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Thursday, October 11, 2012

*shawarma chameleon.

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My darlings, I'm ever so sorry for the unintentional hiatus I inadvertently went on—I can't think what has been going on that would distract me from blogging ...

Could it have been the collapsed laundry room ceiling? Or the lizard in my lap? Or the overdrawn checking account? (Don't laugh—this is only the second time in my life I've overdrawn my checking account, because I am a NERD and this hurt me in my NERD PRIDE.)

Things have been ... happening. I rightly suspected that whole lap-lizard thing was an omen, and while I try not to get trapped into feeling sorry for myself (after all, my life is full of wonderful things for the most part and a spate of bad luck happens to us all now and again), I do believe I was right. And that feeling does tend to make one a bit wary. Of ever leaving the house again.

Or it would, I suppose, if the house itself were not the problem.

BUT! While everyone in the world who has a roof over his/her head runs the risk of having that roof fall on said head and everyone in the world who has a checking account runs the risk of tripping over the boundary fence, NOT everyone in the world has a wonderful brother willing to come assess her structural damage and a wonderful sister willing to buy her lunch until her ship comes in.

So I am lucky. (As for the lizard, however, I'm on my own.)

You'd be right, then, to assume that I made these golden pockets a couple of weeks ago, back when the coffers were full (all things being relative) and the sky firmly in place.

This was born of a nostalgic need for shawarma, a foodstuff I first fell in love with in the wee hours of the morning a few blocks off the ole college campus. (Note: This place was not nearly this fancy 10 years ago. There's a Web site? There's delivery? But really—check out those hours. Brilliant. Note to self: Move to city.)

This isn't exactly as I remembered; there is no way to recapture amazing spit-roasted flavors devoured hungrily at 3 in the morning when you're 19. But it was a reasonable facsimile for someone cranking determinedly toward 40 and regularly in bed before 11.

ALL of that credit, though, goes to The Shiksa, whose recipe for shawarma at home was the basis of this dinner. Please do take her advice and use a mixture of white and dark meat; it really does make a difference. I also attempted her tahini sauce, but it was an abysmal failure—I genuinely truly think I ended up with some past-its-shelf-date tahini. Both my sister and I agreed that something was really very off about the taste. (Given the nature of my neighborhood markets, it is not unreasonable to suspect that this tahini had ... been there a while.)

Instead, I whipped up a mixture of cucumbers, tomatoes, and chickpeas with Greek yogurt and dill, which made for a lovely garnish on the sandwich (if perhaps a somewhat suspect cultural mashup). Though if you're not a fan of cultural mashups you might well have a heart attack that I smothered the whole bit with shredded Kasseri cheese and ended up with something along the lines of shawarma quesadilla.

I am nothing if not contrary.

But look at that beautiful color! (Thank you, turmeric.) The texture of the chicken is just as it should be; dry and smoky on the outside and tender inside. And the spice mixture has an exotic-to-American-palates stretch of the imagination that I really loved—while the chicken was roasting I was all, "This is going to taste like pumpkin pie!" but the end result was genius.

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Chicken Shawarma Flatbreads with Kasseri Cheese

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon allspice
¾ teaspoon turmeric
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt
Black pepper
Cooking spray
6 whole wheat flatbreads
Green leaf lettuce leaves
1 small red onion, sliced
¾ cup grated Kasseri cheese


1. Cut chicken breasts into 6 pieces each and thighs into 4 pieces each. Place chicken in a medium bowl. Add ¼ cup olive oil, cumin, and next 6 ingredients; sprinkle with ¾ teaspoon salt and &frac14 teaspoon black pepper, and mix thoroughly with your hands until chicken is evenly coated. Cover bowl with plastic wrap; marinate at least 1 hour or overnight.

2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, and spray foil with cooking spray. Place chicken on baking sheet in a single layer. Roast chicken, turning once halfway through, 15 minutes or until done.

3. Remove chicken from oven and chop into small strips and pieces. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet over medium heat; cook chicken, in 2 batches, 3 to 4 minutes or until chicken browns and crisps. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper, if necessary.

4. Top flatbreads evenly with lettuce leaves, sliced red onion, and chicken; sprinkle with cheese. Makes 6 servings.

 

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I am a work in progress. I perpetually need a hair cut. I'm totally devoted to my remarkable nieces and nephew. I am an elementary home cook and a magazine worker bee. (Please criticize my syntax and spelling in the comments.) I think my dog is hilarious. I like chicken and spicy things. I have difficulty being a grown-up. Left to my own devices, I will eat enormous amounts of cheese snacks of all kinds.

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