Arts & Entertainment

Maureen O’Leary on an expedition in Mali. Photo by Eric Roberts

By Daniel Dunaief

At their greatest depths, oceans hold onto their secrets. With layers of light-blocking water between the surface and the bottom, they hide the kind of clues that might reveal more about who, or what, lived or traveled through them.

What if a sea dried up millions of years ago? And, what if that sea left behind pieces of information — some of them small and subtle and others larger and easier to spot? That’s what happened in a part of Africa that long ago gave up any signs of flowing water. The Sahara desert was, millions of years ago, home to an inland sea called the trans-Saharan seaway.

Maureen O’Leary, a professor in the Department of Anatomical Sciences in the School of Medicine at Stony Brook University, has been to Mali, a country in the northwest of Africa, three times on expeditions, most recently in 2008. There, she collected fossils that are members of extinct groups that are part of larger evolutionary units with living members today.

O’Leary has explored and cataloged a number of remnants from the region, including a turtle and crocodile skull. She and her collaborators have also discovered sting ray fossils. Originally considered likely residents after an asteroid hit Earth that caused a massive extinction, these fossils now suggest that these sting rays lived in the area earlier than previously believed.

“This suggests that the sting rays did survive” the asteroid impact, said O’Leary. “Often extinction events are described in very broad terms but specific studies like this help us” hone in on the kind of species that survived.

She also found intriguing deposits in fossilized feces. Invertebrates burrowed through these fossilized remains, leaving a cast of the shapes of their bodies. The group that left traces of their activities in fossilized feces includes Pholadidae, which has living members. “A careful inspection of a whole fauna of fossils allows you to find invertebrates you had no record of,” said O’Leary.

Leif Tapanila, the director of the Idaho Museum of Natural History and an associate professor of geosciences at Idaho State University, joined O’Leary on an expedition to Mali in 1999, where he was the invertebrate expert. Tapanila said the feces of sharks, crocodiles and turtles have bone fragments that tend to preserve well. Some of these fossilized feces can be four- to five-feet-thick deposits. A prehistoric diver from 30 million years ago would have found that the bottom of the seaway, which was probably 50 to 70 meters at its deepest points, was covered in these hard feces, Tapanila said.

Tapanila described O’Leary as an effective collaborator who ensured scientists formed effective partnerships. “She brings people together,” Tapanila said. “One of her biggest strengths is that she finds pieces of the puzzle that are needed for a particular scientific question. She sets up the infrastructure to make a research project work.”

In one of the blocks of limestone recovered in 1999, O’Leary found a crocodile skull with well-preserved ear bones. That level of detail is unusual in a fossil because of the relatively small and fine nature of those bones. Robert Hill, who was a doctoral student in O’Leary’s lab and is now a professor at Hofstra University, noticed that the ear bones had bite marks on them. A closer examination suggested that the marks were made by a shark, either during a prehistoric battle or after the crocodile had died.

O’Leary is currently working with Eric Roberts, the head of Geoscience at James Cook University in Australia, to write a review paper on Mali that would contain some reconstructions of the region and the species. The paper would emphasize a big picture story using the specialized details she and others collected. This will not only help people see the world as it was but also may help them see the Earth as a changing place, where rising sea levels could cause another transition in a dry and arid region.

While O’Leary would like to return to Mali, she and numerous other scientists have kept their distance amid the political instability in the area. In 2008, Canadian diplomat Robert Fowler was taken hostage for 60 days. “There were some diplomats there who seemed unflappable and serious” who suggested that O’Leary and her colleagues return home during their expedition. “The American Embassy was instrumental in leaning on me to leave.” O’Leary said the politics of these areas, despite the rich story they may have to tell about the past, “can play into whether science can even be done.”

In addition to her research in Mali, O’Leary raised the money and created an online system called MorphoBank, which enables scientists studying anatomy all over the world to collect their information in one place. MorphoBank encourages those interested in anatomy of any kind to find data in one place. Tapanila credits O’Leary for creating a valuable resource. For the time, MorphoBank was “totally new. It takes a lot of effort and vision to pull that off,” he said.

