Harissa Chicken with Leeks, Potatoes, and Cauliflower

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I distinctly remember writing this recently: “Just a couple of months to go until my weekends will be free and I can do as I please—including posting to Feast.” Ahem.

My only defense for my online absence is that Jonji and I have so far been to four weddings since my last post, two of which were out of town. The first was Jake and Karen’s, both of whom Jonji met in Davis and then connected with again in LA last year. The wedding was held at a lovely farm about an hour from home, and we had a blast celebrating with the two newlyweds and our mutual friends. I also heard one of the best best-man speeches ever, given by Jake’s twin Kyle (it had to do with their identical twin-ness and an easily-made mistake on Karen’s part). Fun fact, Karen is also a twin. Pretty cool!

The second wedding was held in Mt. Hood, Oregon. Jonji was one of Spencer’s groomsmen, so he managed to manipulate his schedule way ahead of time in order to fly up a week early for the bachelor party, and then stay through the week. Jonji and our friends Todd and Jessica, who we were sharing an Airbnb with for the weekend, met me at the airport a week later. We stopped in Portland for a delicious breakfast of flaky biscuits, then began the scenic drive to Mt. Hood. We made a brief stop at our home base, where a rat nearly jumped right into my face from the bottom of a trash can we walked by, before Todd heroically let it go in the bushes. After I’d recovered my wits and we’d feasted on the perfectly ripe blackberries (or as Todd could not stop calling them, blueberries) right outside the front door, we journeyed to the swimming hole to meet our larger friend group before the Mehndi night (basically a pre-wedding party with optional henna application) at a local winery. We enjoyed some truly delicious Indian food, wine, and dancing until it was time to leave. By the end of the day, I was sold on Oregon—definitely not a bad place to be.

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Jonji had to leave early for his groomsman duties on Sunday, so I third-wheeled with Todd and Jess for the day. We walked all over the small town, and I continually brought up the lack of sales tax. I even bought a couple small items I’d been wanting, partially for the thrill of buying something for its listed value. (What can I say? I’m a daredevil.) After meandering all the way back home, pointing out houses we’d like to buy as we went, we made a quick trip to the Hood River. On the way back, Jess saw a sign for huckleberry milkshakes, and after that couldn’t get them off her mind. We got ready for the wedding as quickly as we could and, with a bit of time to spare, found huckleberry milkshakes in town. It being extremely warm out, they were even better than we’d hoped.

We joined the rest of our friends on the shuttle up to Mt. Hood Organic Farms, and made it there with enough time to grab water, parasols for the sun, and cherries and unripe grapes in Omri’s case. The ceremony was in full view of Mt. Hood, as well as the direct, scorching sun, and soon we were all dripping sweat. At least, I certainly was. Spencer rode in on a white horse, and everyone got up to escort him to the main ceremony; a great way to start a wedding. Ruby, Spencer’s now-wife, is Indian, so the ceremony began with an Indian ceremony and ended with a Christian one. The whole thing was sweet and moving, even with all the sweat. Ruby and Spencer both looked beautiful and so happy, and everyone cheered as they finally made their way back down the aisle accompanied by a Star Wars song. Cocktail hour was immensely enjoyable, not least because of the refreshing champagne-berry cocktails. Soon we were told to make our way to dinner. The farm provided such a delicious dinner, served family style, that our table kept fending off the servers so they wouldn’t take the plates before we’d eaten our fill. As dusk settled quietly over the warmly humming landscape, Jonji and I and the rest of our friends relaxed with a clear view of the majestic mountain, eating Voodoo donuts for dessert.

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Once night fell, first dances were shared and Ruby impressively serenaded Spencer with a song she’d always imagined singing to her future husband. After that the dance floor was full of stomping feet and twirling guests, glow sticks, and a fog machine, until it was time for the wedding to end.

The third wedding was Kelly and Tim’s, which was the weekend after Spencer and Ruby’s. Jonji, having no time off during this rotation, had to skip it, so I flew home to NorCal alone. Bailey picked me up and took me straight to the nail salon to meet Kelly, Kerry, and Auntie Trudy. We nearly took out all of the piping of Downtown Los Gatos when we accidentally drove into underground parking with Dad’s tall truck, but made it to the salon unscathed and super sweaty. We excitedly chatted about the coming weekend over champagne with Kelly, Kerry, and Aunite Trudy, and Bailey and I ended up with matching fingers and toes. Back in Santa Cruz that evening, Emma, Bailey and I went to Bantam for drinks, and I discovered a new love of rye whiskey drinks and fruit trifle.

