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By Mari Levine
Iâ€™ve run the gamut of Valentineâ€™s Day experiences. And while Iâ€™m rather indifferent to the general idea of the holiday, no celebration Iâ€™ve had as an adult has ever matched the ones from when I was a kid. I remember the excitement of picking out the perfect cards (in my case, always Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles-themed), choosing which type of candy to attach to them, and then matching the message on the card to each of my classmatesâ€™ personalities.
This year, I was thinking about the adult equivalent of those childhood valentines. Now, instead of a classroom, most of us spend our days in an office. Instead of classmates, we have coworkers. And while Iâ€™m all for injecting a bit of youthful fun into the workplace, I draw the line at giving my colleagues cartoon cards that call them â€śdudetteâ€ť and asking them to be my â€śmondo Valentine.â€ť (Thatâ€™s Ninja Turtle speak for â€śI like you.â€ť) I wanted to bring back the Valentineâ€™s Day tradition of bringing in treats for everyone, but this year I didnâ€™t have time to make any quintessential adult sweets, such as homemade truffles or caramels.
Enter chocolate bark. This sweet can get pigeonholed as a December treat, but itâ€™s easy to make (only four ingredients!), attractive to wrap and appealing to eat all year round. My coworkers will be noshing on this version, with pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and coconut, but the toppings are easy to change based on your recipientsâ€™ tastes.
Chocolate Bark with Pepitas and Coconut
Makes eight 1-ounce portions
1. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
2. Stirring frequently, toast coconut in small skillet over medium heat. Once coconut turns the color of straw, transfer to small bowl to cool.
3. Add chocolate to medium, heatproof bowl and set over pot of simmering water. (Do not let water touch bottom of bowl.) Stirring frequently, heat chocolate until fully melted. Quickly pour onto parchment paper-lined baking sheet and tilt pan until distributed evenly, but not covering entire pan. (Otherwise your bark will be too thin.)
4. Sprinkle coconut, pepitas and salt, to taste, evenly over chocolate. Transfer to refrigerator until firm, about 1 hour. Remove from refrigerator and break into 1-ounce portions.
Reprinted with permission from JewishBoston.com. Chosen Eats appears every Thursday on JewishBoston.com.
Tu Bishvat is a celebration of the connections we have to nature and the new year of trees.Â When it comes to food, trees provide us with fruit and nuts. This nutty pilaf and Tu BishvatÂ Marbella chicken is an ode to both fruit and nuts.
If you grew up with a copy of The Silver Palate in your parentsâ€™ kitchen then Chicken MarbellaÂ was definitely on the menu for a special occasion. In the summer we dream of fresh juicy fruit,Â but come fall and winter, dried fruit becomes a decadent and rich treat. We add raisins to saladsÂ to bring in some sweetness. We nibble on dried apricots or pears served on a cheese plate orÂ charcuterie board. Sweet dried papaya and pineapple and tart cranberries and cherries findÂ themselves sweetening up trail mixes as well.
The plum however, gets a bad rap when dried.Â Unless you grew up noshing on them as a filling for hamentaschen or as part of yourÂ grandmotherâ€™s tsimmes, prunes continue to be as unpopular as Brussels sprouts once were.Â Prunes have a sweet richness almost like a fortified wine or Port. They add that sweetness andÂ richness to this wonderful chicken dish that is perfect for a weeknight dinner or a specialÂ weekend meal.
What I love about this dinner is that both the pilaf and the chicken cook in the oven so all youÂ have to do is prep everything and let it cook. The warm oven will keep you toasty and theÂ smells wafting out once everything starts to cook is heavenly. You do, however, need to planÂ ahead a little to allow time for the chicken to marinate. I suggest prepping the chicken the nightÂ before, but in a pinch all you need is two hours of marinating time.
Tu Bishvat Marbella Chicken with Nutty Barley Pilaf
For the chicken before cooking
For the Pilaf
1.Â The chicken will need to marinate for at least two hours or overnight. The pilaf cooks for 2-3Â hours in the oven and the chicken will cook in the oven next to the pilaf for the last 40Â minutes, so plan accordingly. Preheat the oven to 350Â°F.
2. Place the chicken breasts and thighs in a large bowl (glass is best). Sprinkle the chickenÂ with 2 tsp. of Kosher salt, 1 tsp. of pepper and 1/4 cup of oregano. Mix the chicken so that itÂ is covered with the seasonings. If you have a garlic press, press the garlic cloves from bothÂ heads of garlic over the chicken. If you do not have a press, just mince the garlic finely. MixÂ the chicken one more time to spread the garlic around.Â Over the chicken, pour: 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar and 1/4 cupÂ of olive oil.
3. Slice the cornichons into tiny rounds and toss them into the bowl with the cornichonÂ brine. Add in the prunes, pitted olives and the bay leaves to the chickenÂ as well.Â Cover the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight (or at least 2 hours).
Pilaf & Chicken:
1. For the pilaf you will start by very coarsely chopping the 1/2 cup of blanched almonds andÂ browning them on the stove in a large dry pan over medium high heat for 5-7 minutes. DoÂ not step away or the nuts will go from blanched to burnt in seconds.
2. Set the nuts aside in a bowl or plate and then add 1 Tbsp. of oil to the pan. Over mediumÂ high heat, heat the oil and when warm, toss in 1/2 cup of the broken vermicelli. Stir theÂ vermicelli to coat with oil and continue cooking and stirring until the vermicelli are a darkÂ golden brown. Set the vermicelli aside with the nuts.
3. Chop the onion and two cloves of garlic. Add 1 Tbsp. of olive oil to the pan, over mediumÂ heat. Toss the onion into the pan and sautĂ© until it becomes translucent. Then, add in theÂ minced garlic and 1 cup of barley. SautĂ© for 2 more minutes. In the pan, add the toastedÂ vermicelli and almond. Toss to mix everything together.
4.Â Add everything from the pan into a 3 quart baking dish as well as 4 cups of chicken broth.
5. Place the dish in the oven and cook uncovered for 2 to 2 1/2 hours or until the stock is
6. Now to finish the chicken. Take out a baking tray or two oven safe serving dishes that will fitÂ all the chicken without crowding it. Arrange the chicken on your tray or serving dishes in aÂ single layer. Pour the marinade, prunes, cornichons, bay leaves and olives around theÂ chicken. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of brown sugar on top of the chicken. If you like a sweeter dish,Â you can use up to 1/2 cup of brown sugar. If you like tangy and vinegary dishes, 1/4 cup isÂ plenty.
7. Pour 1/2 cup of white wine around the chicken and cook for 40 minutes at 350Â°F.
8. Once the chicken is cooked through, you can separate the pan juices to serve on the sideÂ and pour over the chicken and pilaf, or you can leave it together in the serving dish.
Whatever you do, be sure to spoon some sauce over the chicken and the pilaf before
Looking for another chicken recipe for Shabbat? Try this easy Ginger Sesame Roast Chicken.