Grilled Greek Chicken and Mediterranean Orzo

This is an emergency request for Michelle because she’s going to cook this down in LA this afternoon.  So I’m going to post this so that she can have the list of ingredients. I’ll post pictures later to go with it. This is a delicious meal — quickly becoming one of our favorites and go-to meals to make for the week ahead.

I modified this recipe from the original Rachael Ray’s that I saw on the Foodnetwork while working out on the elliptical. I just tried to look for the recipe from her official website, but I couldn’t find it. Maybe she called it something else.

If you have someone helping to slice and dice, this should take about a half-hour to prep, and maybe another half-hour to cook the whole thing.  It’s also low-cal, but very tasty from the infusion of citrus and herbs.

Grilled Greek Chicken:

3 skinless boneless chicken breasts, cut into chunks (can use thighs, or combo — your preference)
3/4 C. green olive tapenade (or a small jar from Trader Joe’s)
1/4 C. chopped fresh oregano
1/4 C. chopped fresh rosemary
1 small bulb garlic, crushed & minced
1/4 C. olive oil (or “EVOO”, as Rachael Ray calls it)
zest of 2 lemons
juice of 2 lemons
salt & pepper

Combine all ingredients and marinate chicken pieces for at least 15 minutes before grilling. Depending on the size/thickness of the chicken chunks, grill about 3 to 5 minutes per side. If I remember correctly, this was supposed to be a kebob-type meal. Regardless, if you don’t have a grill, pan-fry over medium-high heat until chicken is cooked through. Save the sauce to spoon over chicken and Mediterranean Orzo (I’m completely addicted to this orzo dish).

If you have one of these grilling pans, you can do it over the stovetop…

(Orzo grows in size exponentially; keep that in mind before doubling this recipe. On the other hand, it is SO good, you might want to double it anyway.) (The “optional” were what I added to the original recipe).

Mediterranean Orzo

1 small red onion, finely chopped
2 small persian cucumbers, chopped
1/2 C. pine nuts, toasted (optional)
1 C. feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 C. shredded reggiano/parmesan (optional)
1/2 C. chopped kalamata olives
1 C. (or a very big handful) italian (flat) parsley, chopped
juice from 1 lemon
1/2 C. sun-dried tomatoes, chopped (optional)
salt/pepper to taste
1 C. orzo (about 1/2 package), cooked per instructions

Prepare all ingredients while the orzo is cooking. You’ll want to mix this all together while the pasta is still warm so that the cheeses melt.

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Vietnamese Chicken Curry (Cà Ri Gà)

“Curry” is a generic word typically used to describe a tasty stew of meat and vegetable. But in fact, it is a blend of spices — cumin, coriander, turmeric, clove and cinnamon being the most common. There are as many varieties of curry as there are cuisines. Most people are familiar with Indian and Thai curries, and maybe can tell the difference between the two. Thai curries come in “shades of hot”, as I call it, but the heat factor is not necessarily accurate as it also depends a great deal on the labels. Red, yellow, green curries all refer to the type of pepper that is used in the mixture. Indian curries tend to be the most prolific in term of varieties,  each region claiming its own special blend, with madras and masala being the most well-known.  Panang-style curry is also gaining popularity in the US as I have seen it listed in a few restaurants. It is typically beef (or goat in Malaysia), and is quite hot. I can still remember sitting in a small neighborhood restaurant in Panang, eating a bowl of this tasty stew (more water, please), in between hiccups (I get them when the food is really spicy hot). By the way, water does not really work. You need to drink something hot (like hot tea) to remove the pepper oils.

Now that I’m older and a little less adventurous, I have developed a few favorites that I’ll go back to time and again. I still like Grandma’s Vietnamese Chicken Curry the best, although I still can’t quite duplicate it exactly the same. In addition to sweet potato, she used this small dense root vegetable (cassava? taro?) that adds a nice starchy texture to the stew. Regardless, the recipe below is quite tasty, and is pretty easy to make. Traditional recipe calls for chicken thighs, but you can use chicken breast to cut back on the calories. Because it simmers in the sauce for a while, the breast does not come out dry and chewy. In Vietnam, we eat this dish with sliced warm fluffy french bread. Try that or serve with steamed rice.

A note on the curry blend:  We used to be able to get the 3 Golden Bells label, but I haven’t been able to find it in a while. The closest one I could find is the 4 Elephant brand. Whole Foods has several blends as well — I’m not as fond of them as the Asian ones. You can experiment with different types until you find one that you like. But stick with the yellow curry powder. And if you get overwhelmed by an Asian market, any madras curry will do.

This recipe makes a LOT of chicken curry — but we usually make a big batch and freeze for lunches. (I still love my Food Saver!) Cut the recipe by half for 4 servings.

