Tandoori Chicken with Mashed Chick Peas and Pepper and Onion Salad

Let me start by saying the title of this recipe totally undersells it. It’s much more delicious than it sounds, but I wasn’t feeling creative enough to come up with another name. (It’s Sunday, what can I say?) The recipe — Tandoori Chicken with Mashed Chick Peas and Pepper and Onion Salad — comes from Rachael Ray’s “Big Orange Book” cookbook. And while it sounds kind of blah (pepper and onion salad — cue the Price Is Right loser sound) it has such great Indian flavors going on — cumin, cardamom, ginger — and the pepper and onion “salad,” which is actually more like a veggie topping for the chicken, is bright and fresh with lime juice and hot pepper rings and cilantro. And it adds a fantastic crunch.

What Rachael calls “mashed chick peas” is actually pretty much a warm homemade hummus. It’s got a subtle garlic undertone (not too strong) — I would actually eat this with pita or raw veggies just for a snack. It was delicious! Double the recipe and you’ll have enough for leftovers and some snacking.

You can choose to eat this how you like, but I cut the pita into quarters and made little mini pita sandwiches out of each one with a layer of chickpeas, then chicken and veggies. Crisp up the pita a little bit and it’s even better. I ran out of the yummy chick peas and salad before I got through the chicken, so I actually had to make some more of both so I could finish up my leftovers.

I made this last week for a Friday night in with Melissa and Kim — it was a hit, especially the chickpeas. This is definitely a “make-again.”

TW’s Tips

  • I find that Rachael Ray always calls for way too much meat in her recipes — I used just 3 chicken breasts, halved, and it was more than enough. I skipped the thighs altogether.
  • Because one half of the chicken breast was much thicker when I halved them, I chose to pound out the thicker side a little so the chicken cooked more evenly and it was all done around the same time. Just throw it in a Ziploc (get all the air out first) or put it between layers of plastic wrap, and use a meat mallet to thin it out a bit.
  • If you want to substitute out the yellow pepper, you can use red or orange, but don’t use green. The taste is entirely different and not nearly as sweet as the multicolored peppers.
  • I used just a quarter of a red onion.
  • If the chickpeas look a little dry, just add some more chicken stock as they cook.
  • Tahini paste can be a bit hard to find at the grocery store, but most spots carry it these days. Look in the ethnic food aisle; it comes in a jar (mine is plastic) and looks a little like peanut butter. Make sure you stir it up well before you scoop some out because the oil rises to the top.

Tandoori Chicken with Mashed Chick Peas and Pepper and Onion Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 2 inches grated ginger root
  • 4 cloves garlic, grated, divided
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons coriander
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3 tablespoons plus some for drizzling extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut across in 1/2
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cans chick peas, drained
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup tahini paste
  • 1 small red onion, very thinly sliced or 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced or 1/2-inch dice
  • Hot banana pepper rings, drained and chopped plus 2 tablespoons juice
  • Handful fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 1 lime, juiced, plus 1 lime, for garnish
  • 4 pita breads

Directions

Preheat oven to 500 to 550 degrees F, as high as it goes. Cover a baking sheet with foil and set a baking rack on top if you have one – not necessary but use it if ya got it.

Place yogurt in shallow dish and combine with ginger, 3 cloves grated garlic, chili powder, coriander, paprika, turmeric, cardamom, cumin and 2 tablespoons oil. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and coat in sauce. Arrange on baking sheet and roast 20 to 25 minutes until juices run clear.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add 1 clove grated garlic. Pulse chop the chick peas in food processor then add to garlic oil and season with salt and pepper. Mash with chicken stock and tahini and reduce heat to low.

Combine red onion, bell peppers, chopped hot peppers, to taste, 2 tablespoons hot pepper pickle juice, cilantro leaves, lime juice. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Wedge the remaining lime, reserve.

Warm and crisp pitas in hot oven last few minutes chicken is roasting.

Serve chicken with lime wedges to squeeze over top. Serve mashed chick peas alongside. Top the chicken with pepper salad. Cut pitas in half and pass at table.

Taste of the Middle East: Chicken Shawarma

I love ethnic food, but cooking it at home can be tough. Most of the time, I feel like the flavors don’t come out quite right and I’d rather eat it at a restaurant. But this Middle Eastern dish turned out amazingly well. The marinade for the chicken is made up of a flavorful mix of spices, including smoky cumin and cardamom, which is a strong, aromatic spice that I think tastes a bit floral. It’s expensive, so I recommend buying a small amount from a grocery store like Henry’s that sells spices in bulk.

The recipe is from Rachael Ray’s “Just In Time” cookbook — she calls it “Make your own take out.” Shawarma is typically made with meat roasted on a spit — the cook will shave some off the big hunk of rotating, roasting meat and throw it in your pita. This version is healthier and less mystery-meat-esque. The yogurt-tahini sauce puts it over the top. It’s tart and nutty and ties all the flavors together in the pita — hit it with some olive oil on top before serving.

TW’s Tips

  • I used pepperoncinis instead of banana pepper rings and they were a great hit of spiciness.
  • I’m not a huge onion fan, so I halved the red onion.
  • Don’t bother cutting up the parsley — just tear off some leaves and throw them in the pita.
  • Use whole wheat pitas if you want to be healthier.
  • Make sure you use red and yellow peppers instead of green. They’re sweeter.

Chicken Shawarma

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground cardamom
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon grill seasoning (Montreal Steak)
  • Juice of 1 lemon, divided
  • 1 large clove garlic, grated or finely chopped
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO), divided
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I used two large breasts and it was plenty)
  • 1 large red onion, sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups Greek yogurt
  • 4 pitas
  • Banana pepper rings (optional)

Preheat an indoor or outdoor grill to high.

In a bowl, combine the coriander, cumin, cardamom, chili powder, paprika and grill seasoning. Add the juice of half a lemon, the garlic and about 3 tablespoons EVOO and stir until it is paste-like. Slather the mixture all over the chicken until it is well-coated.

Transfer to the grill and cook on each side for 6-7 minutes, until cooked through. Remove from the grill and let the chicken rest before thinly slicing. Once the chicken is working, preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat with 2 turns of the pan of EVOO, about 2 tablespoons. Once you see the oil ripple, add the onions and peppers, and season with some salt and pepper.

Cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes until the veggies start to wilt. Once the onions are working make the sauce: In a bowl, combine the juice of the remaining half lemon, the tahini, yogurt, some salt and a small drizzle of EVOO. Mix to combine.

Place the pitas on the grill to warm them and give them a light char, about 1 minute on each side. To assemble, place some of the sliced chicken on each pita, top with some of the pepper and onion mixture, and a good dollop of the yogurt-tahini sauce.