Category Archives: Mains


Palestinian Mousakhan: chicken with sumac, onions and pine nuts.

There’s something distinctly thrilling to me about coming home with a bag of things that I’ve gathered, and using them all the time. Maybe because it’s a throwback to something more primal? Maybe because it makes you feel more connected with nature? Maybe all of the above.

A few days ago, the weather finally cooled down enough to turn the oven on. After a taste of fall, a few days of rain, and a day with the heater on, the temperatures soared to 98 degrees with no breeze. Days were spent sitting around eating watermelon and ice cream, and complaining. There was lots of complaining. Finally the temperatures dropped and a cool breeze blew through LA. I hope this is it, but you can never tell around here.

With the temperatures lower, I finally made it out to gather some sumac. Commonly used as a kitchen spice in many parts of the Middle East, it’s relatively unused here. There seems to be a bit of misinformation about what types can be used- in one book I read last week it said to always use the stuff you can buy from Middle Eastern shops because American sumac is poisonous and tasteless- and this is false on both counts. Of course you can use store-bought stuff in a pinch, but I highly recommend going out for a walk and finding some wild American sumac. Not only do you know where it comes from, but it is seriously delicious stuff. Our local sumac gets all drippy with sour juices. I’ll nibble on them while I’m hiking- it helps so much with the dehydration that is common to us summer-heat-hikers.

This sumac chicken recipe is a major adaptation on something I read in The Foods of Israel Today by Joan Nathan. I was slightly nervous about the combination of sumac and cloves, but it’s actually beautiful. It tastes like I remember Israel tasting. The spices aren’t overwhelming, and the flavours mingle perfectly. I served it with yogurt (a raita-type thing with cucumbers chopped through it) and rice. It’d be delicious with couscous, or flatbreads or pita (which is what the original recipe said to serve it with).

If you’re interested, I’ve written about the medicinal properties of sumac (and other astringents) here.


Palestinian Mousakhan: Chicken with sumac, onions and pine nuts. 

serves 4

1/2 cup olive oil

2 large onions

3 cloves garlic

I chicken, in 4 pieces (2 breasts, 2 thighsandlegs)

1/2 cup pine nuts

2 tb pine nuts

2 1/2 tb ground sumac

1/8 tsp ground cloves

1/4 tsp ground coriander

stems of 1 bunch cilantro, tied with string

1/2 cup chicken stock

1/2 tsp salt



Place the onions, garlic and olive oil in a blender, and blend until a thick paste. Add the spices, then pour over the chicken, and leave to marinade for up to 24 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350.

In a tagine, or casserole dish, heat with a couple of tb of olive oil. Add the chicken, sauce and chicken stock. Pop the lid on and cook over medium heat for 25 minutes. Then remove the lid, sprinkle with pine nuts, and put in the oven for 15 minutes until the chicken is done. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and serve over rice or with pita bread.


Lobster Mushroom Spaghetti

These chanterelle pictures- they’re from last year. From one of my favourite spots that, after a few days of scoring great mushrooms was obviously someone elses’ spot too, as from that day on, no amount of searching would find me anything except overturned non-chanterelles. This year, I’ll be looking for a new spot. But that won’t be for another month or so. And until then, I was getting really jealous of everyone elses’ mushroom stories.

So I cheated. I went to WTF* and bought some lobsters. Lobster mushrooms are actually a mushroom that’s been eaten by a fungus. It’s weird and kinda awesome. If you eat it before the fungus takes it over then it’ll taste like ass (technical term). But afterwards, it turns bright orangey red** and tastes like lobster. Really truly, lobster. It’s the kind of thing that you don’t really want too many flavours to get in the way of. Two nights ago I did a simple sautee with garlic and apple cider, and last night I did the same thing but then added cream and stirred the whole lot into brown rice spaghetti.

Then I went and sat on the stoop, listened to Indian music, and watched the moody sun set over Los Angeles. The smell or rain on warm asphalt was still in the air from this afternoon. The clouds were electric against a bright purple sky. Tumultuous weather makes me happy.

Lobster mushroom spaghetti (which works for any fancy mushroom, really, including chanterelles (pictured))

1/2 lb mushrooms

2 tb olive oil

2 tb butter

1/4 cup chicken stock

1/2 cup apple cider (the alcoholic kind; the good kind)

1/4 cup cream

3 cloves garlic

1/2 tsp salt


Get a big pot of water boiling for the spaghetti. Once at a rolling boil, add 1/2 tb of salt and a bit of olive oil. Throw in the spaghetti and set the timer.