3 pounds skinned chicken (bone-in for added flavor)
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-1/2 inch cubes
2 large carrots, sliced diagonally (about an inch thick)
2 small onions, cut into wedges
1/2 cup or so curry powder
3 shallots, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 lemongrass stalks (mostly white and pale green parts), cut into 3″ lengths and bruised
2″ piece of ginger, bruised, peeled and sliced thickly
4 cups of chicken stock (or Trader Joe’s sweet potato soup)
1 can of coconut milk
4 tbs of fish sauce (more or less to taste)
salt to taste
cilantro for garnish

Put the curry powder on a flat plate, and coat the chicken evenly on both sides. Use your fingertips to “massage” the curry powder into the chicken. Put aside for 30 minutes.

In a big skillet, add a tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat. Add onions, shallots, garlic and stir until fragrant — 10 seconds or so. Add the chicken and brown both sides. Add lemongrass and ginger. Pour on top the chicken stock (or sweet potato soup), and bring to a slow boil. Add the rest of the ingredients (except for the garnish), cover and simmer for a half hour. Discard lemongrass stalks before serving.

Ingredients I usually leave out are 3 tablespoons of sugar and 3 tablespoons of red chile flakes. I figure it’s already hot and sweet enough, but add them to your taste.

*Quick* and Easy Lemongrass Chicken with Wild Rice

Depending on the chicken you bring home, this might be a *quick* recipe or maybe not. Since I usually buy whole chicken, this tends to take a little bit longer. It still takes me at least 15 minutes to skin and debone a chicken…so if you’re in a hurry you should get deskinned and deboned chicken from the market. I just find it a lot less expensive to do the skinning/deboning at home. I also like dark/white meat combination (you get the best of both worlds) so I ended up combining both white/dark meet in the final product by “chunking” them both into the rice mixture.

Most of these dishes that I have posted can go directly into vacuum-sealed pounches for lucnh, and/or would be great for hiking and camping.

Ingredients:

1  whole chicken, deboned, deskinned, quartered (or 8 pieces store-bought chicken)
2 stalks lemongrass, ground in a spice grinder
1 T soy sauce
2 T olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1-1/2 cup of uncooked white/wild rice combination

Marinate chiken pieces with a tablespoon of olive oil, soy sauce and all the ground lemongrass for a couple of hours — longer if you have the time. In a large non-stick skillet, add 1 T olive oil and brown the onion until translucent, about 5 minutes or so over medium heat. Add in marinated chicken pieces until browned on both sides (another 10 minutes or so). Add in the rice/wild rice combination and brown for another 5 minutes. Then add 3 cups of water and simmer over low heat for 45 minutes, or until the rice is cooked.

I usually serve this with some quick/easy steamed green beans.

“Steamed” chicken with ginger-scallion sauce over brown rice medley, for Glenda B.

Dear Glenda,

Michelle threatened my life tonight until I posted this recipe for you. Truth be told, it is the EASIEST chicken dish I have ever made. (Because I really don’t have a recipe at all. I just made this up on the spot. Please feel free to edit as you see fit.)

Ingredients:
1 whole chicken
1 medium ginger (peeled, minced)
1 bunch scallions (green onions, minced)
1/2 C. olive oil
2 teaspoon sea salt
Trader Joe’s Basmati Rice Medley
Steamed greens (bok choy, cabbage, etc.)

The most time-consuming part of this is skinning the chicken. I’ve heard that real chefs can skin a chicken in less than 5 minutes. I’m getting better, but it still takes me around fifteen.  I also de-fat the chicken as I go along. You could buy chicken that’s already cut up and skinned, but I think that’s missing half the fun. Besides, the puppies love crispy chicken skin — I fry that on the side, pour all the fat off, and make a gravy for them. You can leave the skin on if you want; it would definitely add extra flavor to the chicken. Michelle doesn’t like the skin, though, so the puppies benefit. 🙂

Anyway, what you’ll want to do is to cut up the chicken into main parts: thighs, leg, breasts, wings, drums, etc. You’ll be left with the chicken “carcass” — the boney part, which is most excellent for stock. I use a cleaver and cut the boney carcass up into smaller chunks and put that in a bottom of a big stockpot. Then, layer the rest of the bone-in chicken (legs, thighs, drums, wings, whatever has bones in it). Add just enough water to cover this. (You’ll add the breast later). Put the pot on to boil rigorously for about 10 minutes or so, and then cover and simmer for about 40 minutes.

(Alternatively, you can steam the chicken. Traditional Asian recipes call for bamboo baskets over boiling water — it’s probably just as good, if not better, but I really want to make the best use of all the chicken parts, including the stock.)

