Sunshine Chicken

I have never been one to reject a plateful of brown food. In fact, many nights, it’s all I crave. What, may you ask, is brown food? When your meal has the color palette of a pile of burlap sacks, at its most vibrant point, you have brown food on your hands. Usually, this means it’s a plate that you aren’t particularly proud of and don’t necessarily leap over hurdles to share on social media.

Why don’t I rush to share my barnyard-sized trough of noodles tossed with parmesan and cut up chicken breast on instagram? Typically, the toneless variety of consumption that includes platters of fried catfish, heaps of penne with cheese, and mounds of mashed taters with gravy has little to no nutritional value. Furthermore, without a beautiful plate or finishing of green, such foods may not be worthy of a dinner party centerpiece or a viral social media post. I am apt to believe that this very dilemma is where the sprinkling of parsley and the shoving of curly kale around the dish’s perimeter originated. Nothing distracts from fried and butter-soaked than a beautiful dusting of freshly chopped chives, right?

When food is vibrant and colorful–unless the color is provided by red dye number five, mind you–it is a sign of nature and health being present. I believe amongst the wellness bloggers of the world, the phrase “eat the rainbow” is used to express this simple guide towards eating more whole. The beauty of a dish infused with an abundance of color is an added bonus bringing the visual score well above that platter of fried cutlets. 

The chicken on today’s menu embodies and embraces color found in nature. Turmeric is one of, if not the most common “yellowing” spice out there. It’s characteristic yellow staining comes along with a beautiful aroma and a light bitter taste. It is this bitterness, however, that I was concerned with when I set out to make a roasted chicken as golden as the sun. If you use too much turmeric, either fresh or ground, the bitterness can overwhelm and sour the dish, as a whole. 

Golden beets are roasted and incorporated into the marinade bringing not only more sunlight but natural sugars that caramelize onto the skin as the bird roasts. Fresh garlic, that turmeric we’ve been discussing, cayenne pepper, dried oregano, and olive oil round out the marinade and guarantee the most beautiful flavor (and color).

The marinade can sit for up to eight hours and as little as two hours. This allows this dish to appear on a weeknight, with the chicken alright to sit while you work or it can moonlight on a sunday evening, with the bird intent to rest all day while you watch on nearby.

After the marination completes its duty, the chicken is surrounded in the roasting pan (or cast iron, viva la cast iron, for me) with quartered lemons caramelize as the roast goes. The lemons, unlike that tasteless foliage of deli case garnish, add flavor to the pan drippings for a bright and deeply complex sauce. Also, lemons are yellow. After all, let’s stay on theme, shall we? The recipe is below this lovely, sunshiney chicken photo.

Sunshine Chicken
Serves 4
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Prep Time
4 hr 30 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
5 hr 30 min
Prep Time
4 hr 30 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
5 hr 30 min
For the marinade
  1. 3/4 cup roasted, golden beets (see notes for roasting directions)
  2. 4 cloves fresh garlic
  3. 1 teaspoon fresh, grated turmeric (can substitute 1 teaspoon dried, ground turmeric)
  4. 1/2 teaspoon hot cayenne pepper
  5. 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  6. 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  7. 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
For the chicken
  1. 1 whole chicken, giblets removed, 3-4 pounds
  2. 2 fresh lemons, quartered
Instructions
  1. Make the marinade. Combine all ingredients in a food processor or high-speed blender. Pulse/blend until fully puréed.
  2. Marinate the chicken. After removing giblets, rinse chicken with cool water and pat with paper towels until completely dried both inside and outside. Place in a large zip-top bag or baking dish lined with saran wrap. Coat chicken with marinade and ensure, with your hands, that the marinade is completely coating the bird. Let the chicken marinade from two to eight hours.
  3. Roast the chicken. Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the marinated chicken in a cast iron skillet or roasting pan. Surround the chicken with the quartered lemons. Roast the chicken for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 degrees and continue to cook 18 minutes per pound, until the thickest part of the thigh reads 165 degrees.
  4. Finish the sauce. Remove lemons and juice them to yield 1/2 cup of lemon juice. Set the remaining lemons aside for garnish. Place the cast iron skillet or roasting pan over a burner set to low heat. Let the browned bits cook for 1-2 minutes or until you can see them beginning to sizzle. Add the lemon juice to the pan and whisk until a smooth sauce is formed. Let reduce for 1 minute.
  5. Serve the chicken. Serve the sauce and quartered, roasted lemons on top and alongside pieces of carved chicken.
Notes
  1. To roast golden beets, place skin on, in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until tender throughout. Let cool. Skin should slide off easily with a towel and some pressure.
  2. Chicken needs to marinate at least two hours but can marinate up to eight hours.
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Broccoli & Lemon Soup

