique, one not particularly familiar to the American palate. Give it a whirl; I’ll bet you’ll appreciate the introduction.

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Update 9/19/16:¬†We were invited by Genie, at Bunny Eats Design, to add this recipe to her monthly link-up. Once I got over the surprise that someone out there actually read our blog (much less someone who’s blog I’ve enjoyed reading prior to this point!), I read about her link-up. It’s called Our Growing Edge and encourages participants to attempt food-related personal challenges. I love this! This post and recipe certainly fit into that goal, as I’m always wanting to create dishes true to Selim’s Turkish heritage. This month’s link-up is hosted by Chrystal at The Smallwood Parsonage, with the theme of Family Recipes. You don’t have to be invited to join – see here. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be reading through posts from past link-ups instead of studying.¬†


High Plateau Soup

(Recipe adapted from¬†Sultan‚Äôs Kitchen: A Turkish Cookbook, by¬†√Ėzcan Ozan)
Ingredients: 
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup uncooked rice
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 10 fresh mint leaves
Instructions: 
  1. Place the stock, rice, and butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer. Stir in the paprika and salt.
  2. Decrease heat and cook at a low simmer for 20-30 minutes, until rice is cooked.
  3. Meanwhile, mix the yogurt, egg yolks, and flour together.
  4. Stir the yogurt mixture into the soup slowly. Chop up the mint leaves and add to the soup. Turn the heat down to low and cook for another ten minutes, stirring occasionally.
Makes 2 meal-sized servings or 4 servings as a starter or side to another dish.

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Lahmacun

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What is lahmacun you ask? Let’s start with pronunciation. If you’re American (or not Turkish, really), I can almost guarantee your guess is wrong. In Turkish, the pronunciation of ‘c’ as we English speakers¬†know it, doesn’t really exist. If you see a ‘c’ in a Turkish word, think of it as an English¬†‘j.’ Easy enough? But wait! If you see this letter:¬†√ß, forget what I just said.¬†√á = ‘ch.’ The ‘c’ in lahmacun doesn’t have a tail on it, so it is pronounced as a ‘j.’ Therefore:¬†“lah-mah-june.”¬†

Now that we can all say it, what¬†is¬†it? Well it’s the epitome of delicious Turkish street food. It¬†originates from Southeastern Turkey (although that is debated by some, as is the origin of pretty much every beloved food I’ve ever heard of…), and is popular in Turkey, Syria, Armenia, Lebanon, and other surrounding areas.¬†It is essentially a meat-topped flatbread. In the US and Europe it is sometimes referred to as a “Turkish pizza.” That’s a reasonably¬†accurate description I suppose, although to me the biggest and most obvious difference is that lahmacun isn’t covered in cheese as your traditional¬†pizza is. Lahmacun can have a variety of toppings and therefore recipe variations, but at its core it is pita¬†dough, baked with spiced meat on top. When purchased from a street vendor, they are commonly rolled up around a salad of sorts, but can also be eaten flat as we did tonight. Lamb is more traditional than beef, but since I had beef at home, that’s what we went with today.

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Lahmacun

(Recipe adapted from¬†Sultan’s Kitchen: A Turkish Cookbook, by¬†√Ėzcan Ozan)
Ingredients: 
  • 1 tbsp active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups hot water, divided
  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • Olive oil
  • 12oz ground beef (or lamb)
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 can (14.5oz) diced tomatoes
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp crushed red pepper
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 10 turns fresh ground pepper

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Instructions: 
  1. First, prepare the dough. In a small bowl, stir together the yeast, sugar, and 1/2 cup of warm water. Let sit for ~10 minutes until frothy.
  2. Add 1 cup of flour to a larger bowl. Pour the yeast mixture over top and stir. After combined, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit for 30 minutes.
  3. Now add the remaining flour, remaining water, and salt. Mix with a spoon in the bowl until you have a well-combined ball of dough. Then turn out onto a lightly floured, clean, dry counter-top. Knead the dough for 10+ minutes. The dough should be firm and elastic.
  4. Pour just a tiny bit of olive oil onto a paper towel and swipe around the bottom and side of a large bowl. Place the dough in the bowl and cover with a damp towel. Allow to sit for 1 hour or until dough has doubled in size.
  5. While your dough is rising, prepare the meat topping. Combine all of the rest of the ingredients. (Note: the ground meat used by Turkish cooks for this dish is more finely ground than how it is generally sold in the US. I used the back of a fork and smashed the meat a little bit to make it a bit finer.)
  6. After the dough has risen, roll it out on your floured counter-top, so it is a long log. Using a sharp knife, cut into 8 equal chunks. Meanwhile, preheat your over to 450 degrees.
  7. Smash each chunk of dough with the heel of your hand so it is fairly flat. Then roll out with a rolling pin. The dough should end up slightly smaller than the size of an average dinner plate.
  8. Top the dough with your meat mixture, leaving ~1/2 inch edge.
  9. Place on a pizza stone or a flat cookie sheet. Bake on top rack for 10-12 minutes. The meat should be browned and the edges of the dough golden and a bit crispy.
This makes 8 large pieces.

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Couscous Salad

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I don’t know about y’all, but I feel like lunch is kind of a struggle meal. I want to have something that tastes good, is easy to make, is portable to work/school, is pretty healthy, and keeps me full until dinner. That’s doable, but sometimes is just a little boring. Lunch just isn’t an exciting meal to me! When you think of lunch, what do you think of?¬†Lunch just elicits the thought of a sandwich for me. I actually love sandwiches, but you can’t eat a sandwich every single day.

The other thing about lunch is that I don’t really ever think about making “a recipe”for lunch. I feel like I just throw something together. I think others feel the same way, judging from some recent social media posts I’ve seen from friends looking to add some variety to their brown-baggin’ it work lunches. Which led me to the realization that my simple, thrown-together lunch(es) might be something new for someone else.

This is one of my favorite go-to lunches. It pretty much hits all of my lunch criteria as above. Tastes good? Big old check. Easy to make? Check. Portable for work? Definite check. Reasonably healthy? Veggie-packed check. Keeps me full? Check, check, check. The portions I describe here gives me 3 or 4 lunches for a week, which simultaneously preps for a good portion of the week and leaves room for a little variety.

Like I said before, I don’t really follow a recipe for this and alter it probably every time. Try it this way. And next time, try some different vegetables, different dressing, or some additions like cheese or meats. The variation below uses Trader Joe’s Light Champagne Vinaigrette, my current obsession.

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Couscous Salad

Ingredients: 
  • 1 cup pearl couscous
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube
  • 1 small cucumber, sliced and quartered
  • 10 baby carrots, sliced
  • 10 kalamata olives, pitted and halved
  • 1 ear of corn, cooked/boiled and kernels removed
  • 2 tbsp Light Champagne Vinaigrette
  • Fresh-ground black pepper
Instructions: 
  1. Bring the water, couscous, and bouillon cube to a boil. Cook over medium-high heat until water is absorbed and grain is soft, but not mushy. (Note: different sizes and variations of couscous may require more or less water. Follow given instructions if they differ from mine.)
  2. Meanwhile, prepare your vegetables.
  3. After couscous has cooked, drain if needed, and set aside to cool.
  4. Combine veggies, couscous, and dressing. Top with a few turns of black pepper. Mix thoroughly.
Makes 3-4 lunch servings.

Now who has some new-to-me easy lunch ideas to share?