Lemon Thyme & Ginger

Middle Eastern Style Baked Sesame Chicken

Middle Eastern Style Baked Sesame Chicken with recipe.

Coating chicken thighs with spices and sesame seeds adds a unique flavor to an otherwise ordinary weeknight chicken dinner. This recipe for baked sesame chicken should not be confused with the sesame chicken you find in Chinese restaurants. There is no breading, the chicken is baked not fried and the flavor is very different. Middle Eastern Style Baked Sesame Chicken is made with boneless chicken thighs, with a generous coating of toasted sesame seeds flavored with spices and ingredients traditionally found in Middle Eastern foods, like cumin, coriander and pomegranate molasses.

Middle Eastern food is often seasoned with a mixture of fresh herbs and spices creating one complex and unique flavor out of many ingredients. At first glance of a typical ingredients list one would wonder how will all the spices and herbs taste together? It would seem like there is too much flavoring going on and the ingredients would compete. Yet, Middle Eastern food is the master of mixing all these spices and herbs in just the right way to create one harmonious flavor out of many.

Middle Eastern Style Baked Sesame Chicken with recipe.

Baked Sesame Chicken

When I started developing this recipe for baked sesame chicken, I loaded it up with a lot of different spices and ingredients that I love in Middle Eastern foods. Yet, after my first batch I decided to keep the flavor profile of baked sesame chicken on the subtle side. What stood out to me is the combination of the toasty notes of sesame seeds and the sweet and tangy flavor of pomegranate molasses and wanted to make sure these flavors stood out. It took a lot of will power to resist my temptation to add saffron to the marinade, but I do believe it would work nicely here.

Chicken benefits from some marinade, especially when the skins and bones are not there to add extra flavor. However, you do need to be careful and not marinade chicken for too long when there is a lot of acid. Chicken, especially boneless breasts, turns mealy if it sits in a marinade for too many hours. In this recipe, the amount of time marinating is kept at a minimum of 30 minutes at room temperature seasoned with Kosher salt, then an hour in the refrigerator coated in the sesame marinade. There is not a lot of acid in the marinade, so the chicken thighs can take a longer marinade if you wish, but not overnight.

Like the yogurt dressing, the roasted vegetables are more like a condiment for the baked sesame chicken as opposed to a vegetable side dish. The concentrated and bright flavors of roasted fennel and grape tomatoes help the nutty and subtle sweetness stand out. The yogurt dressing is optional, but I think the vegetables roasting in the oven with the chicken is an integral flavor for the meal.

To Grill or Not to Grill

This time of year, it is tempting to want to grill these chicken thighs. The days are longer, warmer and bright, and I just want to spend to whole time outside. However, I have good reason to bake sesame chicken and not grill it.  Sesame seeds burn easily when seared over the hot coals.  Unlike chicken meat, the charred sesame seeds turn very bitter and unpleasant. Therefore, this is not a recipe that effortlessly transitions from roasting to grilling.

Middle Eastern Style Baked Sesame Chicken with recipe.

Specialty Ingredients for Middle Eastern Style Baked Sesame Chicken

There are a couple of specialty items in the recipe, Aleppo Pepper and Pomegranate Molasses. both ingredients are available at specialties markets. You can find both at Middle Eastern food stores like Sahardis in Brooklyn or online. If you are interested you can make pomegranate molasses using this recipe from Alton Brown. Personally, I have not had a lot of luck making it, so I buy it.

Pomegranate molasses has a unique flavor of tart, sweet and caramelized pomegranate syrup and there is not a good substitute.

If you cannot find Aleppo pepper, you can substitute it with most varieties of chili peppers.

Middle Eastern Style Baked Sesame Chicken with recipe.

Sesame Seed Love

I love just about anything with the toasty nuttiness of sesame seeds and sprinkle them on breads, in salads, stirred into rice as in Crunchy Jasmine Rice, sprinkled over a stir fry in Sesame Shrimp with Spinach, or as a featured flavor like in Cold Sesame Noodles. Even though they are seeds, I get the same warm nutty flavor I love.

