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Back-to-School Dinner Ideas

Goguchang Chicken Skewers

2 pounds boneless and skinless chicken thighs
⅓ cup goguchang paste
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon sesame oil
½ teaspoon garlic powder

Cut chicken into 1-inch chunks and set aside. In a small mixing bowl, whisk goguchang paste, soy sauce, rice vinegar, honey, sesame oil, and garlic powder. Mix until well-blended. If very thick, add another splash of rice vinegar.

Add chicken and your goguchang mixture to a large resealable bag, and mix around until all parts are coated. Refrigerate for one hour or up to 24 hours. If using wooden skewers, soak them in water for an hour.

When ready to cook, heat a grill to medium high heat. Thread chicken onto metal or soaked wooden skewers. Move skewers onto the grill with tongs and allow them to cook on each side for 6 minutes or until cooked through. The chicken should reach 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Serving suggestion: rice, lettuce (for wraps), thinly sliced green onions. Serves 4.

Main-Course Lentil Salad

1½ cups French green lentils
1 bay leaf
5 sprigs thyme
1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
1 small red onion, peeled and finely diced
1 rib celery, finely diced

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1¼ teaspoons sea salt or kosher salt, plus more as needed
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼  cup olive oil (or an even mix of walnut oil and olive oil)
1 small shallot, peeled and minced
Freshly ground black pepper
½ cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
1 cup crumbled fresh or aged goat cheese

Rinse the lentils and place them in a saucepan with plenty of lightly salted water, the bay leaf, and thyme. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook for 15 minutes. Add finely diced vegetables and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes, until the lentils are tender. Be careful not to overcook the lentils.

While the lentils are cooking, make the dressing: Mix the vinegar, salt, mustard, oil, and shallots in a large bowl. Drain the lentils well and mix them into the dressing while still warm, stirring to coat. Remove the bay leaf and thyme, and cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally. Add a few grinds of black pepper and mix in parsley, chopped nuts, and goat cheese. Taste test, and add additional salt, if desired. 

I serve this main-course salad at room temperature or warm. If served warm, omit the goat cheese, or crumble it on top at the last minute so it doesn’t melt, but instead, slightly softens. The salad can be made up to 2 days ahead and refrigerated. Let it come to room temperature before serving (may need re-seasoning if refrigerated). Serves 4 to 6.

Salmon with Tangy Peppers and Onions

2 pounds salmon, or firm sweet fish
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
½ teaspoon ginger, minced
2 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 medium carrot, julienned
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 lime
¼ cup white wine vinegar
Freshly ground white pepper

Rinse fish and pat dry. Rub with lemon or lime, season with salt and pepper, and set aside. In large non-stick skillet, heat oil over medium heat until hot, add the fish, cook each side for 5 to 7 minutes until cooked through and crispy on both sides. Remove fish and set aside. Add onion, bay leaf, garlic and ginger, stir for about a minute, making sure the garlic does not burn. Add bell peppers, thyme, sugar, and allspice. Continue stirring for 2 to 3 minutes. Add vinegar and swirl around to deglaze the pan. Add salt and pepper to preference.
Let simmer for about 2 more minutes. Discard bay leaf and thyme sprigs and pour sauce over the hot fish and serve. Serves 4 to 6.

Photos: Jenny Tremblay West

Jenny Tremblay West began her career as a pastry chef and currently teaches cooking in Richmond. Jenny, her husband, and their two young boys live in Church Hill. She has worked in food for more than twenty years and is a kitchen coach and personal chef with Caper.
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