O’Leary is married to Michael Novacek, an author and senior vice president and curator in the Division of Paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History. He is one of the team leaders of the joint American Museum of Natural History/Mongolian Academy of Sciences ongoing expeditions to the Gobi Desert. The duo, who collaborated on an expedition in Morocco, have co-authored papers on the philosophy of science, placental mammal evolution and a team-based study of mammal evolution that was published in the journal Science.

O’Leary watches the political scene in and around Mali from afar.“I do keep an eye on it and would love to return,” she said.

Stony Brook University Hospital. File photo

By Kenneth Kaushansky, M.D.

In a unique type of collaboration, Stony Brook Medicine and Mount Sinai Health System have entered into a formal affiliation agreement that combines the strengths of both organizations to create positive change in biomedicine, the delivery of care to our communities and the education of the next generation of health care professionals.

The affiliation of Stony Brook Medicine and Mount Sinai Health System is based on our common values, as well as a reverence for translating basic biomedical science into new cures for human disease and a commitment to providing health care professionals of the future the most advanced approaches to both didactic and experiential learning.

We also share the commitment to using robust clinical evidence to determine the very best medical practices that improve the quality of care delivered to our patients. Both institutions seek to apply our understanding of human health and disease to the entire population we serve, through our leadership positions in the New York State Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment (DSRIP) Program and other avenues, so that all will benefit from our efforts.

Often, when people hear the word “affiliation,” it is thought that there is a merger or acquisition; however, this is not the case — Mount Sinai is not buying Stony Brook or vice versa. It is an agreement that allows collaborative efforts to flourish and heighten academic, research and clinical care synergies.

This means boundless opportunities on a number of fronts. For example, the Stony Brook University School of Medicine and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai will develop joint graduate and medical educational programs, maximizing the strengths of existing master’s and doctoral programs at each institution. Students will have the opportunity to take classes on both campuses, allowing them to learn new techniques and expand their exposure.

In addition, the combining of two research powerhouses has immense promise to influence both institution’s abilities to make major breakthroughs by moving discoveries made at the very basic level and bringing them to the bedside faster — all to improve diagnostics and treatments. We believe that the joint efforts will yield greater discoveries than would arise from either institution alone. Mount Sinai and Stony Brook have already taken steps in this direction by investing a combined total of $500,000 to introduce new research programs, with the intent of receiving collaborative external funding.

The areas of focus include biomedical engineering and computer science; drug discovery and medicinal chemistry sciences; neuroscience, neurology and psychiatry; basic biology and novel therapeutics; and public health and health systems. The alliance will capitalize on Mount Sinai’s strengths in biomedical and clinical research and health policy and outcomes and Stony Brook’s expertise not only in the School of Medicine but also in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, the College of Arts and Sciences and in departments such as mathematics, high-performance computing, imaging and the physical and chemical sciences.

It is a momentous time for academic medicine, health care, our respective students, faculty and staff and for the communities we serve across the Island and into Manhattan. The partnership allows both institutions to look at new ways to be innovative and bring the benefits of our shared transformation to our patients.

Dr. Kenneth Kaushansky is senior vice president of Health Sciences and dean of Stony Brook University School of Medicine.

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Brie is a very versatile cheese and pairs nicely with a multitude of wines. Stock photo

By Bob Lipinski

“How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?”  — Charles de Gaulle, 1890–1970, President of France, 1962 speech

According to popular legend, Emperor Charlemagne supposedly first tasted Brie in around 774 at a monastery and fell in love with its creamy flavors and inviting texture. There are stories that put Brie’s beginnings several hundred years earlier, but those cannot be proven.

At the Congress of Vienna (1814–1815) a jury of ambassadors each brought a cheese from their respective countries for a judging. France’s statesman, Talleyrand, brought Brie and after a vote, the conference delegates proclaimed it the King of Cheeses.