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Boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs are staple dinner items in many households, especially mine. They are easy to prepare and do not take a lot of time to cook. We eat them so often, it is nice to have a variety of marinades for chicken to change things up a bit. Baked Sesame Chicken is a great alternative to a breaded cutlet creating a meal with a unique flavor profile. The combination of the nutty sesame seeds and the sweet and bitter components of the pomegranate molasses, orange zest and honey, compliment the roasted chicken and vegetables for a unique tasting chicken dinner.

Roast thinly sliced fennel and grape tomatoes to brighten up the nutty chicken. The yogurt dressing is optional and adds a tangy contrast to the roasted chicken.

Serve with a green salad made with arugula, orange segments and avocado slices with a citrus vinaigrette.

This meal is also delicious made with skin on and bone in chicken thighs. Or, any part of the chicken with or without the skin and bones.   

Course Dinner, Main Entree
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Resting time 1 hour
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Author Ginger

Ingredients

Marinade:

  • 1.85 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs, about 5
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • ¾ tsp dried oregano
  • A few grounds of white pepper
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp pomegranate molasses
  • 1 TB dry white wine or vermouth
  • 1 TB extra virgin olive oil
  • Zest from half an orange and orange slices
  • 3 TB toasted sesame seeds
  • Sesame chicken

Marinated sesame chicken thighs

  • 1 fennel bulb with fronds about 13 oz (380 g)
  • 8 oz 2331 g grape tomatoes
  • 1 TB extra virgin olive oil
  • 3-4 orange slices

Yogurt Sauce:

  • ¼ cup plain yogurt or crème fraiche
  • ½ clove pressed garlic green germ removed
  • Pinch of Aleppo pepper flakes or a pinch of ground cayenne pepper
  • If it is too thick thin it out with a squeeze of lemon juice or milk. Adding a little at a time until you get the right consistency for easy drizzling.

Instructions

Make the marinade

  1. Place the chicken thighs on a rimmed baking sheet large enough to hold the chicken thighs and pat them dry on both sides. Sprinkle Kosher salt over both sides of the chicken and let it sit on the counter at room temperature for 30 minutes. 

  2. Mix the remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl large enough to hold all the chicken thighs. After the 30 minutes rest, add the seasoned chicken thighs to the marinade and toss around with your hands to get the chicken pieces well coated with the sesame seeds and marinade. 

  3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and marinade for one hour or more. 

  4. 20 minutes before you want to bake the chicken, turn the oven on to 400°F (200°C / Gas Mark 6) and place the rack in the middle position. 

Putting it all together

  1. Cut off the stalk and fronds of the fennel bulb, then cut the bulb in quarters. Slice the bulb quarters into thin pieces less than a quarter of an inch (.5 cm) thick. Add the sliced fennel to a large mixing bowl. Add the grape tomatoes, the extra virgin olive oil, some fennel fronds, a pinch of Kosher salt and a couple grounds of black pepper. Toss to evenly coat the vegetables with olive oil. 

  2. Arrange the chicken thighs on a rimmed baking sheet. Add the fennel and grape tomatoes and arrange around the chicken. Slide in the orange slices near the chicken.
  3. Bake in the oven for 40 minutes or until the juices run clear when a thigh is pierced with a fork, about 165°F (74°C).

  4. While the chicken is cooking, mix in a small bowl the yogurt, pressed garlic Aleppo pepper and lemon juice. Add a pinch of Kosher salt and a couple of grounds of fresh black pepper. Taste and correct seasoning. Cover with plastic wrap or lid and let it rest on the counter until ready to serve.

  5. Serve hot drizzled with yogurt sauce and a tossed salad of arugula and fresh herbs, avocado and orange segments.
Middle Eastern Style Baked Sesame Chicken with recipe.

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Best Dessert Recipes

Looking over my blog posts I felt I needed some more dessert recipes, especially cake recipes. It is always good to collect dessert recipes ranging from easy to more challenging that you feel comfortable with. To add to my collection, I set out to publish a post for a yellow cake with chocolate ganache recipe today, but things did not work out as planned.

It all started when I made a cake from a recipe from Joanne Chang’s Baking with Less Sugar. Baking with less sugar is a goal of mine and a personal passion for Joanne Chang because her husband does not tolerate sugar well. I found, with this recipe, that just because there is less refined sugar does not mean it is low in fat. Quite the contrary.

