While the whole act of making a meal is an exciting adventure, for me, I could boil it all down to three distinct moments that are my favorite. The first of my favorite moments occurs before I even pick up my knife to get started. I'll lay out all of the ingredients that I plan to use and place them on the counter before staring them down, thinking about each one. I'll imagine how every ingredient tastes. Then I'll consider their smell, color and texture and think about what the completed dish will be like. I'll make changes. I'll put some items away while bringing out new components to add new elements to a dish. To me, this is where the fun's at. This is where all the creativity lies and it's the start of something.
My second favorite moment lies in the execution of a dish. The rhythmic tap of the knife hitting the cutting board. The opening and shutting of the oven door, the sharp flick of the wrist as it shakes a saute pan and the whole rush of excitement that goes along with timing everything to ensure that it all gets cooked to the proper temperature and to the desired level of doneness. It is here that the rest of the world can seem to disappear and I'm in my own world, focused on doing what I love best.
My third favorite moment of the cooking process is the right after every element of the dish is completed and it's time to plate the meal. I get personal satisfaction out of taking extra effort and care to spoon things onto a plate and arrange it just so. Then, of course, there's no satisfaction quite like taking a group of ingredients and transforming them into something deliciously beautiful that when it gets presented, you can see on people's faces that they are content. You can see their expressions soften and maybe even a little smile flicker across their face as they take that first bite and that's what makes this all worthwhile.
Below is a recipe for my Mediterranean inspired roast chicken thighs, complete with a Pomegranate - Olive Salsa and served with fresh roasted asparagus. This is a perfect meal for a nice pre-summer night. It's light, fresh and satisfying. The salsa seems to pop with bright flavors of citrus juice, roasted tomatoes and fresh herbs. It's balanced by the sweet brinyness of the crushed Kalamata olives and the tart Pomegranate seeds. This meal isn't complicated or time consuming but yields delicious results and plenty of opportunities to savor the art of cooking.
Greek Chicken Thighs with Pomegranate-Olive Salsa
For the chicken:- 4 Chicken thighs
- 1 Meyer lemon, zested and juices reserved
- 2 TBS Dijon mustard
- Splash of red wine vinegar
- 3 TBS fresh mint
- 1 TBS fresh rosemary
- 1 TBS fresh oregano
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Asparagus spears, trimmed and cleaned
- Pomegranate - Olive Salsa (recipe below)
Set aside chicken in a shallow baking dish. Combine the rest of the ingredients into a blender or food processor and combine until a thick sauce is created. Spoon over chicken and let it marinade for at least 30 minutes. Bake in a 400 degree oven until chicken is cooked through. To crisp up the chicken skin and to heat the asparagus, for the last couple of minutes of cooking, switch the oven to broil and add the asparagus spears with the chicken. Broil until skin is crisp and the asparagus is cooked through. Top with Pomegranate - Olive Salsa and serve immediately.
Pomegranate - Olive Salsa
- The seeds from one Pomegranate
- 1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped
- 2 TBS fresh mint, finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp fresh oregano, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, finely minced
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes
- 2 TBS olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- Salt and Pepper to taste
Roast the tomatoes in a drizzle of olive oil at 350 until they become very tender and start to get jammy. Once cooled, roughly chop them.
In a small bowl, combine the olives, mint, rosemary, oregano, garlic and chopped roasted tomatoes. Mix thoroughly and add olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.