Chop the mushrooms into bite-sized chunks. In a heavy sauteeing pan, on medium heat, heat the butter and olive oil. Add the mushrooms and, after about 30 seconds, the chicken stock. Turn the heat to high. Sprinkle with salt. Cook, stirring kinda regularly, until the chicken stock is almost all evaporated, then pour in the cider. It’ll bubble and make nice smells through the kitchen. The mushrooms will be getting kinda soft. When the timer goes for the spaghetti, dump it all into a collander then turn the heat on the mushrooms down to medium again. When the cider is almost all evaporated, stir in the cream, then add the spaghetti. Stir, to coat everything, then serve.


*Whole Foods. Somehow it has become ‘whatthefuck’ in our household. Even the cat calls it that.

**I actually had a bit of a fit looking at this colour first hand. It’s the kind of colour that makes me want to rub whatever is that colour all over my face and roll around in it like some dogs roll around in poo.


Lonely tower cove

I do not sleep well at anchor. En route to Alicante, we sailed into a little cove- a magic cove really- that Jam has named “cala de torre solamente” (lonely tower cove). He spotted it from a mile out, and insisted we sail in to explore it. Some people would call it luck, but I say it takes great talent to pick out the perfect spot from a mile away. A turquoise-bottomed cove, with a lonely old tower standing look out on top of a hill, protected from the wind, with a lovely rocky beach. I called it a Moorish tower, but Jam said that is NOT what a Moorish tower looks like, and then I kept calling it a Moorish tower because it sounds much cooler that way. We dropped anchor and went for a swim, then Jam rowed us ashore and wandered around while I took photos of plants and picked grape leaves. Back on the boat, I made dinner as the sun was going down, and we sat in the cockpit eating as it got dark. A crescent moon rose above the tower, the waves lapped gently against the hull, and all was well in the world until it came time to go to sleep.

Did you ever see that Donald Duck cartoon with the dripping water? When he had insomnia and the water was making him crazy? With every gust of wind, and every tug of the boat, I’d go running up onto the deck to make sure we were staying in place. It doesn’t really make sense- anchors are built to hold a boat in place, and in light winds, it would be no problem. But fear counters all logic. I lay in bed terrified until around 230, when I decided that I’d just go up on deck to sleep so that I could start the engine when the anchor failed. Lying on the deck, the tower looked ominous. The winds sounded like they were taunting me. And all of a sudden the quaint little houses on the hill looked like something out of Deliverance and not a quaint little Mediterranean village at all. In fact I was sure that I could see locals on the shore getting ready to swim out and board the boat and attack us. With the big evil tower looming overhead. I crept back below deck and climbed back into bed. The boat gave a big jerk and I whimpered, which woke Jamie up. He then valiantly offered to go and stand watch on deck so that I could sleep. I gratefully accepted and passed out within seconds of him leaving. That he actually went back to sleep instead of standing guard as suggested was of no concern to me- my mind had been put to ease and that was all that mattered.

But let’s go back to those grape leaves for a second- because that’s the Wild Thing for the month of August. I’ve been terribly remiss in my Wild Things recipes , so I was really happy, when wandering around the mainland, to find grape leaves. They’re everywhere. Which was really handy for two reasons:

1. As a host, it’s kinda good if I have at least one recipe for the round up, and

2. They’re cooling and delicious- perfect for the 100 degree + days we were facing in Spain.

To read more about grape leaves, check out Butter’s post on it HERE. And to read more about the Wild Things roundup that we put on once a month (to which you are all invited!) click HERE.

I made a sauce for meat, which we drizzled over baked chicken. When I got home, I refined the recipe a bit, using a blender, marinading the chicken, and grilling it, before serving with the sauce. I much prefer method #2, though in a pinch, without a grill or a blender, #1 works quite well too.

Grilled chicken with grape leaf salsa verde

4 bone-in skin-on chicken parts

2 cups fresh grape leaves, chopped roughly

5 cloves garlic

juice of 2 lemons

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup cilantro

1/4 cup parsley

salt and pepper (about 1/4 tsp each)


Place everything except the chicken in a blender, and blend for about 15 seconds- until the greens and garlic are all chopped into little pieces. Take half the sauce and pour over the chicken in a big bowl, making sure each piece is coated. Cover the rest and set it aside in the fridge.

Marinade the chicken for up to 24 hours, then get the grill going, and grill 15 minutes on each side, or until it’s cooked.

Serve with the remainder of the sauce.