Her cake was lovely, but the ganache frosting was an epic fail. Ganache is sometimes temperamental depending on the type of chocolate one uses. From my experience ganache sets easily by cooling it on the counter. This time something was off. Everything was fine until I put the ganache in the refrigerator as directed to set the ganache. This was the catalyst that turned everything upside down. The ganache hardened so much I could not penetrate the surface with a spoon. Almost as hard as a bar of chocolate. I whipped it with my hand-held mixer and it looked like seized chocolate mixed with over-whipped cream. It was awful.

Ughhh! I blame it on the butter. Immediately I made a second batch of ganache, without refrigerating it, and finished frosting the cake. Unfortunately, I did not love it. The ganache was very bitter, and I did not love the texture. Also, after a couple of hours the cake dried out.

Moving On

Instead of coming up with a new layer cake recipe, I decided to put together a post with links to some of my dessert recipes. Also included are a couple of links to dessert recipes from other websites. Everything in one place for easy access.

The spring is a time of celebration whether for graduations, new beginnings, and major life events. Make your celebrations special by making a homemade dessert. Here is a collection ranging from quick and easy to involved. All are tested and delicious.

Dessert Recipes for Cake

Nifty Cake: Buttermilk Cake with Strawberries, Peaches and Cream cake recipe

Nifty Cake made with a sponge cake and whipped cream frosting with fresh fruit. I used to make this for my Dad’s birthday cake in July. Berries are available now, although not quite in season in my area, so instead of peaches, make the cake with strawberries and or blue berries. It is a cake version of strawberry shortcake and always a crowd pleaser.

Gluten Free Nifty Cake made with an gluten free sponge cake recipe

If you want a gluten free cake, I have a Gluten Free Nifty Cake made with gluten free oat flour instead of all-purpose flour.

Celebrate with Pink Champagne Cake recipe

For a special occasion, like for a bridal shower, birthday or graduation, this recipe for Pink Champagne Cake is lovely. My recipe differs from the traditional recipe because I made it with an Italian buttercream not with the traditional American buttercream. Pink champagne cake has a subtle strawberry and champagne flavor that grows on you. I love this cake and can’t wait for a special occasion to make it again. Then again, why wait? My recipe is adapted from the cookbook American Cake by Anne Byrn.

Chocolate Stout Cake recipe

Chocolate Stout Cake is a delicious chocolate cake made with chocolate chili stout. You won’t necessarily taste the stout, but it makes the chocolate more enhanced. The white chocolate cream cheese frosting is to die for especially with the chocolate stout glaze.

Best Dessert Recipes , Decadent Chocolate Cake

If a simple chocolate cake is what you are looking for, an old standby for me is Decadent Chocolate Cake by the Silver Palate.

This recipe from Fine Cooking is the one I should have published today because I have made it on several occasions. Four Layer Cake with Chocolate Buttercream. This cake is a yellow cake with raspberry jam and chocolate buttercream frosting. It is very impressive looking even though it is made with your basic cake components. You will have to click-through a couple of links to the yellow cake and chocolate buttercream frosting.

Dessert Recipes for Pies

On this blog I have a couple of recipes for galettes and one crust-less apple pie. Clearly, I need to make some more. Personally, I love the ease of galettes especially during the summer months. You can use the galette recipes as a base and substitute with seasonal fruit. Lemon plums are in season now and taste great in a galette made with mixed berries. Or make a galette with apples and dried apricots.

Nectarine and Blueberry Galette recipe

Nectarine and Blueberry Galette

Almond Peach Galette Recipe

 

Almond Cherry Peach Galette

Swedish Apple Pie Recipe

Swedish Apple Pie

Double coconut pie recipe

For a gluten free pie try Double Coconut Pie. This is like eating a giant macaroon cookie.

Other Dessert Recipes

Chocolate Nutella Pots de Creme, a recipe.

For the Nutella lover in the family, Chocolate Nutella Pots de Creme. This is my husband’s favorite dessert. Smooth and silky with a little kick of sriracha with the chocolate.

