Sunday, April 20, 2014

Middle Eastern Chicken Salad


A few weeks ago I posted a chicken shawarma recipe that didn't get so much internet love, but it just so happened that as the week wound down I had all the right ingredients at home to give it another go.  I'll make the same case as I did then for the pickle really being the essential ingredient in a good shawarma-anything, and in this case it makes a quirky appearance in the dill pickle tahini dressing.  At first I was ready to try dicing up a pickle and tossing it into the tabbouleh, but as I was blending the dressing the pickle was right there and I just shoved it right in to get blended.  I'm pretty pleased with how that impulse turned out, and now I'm hoping to see pickle-flavored hummus on grocery store shelves sometime soon.  

There are a few upgrades and time-savers for this recipe.  First, I used lean chicken breast, but if your primary goal is an authentic shawarma then use thighs (or just lamb).  Mandy B. over there at Lady & Pups made an amazing-looking "halal truck" plate this week and she specifically called for meat of no less than twenty percent fat - and that's what makes those New York City halal truck so good after a night out.  To save time, and money on those pricey jars of tahini, you could easily make the dressing with some packaged store-bought hummus.  Just blend it with the pickle, pickle juice, lemon juice, spices, yogurt, and olive oil to thin it out and spunk it up.  If you are going the scratch-made route, any soft bean will do instead of cannellini beans.  While obviously chickpeas are a traditional choice, I don't have a good enough blender to get those shells to smooth out to my liking.  So red, or even black, beans would be just fine.

As a warning, if you like both dill pickles and hummus, the dressing is a little addicting.  There was a good 3/4 cup left over that I just ate straight-up by the spoon full.  If you have a bit more self control then it will make a great veggie dip.

Ingredients for Chicken Shawarma:
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts 
  • 1/4 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp. cumin
  • 1 tbsp. coriander
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. allspice
 Dill Pickle Tahini Dressing:
  • 1 cup canned cannellini beans
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 dill pickle, chopped, plus 1 tbsp. pickle juice
  • 2 tbsp. plain greek yogurt
  • 2 tbsp. tahini paste
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. coriander
  • salt and pepper to taste
 Quick Tabbouleh Salad:
  • 1 cup parsley, fined chopped
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1 tsbp. finely diced red onion
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
 Other Salad Accoutrements:
  • Salad greens of your choice
  • Sliced peppers (I used baby bell peppers)
  • Any other vegetable you like on salads...

Marinate the chicken:  In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the yogurt, lemon juice, and spices to flavor the chicken.  Dice the two chicken breasts into small (1/4") pieces and coat evenly with the yogurt marinade.  Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes, but overnight if possible.  
Make the dressing: In a blender or food processor, blend all the ingredients for the dressing.  Adjust the amount of spices/pickle/tahini to your liking.  
For the tabbouleh: Simply toss the chopped ingredients and season with salt.  
To prepare:  Heat a pan over high heat with 1 tbsp. olive oil.  Cook the chicken on high heat, browning well, for about 10 minutes.  You want the chicken crispy on the outside, but not dry.  When done, toss in 1 tbsp. of the tahini dressing and a little lemon juice.
Toss together your salad greens, some tabbouleh, and any other vegetables you want.  Add the dressing and warm chicken.  Serve.

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