Friday was taken up by the rehearsal in the morning, during which Shauna, Bailey, Kerry and I hatched up a plan for a synchronized bridesmaids shoulder lean during the real ceremony. Then it was off to Uncle Gerald’s for a very pleasant lunch with the whole wedding party and family, and finally up to Los Gatos for drinks. Bailey and I left a bit early to have dinner with Mom and Dad, who I hadn’t seen at all, plus Emma and Danny.

The next morning we were up early in order to make it to Auntie Paddy’s for hair and make up. We spent a truly enjoyable morning being pampered and utilizing the wonderful gifts Kelly had given us: special Felix Felicis champagne glasses, Bridesmaids wands, and matching robes.

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We made it to Nestldown with only a minor mishap—a forgotten veil—and finished getting ready there. Finally, it was time for the ceremony. Our shoulder lean went off without a hitch, as did Kelly and Tim’s vows. Officially husband and wife, they made their way down the aisle to cheers. Pictures, cocktail hour, and then dinner went by quickly. Kerry and Tim’s brother gave beautiful speeches, and then Shauna and I spoke briefly (both of our mini speeches happened to center around Harry Potter, huge surprise). Bailey ended the bridesmaids speeches by asking everyone to raise a glass, and a wand, if they had one. We had warned the other cousins beforehand, so we raised ours and the whole cousin table did as well. It was AWESOME.

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We closed out the night with lots of dancing, and then took the shuttle to the after party at Auntie Trudy and Uncle Pat’s. Finally, Bailey, Shauna and her boyfriend Luke, Kerry and Max, and I made it to Auntie Paddy’s for our group sleepover. Despite Kerry’s best efforts, and my complaints about being too close to the fan, we all finally drifted off to sleep.

The final wedding, Alexis and Ted’s, was this Saturday. We spent the balmy summer night with our friends from the gym, eating popcorn and drinking Arnold Palmers, and eyeing the dessert table full of donuts. And, of course, celebrating the happy couple. Jonji and I rounded out the evening by heating up the dance floor with the newlyweds and their adorable nephew before heading home.

Mom and Dad came to visit me last month, and we filled the weekend with eating, mostly, and walking along an insanely pleasant Venice Beach. Mom stepped on a bee and had to hobble half the way back, but the cool water and a lifeguard’s sting medication soon soothed the pain away. I made this dish for them the Friday they arrived, to rave reviews. I love it because it’s quick enough for a week night but so tasty that I almost want to make it every night. I make my own harissa, a North African condiment, which is truly very easy to do, but you can buy the pre-made stuff if you’re short for time. If you have a hard time with spice, cut back a bit on the harissa for this recipe.

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Harissa Chicken with Leeks, Potatoes, and Cauliflower
serves 4 • adapted from Dinner by Melissa Clark

6 bone-in chicken thighs
4–5 medium yellow potatoes
2 tbsp harissa
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp salt
freshly ground pepper

3 leeks
1 head cauliflower
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp olive oil

1/2 cup whole-milk yogurt
1 garlic clove
salt and pepper

big handful of chopped herbs like parsley, cilantro, and/or dill
lemon juice

Chop the potatoes into 3/4-inch chunks and place in a large bowl. Add the chicken thighs. In a small bowl, whisk the harissa, 3 tbsp olive oil, and cumin. Pour over the chicken and potatoes. Mix well, along with the 2 tsp salt and a few good grindings of pepper. Set aside, covered, for at least half an hour (if possible, finish this first step in the morning and leave in the fridge all day. Remove from fridge half an hour before cooking).

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Once the chicken and potatoes have had time to marinade, spread them on a large rimmed baking sheet (skin side up for the chicken) and cook for 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, clean and chop the leeks into 1/4-inch half moons. Clean and chop the cauliflower into florets, then mix with the leeks and the lemon zest, 3 tbsp olive oil (or more, depending on your preference), and salt. After the first 25 minutes, add the vegetables to the baking tray with the chicken and cook for another 20 minutes, making sure to scrape everything up at least once to ensure even cooking.

While everything is baking, mix the garlic into the yogurt. If using Greek yogurt, use a little milk to thin it.

When the chicken is done, sprinkle the herbs and a little lemon juice on top. Serve with the yogurt on the side. Enjoy!

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