Spiced Figs with Yogurt Panna Cotta recipe.

For a refreshing custard, Spiced Figs with Yogurt Panna Cotta. Instead of figs you can substitute pears, or caramelized citrus. The panna cotta has a lovely tang from the yogurt and is silky smooth. This is a gelatin dessert, so it is not vegetarian.

Peaches and Berries Layered with Bourbon Sabayon recipe

Peaches and Berries with Bourbon Sabayon Traditionally sabayon is made with champagne or Marsala wine, but for this recipe I made it with bourbon to pair with the peaches. Sabayon is an elegant dessert made with whipped eggs combined with whipped cream. Sabayon should not be confused with Zabayon, a similar dessert made from whipped eggs, Marsala and served warm.

Lemon Mousse is one of my favorite desserts. This recipe is very light and airy from Maida Heatter’s New Book of Great Desserts. This mousse is perfect for this time of year when we are between winter and spring fruit availability.

Lemon Pavlova with Kiwi and Passion Fruit Sauce, recipe.

Ever since I first made a pavlova, I put this dessert in the Five Star category. A classic dessert like early Hollywood actresses such as Catherine Deneuve and Grace Kelly It is exquisite with exceptional taste. Here is a recipe for Lemon Pavlova with Kiwi and Passion Fruit sauce. You can get the passion fruit pulp at your grocery store located in the Latin American food section of the frozen foods aisle.

Try making a vegan pavlova using Aquafaba Meringue with berries and coconut whipped cream. This recipe is from one of my first recipe posts when after three trials I could not whip coconut milk for the life of me. Since then, I have made whipped cream from the fat of full fat coconut milk with great success, especially when using Trader Joe’s brand.

Happy Spring

My promise to myself and my readers is, I will post nothing on this website that I am not satisfied with. Even though my son and husband thought there was nothing wrong with the cake, I just did not love it. I did not feel this was the type of cake that people will find irresistible and sneak in a slice for a midnight snack.

On the other hand, the above recipes are tried and true. I am looking forward to a new season and learning new dessert recipes to share with you.

 

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Sliding into Spring Succotash

Simply Succotash, a recipe.

I feel like I am jumping the gun today by writing a post and recipe for succotash. It is March, almost April, and without a doubt corn and baby lima beans are summer vegetables. Yet, I have delicious memories enjoying succotash with my Easter dinner. This vegetable dish is one I could eat in any season in a year. Fortunately, good quality frozen vegetables are available making it possible to eat this light but hearty side dish whenever I please. I happen to love succotash, especially paired with ham.

Simply Succotash, a recipe.

My first introduction to succotash was after getting married and living in New York. Succotash was a regular vegetable dish at my in-laws Thanksgiving and Easter dinners. I clearly remember how my sister-in-law made it with corn, lima beans, green bell pepper and plenty of fresh ground black pepper. Green beans are sneaking into my memory recipe as well but not as clearly as the other ingredients. It was love at first bite. When I went for seconds, I usually came back with another helping of succotash.

There is just something about succotash that sings to me. Maybe because this meal has a simple nature implying ease and comfort. Or, because each vegetable compliments the other for a harmonious vegetable medley. The flavors taste fresh, sweet and light, even when made with frozen vegetables.

Also, what’s not to love about saying “Succotash” with its fun and jazzy rhythm. As it happens, Herbie Hancock believes succotash has a jazzy rhythm as well and wrote a song titled, “Succotash” on his Inventions and Dimensions album.

History of Succotash

Succotash dates back to New England Native Americans from the word, msíckquatash, meaning boiled cut corn kernels. Back in the 17th century succotash mostly consisted of corn and native beans like cranberry beans. The English settlers soon adopted this hearty and nutritious stew and made it throughout the year from dried corn and beans.

Succotash grew in popularity throughout the US during the great depression and other eras of economic hardship. The ingredients were readily available and inexpensive and made a meal with a lot of sustenance. Over time, succotash evolved from a stew into a lighter side dish made with additional vegetables added to the corn and beans. Any succotash variation is acceptable, as long as corn and beans feature prominently in the ingredients.

Simply Succotash, a recipe.

