Friday, July 11, 2014

Food on Friday: 2 recipes with za'atar chicken and veggies

Nothing says summer more than beautiful, colorful salads and fresh wraps.  Add in some Middle Eastern spices and you have the perfect light weeknight dinner and lunch for the next day.

Za'atar is a delicious spice mixture that comes from the Middle East and is often used in Arab cuisine.  The name itself most properly refers to Origanum syriacum, which I gather to be a type Middle Eastern oregano, but is also used to refer to this spice mixture, which often contains sesame seeds, dried sumac, salt and other spices.  This stuff is seriously delicious and I put it on everything, from hummus and dressings to simply on top of tomatoes on toast for an easy lunch.  It's fragrant with an herby and tangy favor.  If you would like to read more about it, click here.

Za'atar can be really hard to find, especially here in Germany.  I had been on the hunt for it for years literally...since 2010 or so!  So, when I finally got my hands on some, I couldn't have been more excited or more grateful that I got two huge bags full!  I got both Jordanian za'atar and the Lebansese variety, which has a stronger more distinct flavor, from someone who was recently traveling in the Middle East.  It is possible to buy za'atar on Amazon, so I would suggest starting there if you can't find it at the supermarket.  

These recipes are easy and perfect for a simple summer dinner or lunch.  Unfortunately, I kind of just eyeballed everything as I was cooking so they're a bit unspecific, but it's really more the idea worth trying than anything else!  

Za'atar Chicken and Vegetable Salad
serves 2 (most likely with leftover vegetables and chicken for wraps the next day, unless one person is a huge eater) 

2-3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into pieces
2 medium zucchinis, length cut in half, then cut into long quarters (to make little sticks) 
8 mushrooms, sliced 
200 g spring greens
1/2 of a small red onion, thinly sliced
1 large tomato, cut into wedges
1/2 can chickpeas (I scoop them out with a fork and leave the leftovers in the juices in the can)
Sprinkling of cooked bulgar (I bought mine at the grocery store, pre-cooked and seasoned) 
Fresh ground pepper
Olive oil
Jamie's simple dressing

Mix the za'atar, a couple of teaspoons of cornmeal, a big pinch of salt and a few cracks of pepper in a shallow dish.  Make enough so that it looks like it will cover all the veggies and the chicken you have.  I did about a ratio of 3/4 za'atar to 1/4 or less corneal.  Rub the zucchini and mushrooms with a little olive oil and get a little heating in a skillet on medium heat.  Place the mushrooms in the pan and sprinkle with a little of the za'atar mix. Dip the oil rubbed zucchini and mushrooms in the za'atar mix to coat them well.  Add them to the pan when the mushrooms have cooked for a minute.  Let all of this sauté for about 5 minutes or until the zucchini is tender but not soft.  Remove from pan and set aside.

Now dip the chicken in the za'atar mix to coat completely, as you would if you were breading the chicken (it should look like it is breaded).  Cook in the same skillet you used for the vegetables to cut down on the number of dishes you have to do.

Once the vegetables and chicken are cooked, start preparing the salad. (This gives them time to cool down, which is how I prefer it, as I don't like warm chicken on my salads. You could prepare the salad before starting the vegetables if you prefer these ingredients warm.)

Mix together greens, sliced onions, chickpeas, bulgar and most of the dressing.  Put into two large deep plates.  Top with mushrooms.  Arrange tomato wedges and zucchini in a spoke pattern and then top with chicken. (Reserve some chicken and vegetables for wraps if you want them for the next day.)   Drizzle a little more dressing on top and garnish with parsley or mint.

Za'atar chicken and vegetable wraps with hummus

Leftover chicken and vegetable from the chicken and vegetable salad
Hummus (homemade or store bought)
Tortillas, wraps or pita bread that suits your dietary needs
Spring greens
Sliced tomato

Spread hummus on your bread of choice.  Top with leftover chicken and vegetables, lettuce and tomato.  Enjoy!

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