Brie, which is a double-crème, cow’s milk cheese is made in the French province of Brie, in the department of Seine-et-Marne, northeast of Paris, although it is also made in the United States and other countries. Brie is similar to Camembert (France), Coulommiers (France), Crèma Danica (Denmark) and Paglia (Italy).

The term Brie covers a small family of cheeses, which carry the name of the town or village where they are made. The finest Brie is generally considered to be Brie de Meaux while another variety is Brie de Melun.

Prior to aging, the small or large wheels of cheese are washed with a salt brine, then rubbed or sprayed with a culture of pure-white mold spores. After that, the cheeses are taken to the curing room for many months of aging. Brie has a thin, edible, white rind, with a creamy yellow interior.

When Brie begins to get old, the white rind turns brown and an odor of ammonia can be detected. Its texture is soft and smooth, almost honey-like, but definitely not runny. It is mild to pungent tasting with hints of mushrooms, cognac, heavy cream, nuts and even truffles. After one hour or so opened at room temperature, Brie becomes runny with a buttery and earthy flavor and is quite spreadable. It is sometimes flavored with herbs, peppers and mushrooms.

I generally serve Brie at room temperature, and for guests, with the aid of a sharp knife, I remove the top rind and immediately brush the cheese with lemon juice. Next I spread a thin layer of apricot or peach preserves, followed by raisins previously soaked in white wine, in the center. Spread slivered almonds or pecans in a circular fashion around the raisins. Place in a 425 F oven for approximately 7 to 10 minutes. Remove and let rest for 10 minutes, then serve with crackers.

Brie is a very versatile cheese and pairs nicely with a multitude of wines including some reds — Beaujolais, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, grenache, merlot, pinot noir and zinfandel. White wines include chardonnay, chenin blanc, Gewürztraminer, riesling and sauvignon blanc. Let’s not forget Champagne and sparkling wines.

Two New York State Finger Lakes wines I recently paired with Brie were:

Standing Stone 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon: Bright ruby colored with aromas of wild cherry, red candy and spicy blueberries. Should develop into a stunning wine.

Standing Stone 2014 Dry Vidal: Vidal is a white French hybrid of Ugni Blanc and Rayon d’Or, developed in 1929 by Jean-Louis Vidal. The wine has an aroma of grapefruit, kiwi and peaches. It has plenty of acidity, which keeps it clean and crisp tasting. Definitely one of the best dry Vidal wines I have encountered!

Bob Lipinski, a local author, has written 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need to Know About Vodka, Gin, Rum & Tequila” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on He conducts training seminars on wine, spirits and food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at or

The Vanderbilt Bell Tower and courtyard. Photo courtesy of Vanderbilt Museum

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum will once again turn back the clock when it offers Living History tours Saturday, Sept. 3 and Sunday, Sept. 4. For more than a decade, Living History tours have delighted visitors to the sprawling 24-room, Spanish-Revival waterfront mansion.

These special, time machine events feature some of the Vanderbilts and their servants, who are portrayed by museum tour guides. The year is 1937, and the news makes its way into the tour narrative: “The movie ‘Captains Courageous’ with Spencer Tracy is playing in the theaters, and Agatha Christie’s new novel ‘Dumb Witness’ is in the bookstores,” said Stephanie Gress, director of curatorial affairs. “Amelia Earhart was lost at sea in July, and European leaders are faced with threats of German expansion.” Yachtsman Harold Vanderbilt, brother of William K. Vanderbilt II, won the America’s Cup in the summer of 1937, added Gress.

The Vanderbilt has been called a “museum of a museum” — the mansion, natural-history and marine collection galleries are exactly as they were when the Vanderbilts lived on the estate. The stories featured on the tours are based on the oral histories of people who worked on the mansion staff as teenagers and young adults. Some stories also come from Mr. Vanderbilt’s privately published books of his world travels and extensive sea journeys.