Whether or not you correlate your resolutions with the start of a new calendar year, I think we all seek to make better choices regardless of the month. Even if it’s simply “I ate 7 rations of bacon for breakfast, better have a healthy lunch and dinner.” The balanced life–as those in the health and wellness community so often dub it.

Well, as much as I am part of the opposition when it comes to hip catch phrases–No, that meal you made on your instagram story is not LIT or ON POINT–the phrase balance is one I am completely behind. I frequently call in light pinch hitters for meals, in order to balance a day filled with or following indulgence. Soups made from fresh vegetables and pure stocks are perfect for this call of duty and are light on effort (most of the time, mind you.) This means that baked potato soup and New England clam chowder sadly don’t count as light, clean pinch hitters, just because they are soups–not that you didn’t realize this but I feel the need to clarify.

This beautifully green and bright soup takes 15 minutes, up and down, and keeps beautifully in the fridge for at least 3 days. I wouldn’t mind a block of cheddar cheese mixed into it but please refrain yourself. It is, after all, about balance.

Ingredients Serves 4
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 shallot, sliced
2 cups raw broccoli florets
1 tablespoon roasted garlic (about 3 cloves) or 1 teaspoon raw garlic (1 small clove)
1 1/2 cups baby spinach
4 cups vegetable stock (32 ounce box)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon lemon zest, for garnish

Directions
1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan.
2. Add the shallot and garlic to the pan and sauté until translucent, about 2 minutes.
3. Add the vegetable broth and bring to a boil.
4. Add the broccoli and reduce the heat to simmer. Cook broccoli until just tender, about 2-3 minutes. (If desired for garnish, set aside a few florets of cooked broccoli, at this point)
5. Remove from heat and stir in baby spinach, lemon juice, and salt & pepper. Blend the soup with a stick/immersion blender or blend in batches in a stand blender/food processor until just smooth.
6. Finish the soup with reserved broccoli florets and lemon zest.

Glorious Greens Pesto & Fresh Peas Spaghetti

Most all of us love a classic basil pesto but sometimes, it’s that song stuck in your head that you just want out–even though you still love it. This pesto has a touch of basil, to soothe the need for familiarity, but brings three other greens to the table to break up the routine–kale, baby spinach, and fresh mint. English peas, although in peak season, see spurts of availability all year. If all else fails, frozen peas are a perfect substitute for this simple and fresh main dish.

SERVES 4

INGREDIENTS

For the pesto:
1/2 cup fresh basil
2 tablespoons fresh mint
1/4 cup fresh curly kale
1/4 cup fresh baby spinach
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons water

For the pasta:
1 pound spaghetti
1 tablespoon kosher salt (for salting pasta water)
1 cup english peas, shelled
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon water
1/4 cup pasta cooking water
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated (for garnish)

DIRECTIONS

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt boiling water and cook spaghetti accordingly to the package directions, to al dente.

While the spaghetti cooks, combine all of the pesto ingredients into a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth. Add more water, if necessary, to achieve a smooth consistency.

Add remaining olive oil, for the pasta, in a large skillet that is over medium heat. Heat olive oil for 30 seconds and add the fresh peas. Let the peas sauté for a minute before adding the water and covering the skillet with a lid. Let peas steam for an additional 30 seconds. Turn off the heat.

When pasta is done, add the hot noodles to the skillet of peas. As a quick reminder, do not drain the pasta before reserving the pasta cooking water.

Finish the dish by plating the spaghetti and peas, topping with a healthy portion of pesto and a sprinkle of cheese.