Melia Marden’s (Easy) Elegant Weeknight Menu

The Smile chef’s simple, delicious date-night-in menu.

Melia Marden knows as well as anyone that it’s tough to squeeze in regular date nights when the schedule gets crazy. The new mom, Executive Chef of The Smile and author of Modern Mediterranean: Easy, Colorful, Full-Flavored Home Cooking relies on some creative tricks and effortlessly elegant recipes to turn any weeknight meal into a romantic date-night-in.
Melia Marden

Baked Salmon with Thyme Butter

Melia Marden, The Smile Serves two

2 6-ounce pieces skinless salmon, bones removed 4 tbsp unsalted butter (1/2 stick) 1 bunch fresh thyme sprigs 1 tsp salt Freshly ground black pepper to taste 2 tbsp roughly chopped fresh parsley
Preheat oven to 450ºF.
Combine butter and thyme in a saucepan over low heat and let melt completely.
Skim off frothy white parts of the butter.
Let cool slightly and remove thyme.
Arrange salmon on a baking sheet. Drizzle both sides with thyme butter and season with salt and pepper.
Bake until cooked through, about 10 minutes.
Garnish with parsley.

 

Download the recipe card here.

 

 

Pepper Steamed Broccoli with Almond Oil

 

Melia Marden, The Smile Serves two

1 bunch broccoli (about 1.5 lbs), cut into large florets 1 whole head garlic, halved crosswise ¼ cup black peppercorns 1 bay leaf 3 stalks fresh rosemary 1 tbsp almond oil 2 tbsp raw almonds, roughly chopped
Place the garlic, pepper, bay leaf, rosemary and the about 1-inch water in the base of the steamer pot and bring to a boil.
Place the broccoli in the steamer basket and place in the pot.
Cover and cook until tender and bright green, about 4 minutes.
Let cool slightly and remove thyme.
Remove to a serving dish and drizzle with almond oil. Toss with crushed almonds and serve.

 

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Fusilli with Butternut Squash & Fried Sage

 

Melia Marden, Modern Mediterranean: Easy, Colorful, Full-Flavored Home Cooking Serves four

 

For the Fried Sage

 

12 sage leaves ¾ cup olive oil
Heat the oil on high heat in a small frying pan for two minutes.
Drop in sage leaves and fry until they are stiff (but still green) and stop sizzling, about 45 seconds.
Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

 

For the Pasta

 

1 medium butternut squash, about 1 1/2 – 2 lbs 1 lb fusilli 2 medium leeks (about ¾ lbs), halved lengthwise, rinsed well and thinly sliced ½ tsp crushed chili flakes (optional) 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more 1 tsp kosher salt 1 oz pecorino, finely grated (about ¼ cup) Fried sage (recipe above)
Peel the squash, halve and discard seeds. Cut into large chunks and shred using the grater attachment on a food processor or the largest sized hole on a box grater.
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, add pasta and cook until just done, about 9 minutes. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water, then drain. Toss the fusilli with some olive oil and set aside.
Return the pot to medium high heat. Add 3 tbsp olive oil and heat for 30 seconds, then add sliced leeks and cook, stirring, until they are soft but not browned at all, about 4 minutes.
Add the shredded squash, salt and chili flakes and stir well to combine. Add the reserved cooking water and cook until the squash is tender, about 7 minutes.
Return the pasta to the pot. Cook, stirring, until it’s warmed through and coated in the squash, about 1 minute.
To serve, grate the pecorino over the pasta and top with fried sage leaves.

 

Download the recipe card here.

 

 

Yukon Gold and Green Bean Potato Salad

 

Melia Marden, The Smile Serves four

1 lb yukon gold potatoes 2 cloves garlic, peeled 1 lb green beans ½ small red onion, peeled, halved and thinly sliced 1/4 cup cornichons, halved lengthwise 2 tbsp cup capers, drained 1/2 cup roughly chopped parsley Kosher salt, to taste Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Cover potatoes with cold water, add the garlic and 2 tsp salt and bring to a boil. Cook until very tender almost falling apart. Drain. Discard garlic.
Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add green beans and cook until just tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.
In a medium pan heat 3 tbsp olive oil over medium high heat for 30 seconds. Add onion and cook until just soft. Let cool slightly.
Combine potatoes, green beans, onions, cornichons, capers and most of the parsley. Mix until everything is well combined.
Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Top with the remaining parsley to serve.

 

Download the recipe card here.

 

 

Chicken Tagine with Fennel, Chickpeas and Spices

 

Melia Marden, The Smile Serves four

8 chicken thighs, bone-in, skin-on 1 1/2 tsp salt, plus more to taste 1/2 tsp ground sumac Freshly ground black pepper to taste 1 yellow onion, peeled thinly sliced 1/2 tsp cinnamon 1/2 tsp ground coriander 1/2 tsp ground cumin 1/4 tsp ground ginger 1/4 tsp turmeric 1 fennel bulb, halved, tough outer skin removed, thinly sliced crosswise 2 medium carrots, peeled chopped into 1-inch pieces 1/2 lemon, quartered – seeds removed 2 inches fresh ginger, peeled, minced 1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro 1 1/2 cups water 1 14-oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Season chicken with salt, pepper and sumac.
Heat olive oil in a wide, heavy-bottomed pot on high heat and sear chicken until golden on both sides. Remove to a plate.
Reduce heat to medium high heat. Add onions and spices to pot and cook, stirring, until soft, about 7 minutes.
Add fennel and ginger and cook until soft.
Add carrots, lemon, chicken thighs and juices that have collected on the plate. Stir to combine. Add water and half of the cilantro.
Add chickpeas and stir.
Cover with a lid leaving it a little open so some steam can escape.
Reduce heat to low and cook at a simmer until chicken is very tender and cooked through, about 40 minutes. Season more to taste. Garnish with remaining cilantro to serve.

 

Download the recipe card here.


Photo by Brayden Olson for Opening Ceremony