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This easy chicken dish puts zesty zing in spring

Recipe: Baked lemon-Dijon chicken thighs with herbs

Chicken thighs achieve crispy deliciousness when marinated and baked at high heat.

Chicken thighs achieve crispy deliciousness when marinated and baked at high heat. Debbie Arrington

Lemon, Dijon mustard and spring herbs create a flavorful marinade for this easy baked chicken dish. Lemons are still plentiful in March, when mustard is in full bloom. Lemons also are a nice complement to Dijon mustard, parsley and early-season perennial herbs such as oregano and thyme. That’s why this combination is perfect for the new season (or any time).

Chicken thighs are moist, economical and cook fast, which makes this main course ideal for weeknights, too. The chicken can marinate in the refrigerator during the day. Then pop it in the oven for dinner. The high baking temperature (425 degrees F.) crisps the chicken skin. The finishing salt gives it a little extra crunch.

Baked lemon-Dijon chicken thighs with spring herbs

Makes 3 to 4 servings

Ingredients:

6 chicken thighs (about 2 pounds)

2 lemons

½ cup olive oil

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped, or 1 teaspoon dried parsley

1 tablespoon fresh oregano, finely chopped, or 1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon garlic salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

Kosher or other coarse-grain salt, if desired

Instructions:

Trim any excess fat off of thighs. Pat dry.

Zest both lemons. Juice one lemon and reserve the other for later.

In a large bowl, whisk together lemon zest and juice, olive oil, Dijon mustard, parsley, oregano, thyme, garlic salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes. Add chicken thighs to the marinade and turn to coat well. Let thighs marinate for at least 30 minutes. (If longer, cover and refrigerate while marinating, then bring to room temperature before baking.)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a rimmed sheet pan or shallow baking dish with foil or parchment paper. Make sure the dish is big enough that there’s room between each thigh.

Remove thighs from marinade and place, skin side up, on the covered pan or baking dish. Brush marinade over the top of thighs so each is well covered. Sprinkle a little kosher salt or other coarse salt over the top, if desired.

Bake at 425 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes or until thighs are golden brown and meat juices are clear when thighs are pierced with a thin-bladed knife.

Cut remaining lemon and squeeze over the top of thighs just before serving.

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Garden Checklist for week of May 19

Temperatures will be a bit higher than normal in the afternoons this week. Take care of chores early in the day – then enjoy the afternoon. It’s time to smell the roses.

* Plant, plant, plant! It’s prime planting season in the Sacramento area. If you haven’t already, it’s time to set out those tomato transplants along with peppers and eggplants. Pinch off any flowers on new transplants to make them concentrate on establishing roots instead of setting premature fruit.

* Direct-seed melons, cucumbers, summer squash, corn, radishes, pumpkins and annual herbs such as basil.

* Harvest cabbage, lettuce, peas and green onions.

* In the flower garden, direct-seed sunflowers, cosmos, salvia, zinnias, marigolds, celosia and asters.

* Plant dahlia tubers. Other perennials to set out include verbena, coreopsis, coneflower and astilbe.

* Transplant petunias, marigolds and perennial flowers such as astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia and verbena.

* Keep an eye out for slugs, snails, earwigs and aphids that want to dine on tender new growth.

* Feed summer bloomers with a balanced fertilizer.

* For continued bloom, cut off spent flowers on roses as well as other flowering plants.

* Don’t forget to water. Seedlings need moisture. Deep watering will help build strong roots and healthy plants.

* Add mulch to the garden to help keep that precious water from evaporating. Mulch also cuts down on weeds. But don’t let it mound around the stems or trunks of trees or shrubs. Leave about a 6-inch to 1-foot circle to avoid crown rot or other problems.

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