Zakarian Cookbook

If watching our favorite TV shows wasn’t a highlight of our days and weeks prior to this pandemic, it likely is now — at least for me! 

Every Saturday morning when I was a kid, I would tune in to the “Smurfs.” (Am I showing my age??) Now that my viewing tastes are more, ahem, refined, I look forward to watching The Kitchen on Food Network. During the pandemic, the hosts shot their cooking segments from home, with the help of their families. When I heard that Iron Chef and The Kitchen host Geoffrey Zakarian’s preteen daughters Madeline and Anna were publishing a cookbook, I was sure to place a hold on a copy from the library.

The Family that Cooks Together features 85 Zakarian family recipes, including cacio e pepe, mustard potatoes with apples and herbs, homemade potato chips, vanilla bean shortbread and a “Dreamy Cookies and Cream Milkshake.” While the recipes sound rather fancy, the Zakarian girls make the recipes accessible to the rest of us — especially those without an Iron Chef in the house!

Scanning their cookbook for dinner ideas and keeping in mind the ingredients in my own kitchen, I took Madeline and Anna’s suggestion of making their Honey Mustard Chicken Skewers with their Fragrant Rice Pilaf and Mediterranean Cauliflower. In the dead of winter and not wanting to venture to the grocery store, I didn’t have minor ingredients on hand, especially chopped fresh parsley and cilantro for the chicken (or even skewers, so ours were “nuggets”), fresh mint leaves for the cauliflower, or dried raisins for the rice pilaf. Yet all three dishes were flavorful and ones I would make again. (Just a note, after roasting cauliflower I don’t think I will ever steam or microwave it again. It becomes caramelized and slightly sweet — and so delicious!)

Honey Mustard Chicken Skewers

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup plain whole-milk Greek yogurt (I had fat-free plain Greek yogurt on hand and thought the recipe worked fine)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 (1-inch) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 1/4 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (about 6 small)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds, toasted

Helpful tools: Wooden or metal skewers; Grill, cast iron grill pan, or fry pan; Nonstick cooking spray

Directions:

  1. If using wooden skewers, soak for 10 to 15 minutes in water. Remove from the water and pat dry. (This is to prevent the wood from burning when on the grill.)
  2. Combine the mustard, honey, yogurt, olive oil, cilantro, ginger, allspice, salt and pepper in a large zip-top plastic bag. Cut each chicken breast into six cubes. Add the chicken to the bag; seal, turning to coat. Marinate, turning the bag occasionally, for at least 30 minutes at room temperature, or up to 2 hours in the fridge.
  3. Spray the grill or grill pan with nonstick cooking spray and preheat to medium-high.
  4. Remove the chicken from the bag, discarding marinade. Thread the chicken evenly onto 12 skewers. Grill, turning to cook evenly, for 10 minutes, or until cooked through. Place the skewers on a platter, sprinkle with parsley and sesame seeds, and serve.

Tip: If you don’t have a grill or grill pan, the chicken pieces can be cooked un-skewered, right in a fry pan. (This was our method.)

Mediterranean Cauliflower

Ingredients:

  • 1 large head of cauliflower, core removed, cut into medium florets
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons tahini 
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 fresh mint leaves, torn into small pieces, for garnish
  • Large flake sea salt, for finishing

Helpful tools: Sheet pan

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the cauliflower florets in a large mixing bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, the sesame seeds, and salt. Place the cauliflower in a single layer on a sheet pan, then place the pan in the oven. Roast, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is caramelized, about 25 minutes. 
  2. Meanwhile, in a small mixing bowl, whisk together the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the tahini, lemon juice, water, garlic and pepper.
  3. Transfer the roasted cauliflower to a serving bowl, add the tahini sauce, and toss. Garnish with the mint and season with the sea salt. Serve.

(Note: I did not serve with the tahini sauce. The roasted cauliflower was delicious on its own.)

Fragrant Rice Pilaf

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup dried raisins
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Directions:

  1. Melt the butter in a medium pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  2. Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes. Add the water, salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until all the liquid is absorbed, about 18 minutes. Remove from the heat.
  3. Sprinkle the raisins and almonds over the rice, fluff with a fork, and serve.

The Family That Cooks Together is available upon request for curbside pickup from Whitehall Public Library by calling 412-882-6622 or with the online catalog, here.

Zakarian Cookbook
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