Meanwhile, slice the breast sideways so that it’s half thin. Chicken breasts are tricky because they dry out so quickly. The trick, I have found, is to cook them last — for no more than 4 or 5 minutes, until they are JUST done. More than that, they become chewy. So, what I’ve done is to hold out until the last 5 minutes or so, and add them in last. If you slice them half thin, they cook more evenly and seem to retain juices much better.

 The ginger-scallion sauce is super easy to make; the trick is to cook the sauce over low heat for a long period of time to infuse the flavor. (Also, I’m not sure of the quantities, so please feel free to adjust). Warm the olive oil in a small skillet over low heat. Add the minced ginger and heat for about 20 minutes or so — you’ll want the ginger to just barely bubble. Add the minced scallions and heat for an additional 10 minutes or so. Add the sea salt to taste. The ginger-scallion sauce, to me, totally makes this dish. I don’t know what it is about this very simple flavor, but add it to steamed chicken and it just makes the whole thing “pop”.

Greens:  I use whatever is on hand. By the time I finish with the chicken, there’s a bit of stock left over. So I just cut up some greens and cook it in the chicken stock for added flavor. I like the leafier types of greens for this dish, like bok choy or chinese broccoli. Traditional Chinese steamed chicken is usually served with a boiled cabbage wedge over white rice. And lots of soy sauce.

Oh, speaking of rice. I picked up a bag of Trader Joe’s Basmati Rice Medley and wanted to try it out. It is a combination of Indian basmati rice, wild rice, garden herbs and dried vegetables (dehydrated carrots, onions, celery, red bell pepper, mushrooms, parsley, garlic, lemon peel). I love this smell. For whatever reason, it reminds me of childhood and good times. You can create your own rice medley, of course, or use just plain white/brown rice.

Normally when I post recipes, I try to include some pictures. Unfortunately, we’re fresh out of steamed chicken, so you’ll just have to take my word that it’s a really yummy dish. Let me know how it turns out if you decide to make this.

Roasted Chili-Citrus Chicken (Thighs) with Mixed Olives and Potatoes

I don’t usually follow too many recipes — mostly because I don’t want to have to remember the ingredients. But Michelle found this recipe in the October 2010 Bon Appétit, and we followed the instructions to the letter. Well, actually, I doubled the amount of citrus and doubled the amount of cilantro and parsley, and substituted sweet potatoes (yams) for the Yukon Gold.  And it was insanely good!!! So good, in fact, that I’m including it on the blog. Here is the recipe in its entirety:

Prep 40 minutes. Total 1 hour 40 minutes. 4 servings. Save some of the brine that the olives are packed in — adding a dash or two at the end of cooking is a quick and easy way to bump up flavor.

Calories 562. Fat 30g. Fiber 7g.

1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, cut into 3/4-inch-wide wedges
8 large skinless chicken thighs with bones
2 tablespoons (or more) fresh lime juice, divided
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoons finely grated orange peel
1 teaspoon ground cumin1/2 teaspon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup low-salt chicken broth
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro, divided
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh parsley
50 olives (preferably mixed colors and sizes)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Cook potatoes in large saucepan of lightly salted water until almost tender, about 7 minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, place chicken thighs on large heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle chicken generously with salt; drizzle with 1 tablespoon lime juice and set aside. Whisk 1 tablespoon lime juice, orange juice, chili powder, both paprikas, grated orange peel, ground cumin, dried oregano, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in small bowl. Rub chili mixture all over chicken. Arrange potato wedges on baking sheet, nestling around chicken. Drizzle olive oil over chicken and potatoes. Bake chicken and potatoes 20 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 425°F. Turn chicken and potato wedges; spoon juices over. Bake 10 minutes longer. Add chicken broth, 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro, and chopped parsley, stirring to scrape up any chili bits at bottom of baking sheet. Turn chicken over. Bake until chicken is cooked through and beginning to brown in spots, about 10 minutes longer.

Carefully transfer chicken and potatoes to platter, keeping potatoes intact. Place baking sheet over 2 stovetop burners. Boil sauce until reduced to 1 cup, about 3 minutes. Mix in olives. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper and additional lime juice, if desired. (This is when I added the juice of another whole lime). Pour sauce over chicken and potatoes; top with remaining tablespoon cilantro and serve.

BTW, I used a whole cut chicken (skinned), not just thighs. Even the breasts, which I usually hate (because it’s always dry and chewy), turned out really moist and tender and good. I would imagine the thighs would be best in a recipe like this, but if you are super conscious about white meat, this is a good recipe for it. The picture does not do it justice.

Also, because of all the juice, I would recommend serving it with couscous or rice or something to soak up all that tasty goodness. And, just so you are aware, the paprika adds quite a bit of heat. 🙂