A few weeks ago I borrowed “Bringing it Home: Favorite Recipes from a Life of Adventurous Eating” by Gail Simmons from the library. Have you heard of it? The book came out last fall and it wasn’t really on my radar until I saw it on the library bookshelf.
I recognized Gail Simmons from Top Chef as one of the judges but didn’t know she had such a rich and varied food career – from food journalist to cook to marketing for Food & Wine magazine and of course judge on “Top Chef.” She’s also a mom and cooks at home for her family. All of her food adventures, global travels and culinary experience inform this book and reading up on her background got me excited to cook through it. The recipes have influences from all over the globe (Singapore Hokkien-style noodles) and health-bent recipes like quinoa porridge with rustic jam. I also appreciate the culinary tips on the side for enhancing technique or for more historical background on a dish.
In an interview with Well+Good she posits about wellness and as a health coach, I want to high-five this statement.
“Everyone sees wellness and healthy food in different ways. I believe to live the best life you can live, that means taking some risks with your food and trying something new,” she says.
One of fundamental principles I’m learning in school is that each person has different needs to thrive – one person’s food is another one’s poison. So whether you’re paleo, low-carb or strict vegan you really have to tune-into what keeps your body nourished and thriving. That, of course is a process and life-long journey and many things inform what is right for your body (age, gender, ancestry, etc). Real, unprocessed, whole foods is the common denominator to almost all healthy diets and cooking at home is one surefire way to ensure you’re incorporating them. Trying new foods and taking risks keeps eating fun and pleasurable which is nourishing for your soul.
Ok, moving on from my health coaching rant … 😉
Flipping through the book, I flagged a lot of recipes and as usual, I probably won’t have time to get through most of them before the book is due, but on a Monday night I made this simple recipe for Za’atar chicken schnitzel. A twist on a typical weeknight family dinner – chicken cutlet/ chicken milanese/ schnitzel/ tonkotsu! – whatever you want to call it, but everyone in my family loves some breaded meat. It was also a good excuse to use the za’atar I bought a while ago for a one-off dish I made and introducing this spice to the family again.
The recipe in the cookbook is accompanied by an Israeli salad with a bright vinaigrette but I opted for a quinoa and veggie salad with a similar dressing to balance the comforting schnitzel with a bright, fresh bite.
Note on Za’atar: What is it? It’s a middle eastern spice mixture consisted of oregano, thyme, sesame seeds, sumac (a type of berry). I believe there are other variations on this as well. You can find the blend in specialty or higher-end grocery stores. There’s always Amazon.
Here’s the recipe!
I didn’t have to make any adjustments as it’s a pretty straight-forward dish. My only note would be to adjust the salt in the dredging processes to your liking. The za’atar flavor was subtle enough to make it interesting without being too exotic for the family. Go change up your weeknight dinner game grab some za’tar and make this. I bet you already have all the other ingredients :).
Za’atar Chicken Schnitzel
Servings size: 4
- 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup of panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
- 1/1/2 tablespoons of za’atar
- Freshly grated zest of 1/2 lemon
- 4 (1/4 inch think) chicken cutlets (about 1 pound)
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Lemon wedges for serving
- In a wide shallow bowl, stir together flour, 1 teaspoon of salt, and a generous pinch of pepper. Whisk together the eggs and a pinch of salt in another shallow bowl. Combine the panko, za’atar, lemon zest, and a pinch of salt in a third shallow bowl.
2. Using the flat side of a meat pounder or a rolling pin, gently pound each cutlet between 2 sheets of plastic wrap to an 1/8-inch thickness. Pat the cutlets dry and season both sides lightly with salt and pepper. Dredge in the seasoned flour, shaking off excess. Dip in the eggs, letting excess drip off, then gently press into the panko mixture to completely coat. Transfer the cutlets to a large plate.
3. Heat 1/2 cup of oil in a 10- to 12- inch skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Fry the cutlets in 2 batches, turning once, until cooked through and crispy, about 3 minutes per side. Drain each batch on paper towel-lined plates, season with salt, then transfer to a platter.