Tours will be given at 11:45 a.m. and at 12:30, 1, 2, 3 and 4 p.m. on both days. Tickets are $5 per person in addition to the regular admission fee of $7 adults, $6 students and seniors, $3 children 12 and under. For more information, call 631-854-5579 or visit

Above, variegated azalea grown from a sport, but the azalea is ‘reverting to type’ growing some solid green leaves. Photo by Ellen Barcel

By Ellen Barcel

Recently, I received a U.S. stamp with a couple of bright red pears pictured on it. The paperwork that came with the stamp noted that pear trees, along with apple trees, are noted for putting out sports.

Botanically, sports are genetic mutations that arise naturally in plants. And yes, pear and apple trees do put out sports, which can lead to new varieties of plants being developed. On a pear tree, which normally produces green pears, you may see a branch that has reddish pears. Or on an apple tree, you may find a branch that has larger or different colored apples.

Now, I’m not talking about trees that are grafted to produce more than one variety of fruit — you can see these advertised in magazines and gardening catalogs — but a tree that naturally produces one or more unusual branches and fruit. This is referred to as “throwing a sport.”

Certain plants are more prone to produce these genetic mutations than others. For example, hostas easily produce sports, leading to the literally hundreds of varieties of hostas on the market today, from tiny to enormous, variegated, bluish, etc.

When these sports are propagated, the new plants will resemble the sport, not the parent plant. Propagate the unusual hosta and you now have a new cultivar. Propagate the red pear sport and you now have an entire tree filled with those red pears.

But sometimes, these sports are not stable. They “revert to type,” that is, they revert to the genetic makeup of the original plant. It’s usually not the whole plant that reverts, but a small part of it. A branch will grow, for example, that looks just like the original plant.

This dwarf Alberta spruce is reverting to type. Note the unusual branches growing out of the top of the tree.
This dwarf Alberta spruce is reverting to type. Note the unusual branches growing out of the top of the tree. Photo by Ellen Barcel

Dwarf Alberta spruce (Picea glauca var. albertiana f. conica) is a lovely, slow-growing, compact coniferous evergreen, which as its name implies stays very small. It makes an ideal decorative plant and easily grows in tubs. Many people like them decorated at Christmas. The dwarf Alberta spruce is a naturally occurring mutation of white spruce. Yes, it can revert to type. A couple of years ago, I saw a walkway lined with them; and yes, there growing from the top of one was a branch that had reverted to type.

So, what do you do if you find a sport on one of your plants, or, a plant grown from a sport reverts to type? That depends on whether you like the appearance or not.

Ignore it. If you find that the sport, or the reversion, is pleasing, you can just ignore it. That’s what I did when my variegated azaleas began to revert to solid green leaves. The flowers are the same gorgeous ones on all the branches, and the reversion actually has larger green leaves than the variegated ones.

Remove it. If you don’t like the sport or the reversion, find it ruins the plant etc., you can simply prune it out. I could have done this with my azaleas, but as I said above, it didn’t affect the flowers and made the overall plant larger.

Propagate it. If you absolutely love the sport, you can attempt to cultivate it. Usually vegetative propagation is the best since a sport is a mutation, a change in the genes. For hostas, this usually means digging up the plant and dividing it, detaching the different variety. Make sure you have the roots with the division. Replant the original plant and plant the sport in a different location, giving it a new home. Commercial growers sometimes use tissue culture, but this is really a specialized group of techniques that is beyond the home gardener. If the plant with the sport is a woody one, you can try to take woody cuttings. Use rooting hormone and sterile soil for best results.

You can, of course, collect the seeds from any flowers that form on a sport and try to grow the sport from seed. Chances are that if the seeds are not sterile, you will get a wide range of results from the original plant to the sport. Growing from seed, however, is time consuming as many plants can take years of growth before they mature. Plants like the dwarf Alberta spruce generally don’t produce cones and, therefore, no seeds. So, growing from seed is very iffy.

