This colorful salad is pretty much springtime on a sheet pan. I created it as a way to combine one of my favorite quick-cooking proteins—boneless chicken thighs—with one of my favorite flavor duos, roasted carrots and avocado. A few streamlining tricks make it especially quick and easy: First, the carrots are cut into thin coins so they’ll cook at the same rate as the chicken thighs and sliced red onion. Second, everything is tossed in a single marinade—a simple, boldly flavored mix of za’atar, honey, olive oil, and lemon zest—before going into the hot oven. Last, in the 20 or so minutes it takes for the ingredients on the pan to roast, you can prep the fresh ingredients that get added right before serving: a small bunch of watercress, avocado, and crumbled feta mixed with crushed pistachios and a drizzle of olive oil (one of my favorite ways to make soft cheeses a more texturally cohesive part of salads).
A few tips: If you want to use bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, give them a 10-minute jump-start (skin-side down) in the oven before adding the carrots and onions. Or swap pork chops for the chicken, or slabs of tofu or halloumi for a vegetarian version. Arugula, spinach, and other spring greens can be substituted for the watercress, and chevre stands in nicely for the feta. And a note about the za’atar: Reach for your favorite jarred variety (I like Penzey’s brand), or feel free to make your own blend. Recipes vary, but common ingredients are white sesame seeds, dried thyme, and sumac. (If you’re looking for other ways to use a stash of za’atar, this list of ideas is a good starting point!) —EmilyC
4 to 6
boneless, skinless chicken thighs
carrots, peeled and sliced 1/8-inch thick on the diagonal
large red onion, sliced 1/4-inch thick
lemon, zest and juice reserved
kosher salt, plus more to taste
freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
plus 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
feta, crumbled or thinly sliced
pistachios, finely chopped/crushed into irregular pieces with a knife
Heat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Place a parchment-lined sheet pan in the oven while it heats.
In a large bowl, combine chicken, carrots, onions, za’atar, lemon zest, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, pepper, honey, and 4 tablespoons olive oil. Toss well with hands to evenly coat the chicken and vegetables in the olive oil and seasonings. (This step can be done 6 to 8 hours in advance; cover and refrigerate until ready to use.)
Working quickly, empty the contents of the bowl on the hot sheet pan, then arrange the ingredients in a single, even layer. (Careful, the pan will be hot!)
Roast for 12 minutes, then flip the chicken and stir the carrots. Roast for another 8 to 10 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through (internal temperature should be 165 degrees Fahrenheit in the thickest piece). Remove from oven.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together the feta, pistachios, and 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Set aside.
Heat the broiler with an oven rack about 4 to 5 inches from the heating element. Broil the chicken and carrots for 1 to 2 minutes, or until they’re starting to brown and crisp around the edges.
Immediately out of the oven, squeeze the juice from half the lemon, and sprinkle the sumac (if using) over the entire dish.
Let cool for about 5 minutes, then toss in the watercress, feta and pistachios, and avocado. Serve warm.