Because I grew up in the country, I didn’t have a large variety of cuisine to sample from. The standard spices in the recipes of my Midwestern region tend to be salt, pepper, and sugar. Lots of sugar. While I love the delicious food I grew up with, and I still make a lot of those traditional recipes, I didn’t really know beauty of other cuisine until Robert and I moved to Columbus. As with most larger cities in America, Columbus is a melting pot of cultures and nationalities. This means there is a plethora of ethnic restaurants just waiting to inspire the taste buds of diners. I was introduced to spices like turmeric, saffron, and garam masala. It was educational and delicious all in one.
Perhaps our favorite discovery, though, was The Olive Tree in Hilliard. It was at this Mediterranean restaurant that we found the magic of chicken shawarma. Shawarma, by definition (thanks to a quick, highly technical google search), refers to the method of preparing meat by roasting it in a vertical, rotisserie-type of device called a spit. It’s also often served with hummus or tahini and eaten with pita. I think I originally ordered this because it reminded me of the post-credits scene in the movie The Avengers, but not even the acting skills or Robert Downey Jr. could have prepared me for the deliciousness that was served. A gorgeous medley of amazingly-seasoned chicken and vegetables were sitting atop a silky swirl of creamy homemade hummus and accompanied by pillowy soft pita. Robert and I were both hooked and there was a fabulous stretch of time when we ordered take-out from The Olive Tree about once a week because we had shawarma fever.
It’s fun and exciting to try new foods. It adds to a richer experience in life and it broadens one’s worldview. Just as we have the ability to evolve and mature as individuals, we have the ability to allow our tastebuds to do the same. Now more than ever, we have access to previously hard-to-find ingredients and there are millions and millions of incredible recipes at our fingertips thanks to the Internet. I’ve happily added this chicken shawarma recipe to our family’s rotation of meals. It’s a great way to shake up the classics and it has actually become a meal that I would classify as a comfort food. It reminds me of many convivial moments dining with friends and family and it nourishes both the body and the soul.
- 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 4 bell peppers, julienned
- 1 large red onion, sliced thinly lengthwise
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 4 teaspoons cumin
- 4 teaspoons paprika
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- 1 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- Pinch of cayenne
- Salt and black pepper
- Pita bread
- Feta cheese, optional
- Fresh basil/cilantro, optional
- Make two separate batches of the marinade: in 2 separate small bowls, whisk together 1/4 cup olive oil, 2teaspoons cumin, 2 teaspoons paprika, 1/2 teaspoon all spice, 3/4 teaspoon turmeric, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, pinch of cayenne, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Place chicken in a zip-loc bag or bowl and pour one of the bowls over the chicken. Ensure the pieces are coated evenly and refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight. Cover other bowl of marinade and set aside to used for vegetables.
- Grill the chicken: heat grill to medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Transfer chicken to a plate and cover with aluminum foil and allow meat to rest for 10 minutes.
- Sauté the vegetables: Add about 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat. When skillet is hot, add the peppers and onion and the other bowl of marinade. Stir the mixture with a wooden spoon to ensure vegetables are evenly coated. Turn down the heat of the stove to medium and cook until peppers and onions are soft, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Plate and enjoy: After the chicken rests, cut into strips. Swirl a generous amount of hummus on a plate or bowl. Add a scoop of the sautéed vegetables and then a few pieces of chicken. Top with feta cheese and fresh basil or cilantro. Serve with pita bread. Enjoy!
Source: Tori Avey