Note that if you find a really different branch with totally different flowers, on say, a rose bush, trace it back to its origin. Chances are you will find that the branch goes all the way back to the ground. Chances are that this is a grafted plant and that those roots are sprouting, rather than the graft. Usually grafted plants are made up of a common root stock with a beautiful plant on top. Unless you absolutely love what’s growing on the root sprouts, remove them at the soil level, below the graft (the large bump on the stem just above soil level). This will send the energy of the plant into the beautiful graft rather than the common root stock.

Ellen Barcel is a freelance writer and master gardener. To reach Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County and its Master Gardener program, call 631-727-7850.

By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

It is hard to believe that summer is almost over and everyone with children is getting back on the school track. Colleges around the country are in full swing. Elementary schools, middle schools and high schools have students beginning in each for the first time. Family life has returned hopefully to normalcy — whatever that means!

The beginning of the new school year is always an excellent time for reflection, reassessment and evaluation regarding the things that are most important in most of our lives.

The present political landscape is probably the most combative and explosive in this century. Our children are witnessing a public discourse that is more than disturbing not because of the ideas and issues being discussed but rather because of the demeaning language being used that is discriminating and bordering on hate rather than unity.

Each new school year is an opportunity for parents to clarify their expectations of their children from participating in family life, to school expectations and social behavior.

Parents should not be afraid to set clear expectations in each area. It is not unreasonable to expect children who live at home to join in the family dinner, without smartphones, headsets or iPods. Dinner time should be an opportunity to share and support each other — a time to laugh and catch up on what is happening in each family member’s life.

It is not unreasonable to have a weekday curfew and a weekend curfew for your children living at home who are in middle school and/or high school. It can be adjusted based on age and grade and should be flexible enough to be adapted based on a son or daughter’s social activities. Parents who have students in elementary, junior and senior high school should restrict their children’s use of the internet. Parents should know to which social media their children connect.

Social media can be an excellent tool or a weapon of human and emotional destruction. Cyberbullying is becoming epidemic everywhere. If your knowledge of social media is limited or nonexistent, get educated. Most school districts sponsor valuable workshops in this regard.

As the new school year unfolds, you need to talk very seriously with your children about their social behavior and their social choices. Do not delude yourself. Your junior and senior high school students are increasingly more sexually active. They need to act in this regard respectfully and protectively. Ignorance is no excuse.

Drinking and drug use continued to be a problem in our community. Underage drinking is dangerous and can become reckless. Too many teenagers are under the influence of alcohol at parties when they are first introduced to opiates and other dangerous drugs.

The heroin epidemic is now a national health crisis. In our own community the clergy are burying at least one young person a week who has overdosed on heroin.

Don’t let your children fool you; oftentimes when they are using illegal substances they will drink a few swigs of beer before they get home so that they make you think that they are just drinking and as a parent you take a sigh of relief and say to yourself at least it’s not drug use!

As parents, we need to be more vigilant and diligent in our parenting. It is definitely among the most challenging and rewarding occupations. Our children are counting on us!

Fr. Pizzarelli, SMM, LCSW-R, ACSW, DCSW, is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.

Photo courtesy of The WMHO

Blast from the Past:

Do you know where this bowling alley was located? Do you know when it was built and how long it was in existence? Email your answers to To see more wonderful vintage photographs like this, visit The Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s ongoing exhibit, It Takes a Team to Build a Village, at The WMHO’s Educational & Cultural Center, 97P Main Street, Stony Brook. For more information, call 631-751-2244.

Check out this 1968 Ford Mustang on Sunday. Photo from Mike Basile

The Mustang and Shelby Club of Long Island will present its 9th annual Mustang Car Show at the Port Jefferson Village Center, 101 E. Broadway, Port Jefferson Sunday, Aug. 28 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Over 50 cars from 1965 to present will be on view inside and outside the center with live music by Our Generation (’60s, ’70s, ’80s rock and roll). Free admission. Sponsored by the Port Jefferson Conservancy and Ramp Ford. For more information, call 631-371-1432 or 631-802-2160.

