Lebanese Chicken and Rice

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No matter where you live on the planet, what your ethnic background may be, how old you are, or how well you cook, chicken and rice tops the list of favorite comfort foods around the world. For most of us, the smell and taste of chicken and rice evoke some of the best memories of childhood. The chances are good that your grandmother always made this delicious, filling and healthy dish for you whenever you came to visit and she passed the recipe on to your mother.

My mom’s easy recipe, of course, has a distinctly Lebanese flair, subtly spicing up an old standby with allspice and cinnamon to give the chicken a Middle Eastern flavor while pungent almonds and pine nuts turn the rice from a staid side dish into a crunchy, savory surprise.

Every Lebanese family serves a version of this dish handed down from mothers to daughters and every daughter thinks their mother’s version is the best.  I’ll admit I’m no different.   The smell of the chicken broth and the butter-toasted nuts still conjures images of my high school years and the pure bliss of snuggling up on the couch with a big bowl of leftovers.

1 whole roasting chicken

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

2 cinnamon sticks

 

2 cups long grain rice

1 tablespoon butter

2 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon allspice

2 teaspoons cinnamon

4 cups reserved chicken broth

 

1/4 cup sliced almonds

1/4 cup pine nuts

1 stick butter

1. Place whole chicken in a stock pot and add enough water until the chicken is just barely covered. Add the cinnamon sticks, salt and pepper. Simmer over a medium heat until the chicken is tender, about 1 hour.

2. When the chicken is done, remove it from the pot and set it aside to cool and reserve the broth.

3. Wash and drain the rice. In a medium pan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter, add the rice and sauté for 2-3 minutes.

4. Mix in the salt, allspice and cinnamon, stir and add the reserved chicken broth. Bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until the rice is tender.

5. While the rice is cooking, sauté the almonds and pine nuts in butter until golden brown, about 3 minutes.

6. Debone the chicken and set the pieces aside.

7. On a large platter or wide-mouthed bowl, create a mound of rice in the center. Pour the nuts and butter over the rice. Arrange the chicken pieces around the rice.

Serve with a  green salad dressed with lemon, oil, and garlic.

serves 4-6

Sahtain!

 

 

Lemonade with Orange Blossom Water


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I am so happy to see the sunshine.  It’s making me want to cook, sit outside, and dine with friends again.  I don’t know about you but I tend to hibernate from January to March, and my alter ego Elizabeth takes over.  Yes, I named her.  She’s the “ugh” side of me.  The sluggish, wanna-stay-on-the-couch-and-not-answer-the-phone side.  I blame her for all my negative attributes, down to my inability to spell.  Sssh..

So  I decide to sit outside, write about some recipes I’ve been meaning to post but haven’t because I’ve been busy not answering the phone and such…  Dug out some old shorts and headed outside with the dogs. Although the glaring reflection of my pale legs is a little disconcerting (well, very disconcerting) I fight the urge to go in and change my clothes.   “Who cares?” One thought says to the other.  “No one can see you.” Considering the dark conversation I was about to have with myself I stifled the response to concentrate on the more productive task at hand.

In an effort to enhance the joy of the moment I made a batch of lemonade with orange blossom water.  My mom use to make this for us when we were young and I hated that she put orange blossom water in it.   For the life of me I couldn’t understand why she couldn’t just make things the way everyone else did.  My friend’s mothers didn’t put that stuff in their lemonade.   Of course, it’s my favorite way to make it now.   The orange blossom adds just enough floral note to balance the tang of the lemon.  Taste like summers gone by.

This wasn’t on my list of recipes to share today, but is seems to have taken over my thoughts as I sip and relish the sun with my dog-children frolicking near by.  I hope you try it and tell me what you think.

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This ain’t bad with a little vodka if you are so inclined. Add a little muddled fresh mint and you won’t be mad at me.

On to the next recipe!!  Sahtain!!

Lemonade with orange blossom water

1 Cup Lemon Juice

4 to 5 cups water

Stevia to taste for the sugarless version or

1 Cup sugar

1 Cup water(for the simple syrup)

1 teaspoon orange blossom water

I try not to consume sugar if I can help it.  So my version is the sugarless version. I love liquid stevia.  NuNatural liquid stevia is my favorite.  It has no after taste and if I don’t tell my kids it’s not sugar they never know.    Add the lemon juice and water together. I like mine tart so I may not add that fifth cup of water depending on the tartness of the lemons at hand.  It’s up to you.   Stir in the stevia to taste, add the orange blossom water and you’re done.

If you prefer sugar.  Make a simple syrup by heating the sugar and water together in a sauce pan.  Make sure the sugar dissolves completely.  Let the syrup cool or refrigerate before mixing with the lemon juice, water and orange blossom mixture.  Adjust by adding the simple syrup gradually to taste.  If you need more tang add more straight lemon juice.

Serve with ice, lemon or lime slices or a twig of fresh mint.

 

Milani Chicken

cropdoneMuch like many newlyweds of my generation, when I first got married, I spent a lot of time in the kitchen trying to find my bearings and pretend I knew what the hell I was doing.   My mom and cousin were on speed dial for traditional Lebanese food assistance and just basic technique direction. There were so many opinions in my family about how and what to cook I found myself struggling to develop an approach for my tastes and style.  One time in particular I remember having a craving for the chicken kabobs my cousins served in their restaurant.  I didn’t have their recipe but I really wanted something a little more crunchy and garlicky.  Milani Chicken was born.   Even though I didn’t stray very far from home and tradition, my first original concoction has stood the test of time.  It’s a favorite of my family and friends and in permanent rotation in our household.  It also fueled my confidence as a young cook and opened the door for more experimenting in the kitchen.

My son Oliver loves the brown, crunchy bits of garlic the best  He comes behind me and scapes every last morsel from the pan.  If you don’t let the garlic get really toasted and brown then this recipe will just be another chicken dish.  Let it brown and then let it brown a little more.  Just like the pictures.  xoxox

4 boneless breast of chicken
One head of garlic mashed with a mortar and pastle
Juice of one lemon
1/2 C olive oil
2 heaping tablespoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Mash the garlic with a mortar and pestle

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2. Cut the chicken in cubes. Add all ingredients and mix.

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3. Spill into a hot non-stick pan and sautéed to coat each piece.

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4.Reduce the heat and allow the chicken and garlic pieces to brown.

5.Stirring occasionally.

Not ready yet. Almost!!
Not ready yet. Almost!!

This dish is done when the garlic is brown and crunchy and each piece of chicken is a caramel color at least on one side.

Now it's done!!
Now it’s done!!

Great on the paleo diet wrapped in lettuce.

For the non-paleo diet See below

Wrap in some pita and topped with cucumber dressing, lettuce, onion and tomatoes and life is good!!  Need a video?  click here

Cucumber Dressing

2 C shredded cucumbers
2 C Sour Cream
2 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 1/2 salt

Shred cucumbers and lightly squeeze out excess water. Add all ingredients mix and enjoy!  Sahtain!!

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