With the invention of refrigeration and frozen foods, we can enjoy succotash year-round. However, make this with fresh corn during the summer months when corn is sweet and beans are fresh and just harvested. You will need to soak and cook the beans ahead, but the corn will quickly cook with the other vegetables after the fresh kernels are cut right off the cob.

Simply Succotash, a recipe.

Simply Succotash, a recipe.

Succotash Variations

Serve succotash with a grain like brown rice or farro for a plant-based main entrée meal. When legumes and grains combine they create a complete protein with all the essential amino acids accounted for.

During the winter months, substitute the zucchini with winter squash.

Make succotash with corn, cranberry beans and green beans with a splash of cream and choice of a fresh herb.

Use succotash for the filling of a pot pie, either with grains or other proteins like chicken or turkey.

Make succotash into a vegetable soup just by adding vegetable or chicken stock with some aromatics. Or, turn it into a crab and succotash chowder with fresh crab and cream.

 Healthy recipes with corn: Anything Goes Potato Salad, Fresh Zucchini with Corn, Avocado and Pistachios

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Simply Succotash

Succotash is a vegetable dish traditionally made with corn, and cranberry beans. This recipe builds up from the traditional recipe by adding to the corn lima beans, zucchini, sweet bell pepper, onion and fresh herbs. Any fresh herb like sage, thyme, tarragon, chervil or basil will nicely compliment the corn and vegetables.  

For a plant-based main entrée, serve succotash with a grain such as farro or brown rice. 

Course Vegetable Side Dish, Vegetarian Main
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 8 servings
Author Ginger

Ingredients

  • 1 lb (16 oz / 454 g) frozen corn 4 ears of fresh corn
  • 10 oz (285 g) frozen baby lima beans
  • 2 TB extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large Vidalia onion about 10 oz (300 g)
  • 1 red or green bell pepper 7-8 oz (219 g)
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt, divided
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 zucchini about 1 lb (454 g)
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3 oz (87 g) grape tomatoes
  • Several rounds Freshly ground black pepper
  • 5-6 leaves fresh sage tarragon, basil, chervil, lemon thyme

Instructions

  1. Prep the Vegetables

    Defrost the frozen corn and lima beans. If using fresh corn on the cob, slice the corn kernels off the cob and set aside. Peel and dice the onions. Cut the bell peppers in half lengthwise and remove the seeds and white pith. Cut into long 1/2-inch (1.5 cm) strips then dice into 1/2-inch (1.5 cm) pieces. Peel, remove the green germ and mince the garlic. Cut each zucchini in half lengthwise, then each half into quarters, lengthwise. Cut across each wedge into pieces about a half-inch wide (1.5 cm). Slice the grape tomatoes in half. Set each vegetable aside in separate piles. 

  2. Sauté the Succotash

    Place a large sauté pan or skillet, about 12-inches (30 cm) or larger, over medium-high heat. Add the extra virgin olive oil and heat up. Before the olive oil gets hot and smoky, add the diced onions and bell pepper. Stir to coat the vegetables with olive oil, and add ¼ teaspoon of Kosher salt.  Sauté until the onions are translucent but not browned, and the vegetables have softened, about 4-5 minutes

  3. Add the minced garlic. Stir and cook until the garlic releases its aroma, about a minute. 

  4. Add the zucchini and stir to mix the vegetables together. Add the thyme sprigs, another ¼ teaspoon of Kosher salt and several rounds of fresh black pepper, and stir. Continue to sauté the vegetables until the zucchini starts to soften, about 4 minutes, but is not cooked all the way through.

  5. While the zucchini is cooking, slice the fresh sage leaves, chiffonade cut, and set aside. 

  6. Add the corn, lima beans and tomatoes. Stir, taste and correct the seasoning with more salt. Sauté the vegetables until they are cooked through and the corn and lima beans are warm, about 4 minutes. Add the sage and stir. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, sage, or black pepper if necessary. Turn off the heat. 

  7. Serve warm. 

Recipe Notes

For another version of succotash, make it with corn, lima beans, green beans with a splash of cream. Season with herbs like tarragon, chervil or basil. 

Simply Succotash, a recipe.

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

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