Wei Zhu with a photo of her mother, Shenzhen Du. Photo by Joyce Ruan

By Daniel Dunaief

Wei Zhu’s long personal and professional journey began in China. Devoted to her mother, Shenzhen Du, Zhu watched her hero fight through a long illness with chronic kidney disease. Shortly before she died, her mother woke from a coma and suggested that her daughter become a doctor, like the people who were helping her in the hospital.

Driven to fulfill her mother’s request, Zhu attended college where, despite aspirations to become a writer like Charles Dickens or Charlotte Bronte, she studied math. She found the subject challenging but stuck with it. “Math was absolutely hard work,” she recalled. “We had to devote longer time to our study than many other majors. It all paid off in my case.”

Indeed, after she completed a one-year graduate program in math, she and her husband, Yeming Ma, came to the United States, where she used her experience in math to explore ways to understand how statistics can provide a perspective on everything from drug dosage to global warming to the causes of cancer.

“You can use math to improve people’s health,” said Zhu, who is now the deputy chair and professor in the Department of Applied Mathematics & Statistics at Stony Brook University.

Wei Zhu with her daughter, Merry Ma. Photo  by Merry Ma
Wei Zhu with her daughter, Merry Ma. Photo by Merry Ma

At the beginning of the year, Yusuf Hannun, the director of the Stony Brook Cancer Center, emailed Zhu to ask her to pitch in to help understand a major question about cancer. In the prestigious journal Science, several researchers had concluded that the “bad luck” hypothesis suggested cancer was something that was written in a person’s genes. This scientific conclusion was akin to suggesting that a character’s fate in a play may have been written in the stars.

Hannun, Song Wu, an assistant professor in her department, Scott Powers, a professor in the Department of Pathology and Zhu came to a different conclusion, which they published in the equally prestigious magazine Nature.

Putting the data and the theory together, the group suggested that lifestyle choices and environmental exposure were also instrumental in this disease. The argument is the equivalent of nature versus nurture for a deadly disease.

“We were able to quantify what we observed,” Zhu said. For most cancers, the group concluded, the majority of the risk was due to lifestyle and environmental factors other than pure intrinsic genetic mutations. The disease debate, scientists recognize, doesn’t end there.

“The entire cancer research community still has a long way to go in order to perfectly understand the causes, prevention and treatments for each cancer, for each individual,” Zhu explained.

Hannun suggested that the direction cancer research is going requires advanced expertise in several areas of applied mathematics, physics and related disciplines. These are now needed for working with large data sets, for modeling pathways and events and for generating new hypotheses and organizing principles, Hannun wrote in a recent email. Hannun described Zhu as “terrific, highly dedicated and very collaborative” and suggested that the work has been “rewarding.”

Zhu is hoping that the recent Nature publication will trigger additional funding to support more research with this team of Stony Brook University scientists.

Wu, who was the first author on the Nature article, described Zhu as “well respected in the scientific community. She has done a lot of work on the analyses of brain image and proteomics data,” he wrote in an email.

Throughout her career, Zhu has sought to use statistics, bioinfomatics and other modern tools to enhance a scientific understanding of complex questions. She recently worked with Ellen Li, a professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at Stony Brook University School of Medicine, who wanted to understand the development of digestive diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease and colon cancer. Putting the numbers together could provide the kind of information that offers an understanding of how lifestyle and food choices contribute to some diseases over time, Zhu said.

“We have published several papers together over the years,” Zhu said. “We are still in the data collecting stage for the diet analysis.” In her career, which spans 24 years, Zhu has worked on a wide range of topics. She has helped analyze data on the regions of the brain that are active in addiction and helped refine and enhance global climate models. In her early work, she also help pharmaceutical companies come up with optimal drug dosage. Numbers have been a part of Zhu’s life wherever she goes. “You do see numbers in the air,” she said. “When it’s getting hot,” she asks, “what does it have to do with my climate model? Does it fit the data?”

