Pomegranate and Za’atar Braised Chicken


Taste, like language, is learned. We grow up eating certain foods and experiencing certain flavors. We do so during our most formative years, our childhoods, and so we connect them, strongly, with events and feelings. Our memories become multi-sensory and they are brought to the surface with a simple bite or a bare sniff.

We all have our Proustian madeleines. For me, it’s Middle-Eastern food (and I include Greek food in that category). No matter what it is and what its country of origin, Greek, Turkish, Lebanese, Syrian, it’s food that feels like home. It’s my comfort food.dsc05352

When I saw this recipe on Chocolate & Zucchini, I knew that I would love it. Combining za’atar (the spice mix found throughout the Middle East) and pomegranate molasses makes complete sense for my taste buds. And I was right. The result is succulent chicken that is deeply fragrant from the za’atar spices, with a tangy sweet sauce and caramelized onions. It warms your soul. It’s the kind of dish you serve and people immediately ask for the recipe, which is incredibly simple to make. And for some of us, it tastes like home.

Pomegranate and Za’atar Braised Chicken – Adapted from Chocolate & Zucchini

Serves 2-3


3 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari (make sure it is gluten-free as needed)
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon za’atar
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly smashed
1.5-2.5 lbs bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs


In a large bowl, whisk together all the ingredients except the chicken, the onion, and the garlic. Add the diced onion and stir well. Add the garlic and the chicken thighs and use your hands to mix them well with the marinade. Cover and marinate in the fridge anywhere between 30 min and 10 hours.

Preheat the oven to 175°C (325°F).

Place the chicken with its marinade in a Dutch oven or other heavy, ovenproof pot with a lid.

Place the lid on the pot, put it in the oven, and cook for 1 1/4 hours, until the thighs are cooked through.

Serve with steamed rice or couscous, spooning the sauce over the chicken and the rice/couscous.

Roasted Squash with Pomegranate and Mint

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“Let’s quit our jobs and stay here until our money runs out,” Steve said to me. We were half way through our 10-day vacation in Hawaii, sitting outside our room in the bed and breakfast where we were staying in Maui. There was a light breeze and we were watching the sun slowly slide behind the island of Lanai across the ocean. I knew he was joking. It didn’t stop me, or Steve, from seriously considering it for a few seconds though.

That’s the impact of Hawaii. I had been there twice before almost 20 years ago but this was Steve’s first time. We planned this trip as a celebration of his 50th birthday and I was hoping that Hawaii was still the magical paradise I had remembered from the past. It surpassed all of our expectations. Words can’t properly describe the feeling you have when you wake up to sunny skies, with the temperature hovering in the upper 70s, a cool breeze rustling the palm trees and an orchestra of tropical birds welcoming the day.

Every day was a revelation. The Martian landscape of the Haleakala volcano one day was in stark contrast with the overwhelming lushness of the tropical jungle of the road to Hana the next day. On more than one occasion, we pulled off the road on a whim and jumped into the warm and crystal clear waters of the Pacific Ocean. We ate ahi tuna so fresh, it seemed almost like a vegetable. We discovered li hing mui powder, and we became instantly addicted to dried mango slices covered in it. We realized that the Aloha spirit is not some gimmicky lie for tourists but the true way of living generously for Hawaiians.

I could go on for ever. It was the first vacation I can remember where we really did not want to come back home (we usually look forward to returning to our home and routine). But alas, we had to. So, we found ourselves on Tuesday back in New York, bracing against a wind chill in the teens, trying to hold on to the memories of sipping Mai Tais by the ocean.

I wish I had a recipe for you that evoked Hawaii. But I don’t. The closest would be the passion fruit coconut pound cake recipe that I posted a little while back. But I do give you this roasted squash recipe. If nothing else, it will bring some Hawaiian color in your winter blues.DSC04315 (1)

Roasted Squash with Pomegranate and Mint


1 kuri or kambocha squash
olive oil
salt and pepper
2 teaspoons ras el hanout spice mix (if unavailable, substitute with equal parts cinnamon, cumin, paprika, and coriander)
pomegranate molasses
fresh pomegranate seeds
fresh mint leaves


Preheat the oven to 425° F.

Cut squash in one-inch slices and place in large bowl. Drizzle a good amount of olive oil, add salt and pepper and the ras el hanout mix, and using your hands mix well. You want every slice to be covered in the oil and spice mix.

Roast on baking sheets for about 25-30 minutes or until the squash is cooked through and the bottom of each slice is dark brown.

Arrange in serving bowls or dishes, drizzle some pomegranate molasses on top, and garnish with pomegranate seeds and mint leaves.