Grilled Chicken Paillard with Winter Green Salad

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In case you haven’t wandered into a CVS or Rite Aid lately, let me tell you: Cupid’s big day is upon us. (All the good cards have been gone for weeks, sorry.)

While I love a swanky dinner date as much as the next girl, when it comes to Valentine’s Day, my ideal night is actually a delicious dinner for two cooked at home. Most restaurants have Valentine’s Day prix-fixe menus that are supposed to make you feel like you’re experiencing “romance” and “love” when really you’re just choosing between salmon and steak and being rushed through your chocolate cake so the next couple can sit down and have their romantic evening. At home, you can relax, go at your own pace, make whatever you feel like eating, and really enjoy each other’s company.

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But what to make? I’m thinking Grilled Chicken Paillard with Winter Green Salad. Inspired by a dish that I had with my valentine (hi Joe!) at an Italian restaurant in Greenwich Village, it’s simple and quick to make, but is still “fancy” and more importantly, delicious. The chicken is tender and well seasoned, and topped with a salad that’s bright, crunchy, and strikes the perfect balance between savory, sweet and bitter. You guessed it, this salad is a metaphor for love!

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I love the way the plate looks with a grilled chicken breast peeking out under a mountain of greens, walnuts, grapes and blue cheese. It’s restaurant-style presentation that’s so easy to recreate at home. AND, it’s the sort of dinner that leaves you with enough room for a decadent chocolate dessert.

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The only labor-intensive part of the recipe is pounding the chicken, which I do in a plastic bag to make cleanup easy. I discovered that while a meat mallet is technically the right the tool for the job, a bottle of wine works just as well.

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Whether you’re planning on spending Tuesday night with that certain special someone, getting drinks with friends, or staying in and watching The Holiday, Valentine’s Day is – at the very least- a great excuse to celebrate the love in our lives with a delicious dinner and several large glasses of wine. And that, I think, is something we can never do too often.

Grilled Chicken Paillard with Winter Green Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 ½ cups baby arugula, lightly packed (2 ounces)
  • ½ small head radicchio, cored and sliced very thinly
  • ½ cup walnut halves, toasted and chopped
  • 2/3 cup seedless red grapes, cut in half
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 1 teaspoonsDijon mustard
  • 2/3 cup large-diced mild, creamy blue cheese, such as Blue D’Auvergne
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Place the chicken breasts into a gallon-size Ziploc bag. Using a meat mallet, a rolling pin, or a wine bottle, pound the chicken breasts through the plastic until they are 1/2 inch thick. (This takes a few minutes – be careful not to pound so hard you tear the meat.)
  2. In a small measuring cup, whisk together the lemon juice, 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Pour marinade into the bag with the chicken, seal, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the arugula, radicchio, walnuts and grapes. In a small measuring cup (you can use the same one you used for the marinade) whisk together the sherry vinegar, mustard, 2 tablespoons olive oil, ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Set aside.
  4. Heat a grill pan over medium high heat. Remove the chicken breasts from the bag, pat dry with paper towels, and grill for 3-5 minutes on each side, until there are dark grill marks on each side and the breasts are just cooked through. (Alternatively, you can cook the chicken in a large sauté pan: heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat and cook each breast for 3-5 minutes on each side, until evenly browned and cooked through.)
  5. Add the vinaigrette to the salad and toss to combine. Add the blue cheese and toss gently. To serve, place each chicken breast on a plate and top with a mound of salad. Serve immediately.

Moroccan Lamb Stuffed Squash

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I’m very excited to share this recipe for a number of reasons, but mostly because it’s one of my favorite fall and winter dinners EVER. It’s comforting and hearty but still reasonably healthy, and a great way to turn a humble acorn squash into a delicious and really different dinner. This is one gets serious thumbs up from my friends whenever I make it, and that’s a pretty good measure to me.

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The lamb is cooked with traditional Moroccan spices- cinnamon, paprika, and cumin- and studded with fresh mint, pine nuts and dates.  The blend of savory, spicy and sweet flavors, as well as the different temperatures and textures, is what really makes this recipe a winner.

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Acorn squash can be pretty bland and a little stringy, but roasting it at a high temperature and then stuffing it with lamb makes it the least boring vegetable you’ve ever had. Topping each squash with a big dollop of yogurt, pomegranate seeds and mint doesn’t hurt, either.

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This is a great recipe to make for a holiday dinner- there’s something so pretty and festive about these little squashes, and they’re really easy to make. (And, sound the alarm, this recipe is totally gluten-free!) You can even assemble everything ahead of time to keep things simple. Just roast the squash and make the lamb mixture before anyone arrives, and set the stuffed squashes aside until dinner. Then pop them back in the oven about fifteen minutes before you want everyone to sit down. All you need is a simple salad on the side and a big glass of wine, and you’re good to go! Happy holiday cooking!

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Moroccan Lamb Stuffed Squash

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 2hr 30 min
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients

  • 4 small acorn squash, about 1 1/4 lbs each
  • 1 ½ cups chopped yellow onion (1 large)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 large cloves)
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 7 pitted dates, chopped
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 3 tablespoons fresh mint, plus 1 tablespoon for serving
  • 1 (7-oz) container whole-milk Greek yogurt, such as Fage
  • 1 tablespoon fresh pomegranate seeds
  • kosher salt
  • extra virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Turn each squash on its side and slice an inch off the stem end, removing and discarding the stem. Using a spoon, scoop of the seeds and flesh. Slice 1/4” off the bottom end of the squashes so that they sit with the stem up without wobbling. Scoop out the seeds and “stringy parts.
  3. Place the 4 squashes on a sheet pan stem side up. Brush with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle with ¾ teaspoon salt.  Roast for 40 minutes, until the flesh is tender when pierced with a sharp knife.
  4. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large (12-inch) sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion, cinnamon, cumin, paprika and cayenne pepper and cook over medium-low heat for 7-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and cook for one more minute. Raise the heat to medium, and add the lamb and 1 ½ teaspoons salt. Cook for 6-8 minutes, crumbling with the meat with a wooden spoon, until browned. Add the tomato paste, dates, pine nuts and the 3 tablespoons mint, and cook for 2 more minutes. Set aside.
  5. Reduce the oven temperature to 375. Using a soup spoon, scrape about two tablespoons of flesh from each squash (you should have ½ cup altogether) and add it to the sauté pan with the lamb. Mix to combine.
  6. Spoon the lamb filling into the hollowed out squashes, filling each one to the top.  Roast for 15 minutes, or until heated through. While the squash is cooking, combine the yogurt and ½ teaspoon salt in a small bowl. Serve hot with a dollop of seasoned yogurt, the reserved mint, and the pomegranate seeds.