In more recent years, Zhu has struggled with the tension between contributing to larger projects and budgetary constraints. She worries that the “funding situation has changed the dynamics of the job market for the young generation of statisticians,” she said. “Now the majority of my doctoral students hope to focus their research on financial models, instead of biological models.”

Zhu and her husband Ma, who is a financial manager for GE, live in Setauket. Their son Victor, 24, recently earned his graduate degree in finance, while their daughter Merry, 11, attends Mount Elementary School. Zhu appreciates living on Long Island, where she can be close to the ocean.

As she looks back on the developments in her life that brought her to this point in her career, Zhu recognizes that the decision to learn more about math and statistics provided her with the kind of background that allowed her to fulfill her mother’s wish. “I can always honestly tell young students that it is a good idea to choose mathematics or statistics as their undergraduate majors,” she said. It will pave the way for them to have “a solid foundation for a variety of future graduate studies.”

Pan Roasted Maple Dijon Chicken. Stock photo

As summer comes to an end and the reality of back-to-school season sets in, it can be challenging to get organized and jump back into your day-to-day routine. But even as things get hectic, it’s still possible to create delicious dishes — such as Pan-Roasted Maple Dijon Chicken and Chicken Thighs and Tomatoes — that leave you plenty of time to savor meals together as a family.

Chicken Thighs and Tomatoes

Chicken Thighs and Tomatoes. Stock photo
Chicken Thighs and Tomatoes

YIELD: Serves 4


1 pint cherry tomatoes


kosher salt

olive oil

4 chicken thighs (skin-on, bone-in)

1 cup white wine

1 clove garlic

1 lemon, juice only

DIRECTIONS: Heat oven to 400 F. In cast iron skillet, toss tomatoes with pinch of pepper, kosher salt and light drizzle of olive oil and place in oven. Roast tomatoes for 20 minutes. Set aside. Heat skillet on stove top. Once hot, sear chicken thighs. Flip chicken and sear bottom side for about 1 minute. Remove chicken from pan and set aside. With pan still hot, pour in white wine. Once wine has settled, add minced garlic. Add juice of one lemon. Return chicken thighs and tomatoes to skillet. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes and serve.

Source: Edna Valley Vineyard

Pan-Roasted Maple Dijon Chicken with Butternut Squash and Brussels Sprouts

Pan Roasted Maple Dijon Chicken. Stock photo
Pan Roasted Maple Dijon Chicken

YIELD: Serves 4


1 tablespoon olive oil

4 chicken thighs

4 chicken drumsticks

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

16 Brussels sprouts (about 8 ounces), bottom trimmed, outer leaves removed and halved

2 cups diced (1/2 inch) butternut squash

1 1/2 cups chicken stock

2 tablespoons maple syrup

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

DIRECTIONS: In saute pan large enough to hold chicken in single layer, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Add chicken to pan, skin side down, and saute about 4 to 5 minutes per side, or until chicken is browned. Remove chicken from pan and reserve. In same pan, add butter. Allow butter to melt over medium heat. Add sprouts and squash to pan and saute, tossing occasionally, until outsides are golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from pan and hold separately from chicken.

Turn heat to high and add stock, syrup and mustard. Stir and bring to boil, stirring to scrape up brown bits on bottom of pan. Add chicken back to pan, cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook over medium-low heat 20 to 25 minutes, or until chicken registers 170 F with instant read thermometer. Add vegetables back to pan, cover again and cook another 8 to 10 minutes until vegetables are tender. Move chicken and vegetables to serving platter, placing vegetables around chicken. Turn heat to high and boil sauce until it is reduced and slightly thickened, about 2 to 3 minutes. Spoon sauce over chicken and serve.