Unlike yoga pants, white trainers, and fake fur, the food that we eat might be considered more classic than trendy. The fact is, we all need to eat. Basic and vital as it seems, though, food, like fashion, is not without its fads.
In 2015, there is a high-pitched buzz about food. Heat and spice will be hot in the coming year. A trend that has been growing steadily for some time now is predicted to explode in 2015. Ethnic cuisines from all over the world, with a focus on new and exotic flavors, will take the stage.
Is it because we are just bored and want something else for dinner? Or is it because we now work and live with people from all over the world and, like people do, we share our food and, in the process, discover something new that tastes delicious? It’s probably all those things and something more. The health of our nation is a growing concern. In our desire to eat for wellness, we’ve discovered many elements of global cuisines that possess health benefits we need while keeping our diets interesting and tasty.
Also on the rise are recipes highlighting umami vegetables, which are foods that exhibit the “fifth taste” that give food a pleasant desirable characteristic that our taste buds are naturally attracted to, such as sweet potatoes, mushrooms and nori. This year, try using a Japanese Seven Spice mixture in your recipes, or a flavorful Middle Eastern Shawarma Spice Blend.
My recipe for Chicken Shwarma converts what has been a restaurant recipe into a dish that can be prepared at home. The Shwarma spice blend is a cure for taste buds that are tired of the same old chicken dish. It’s an adventurous way to kick off a New Year.
SHAWARMA SPICE MIX
Makes approximately ¼ cup
Toasting the spices in a dry pan for 1 minute before using them
in a recipe enhances the flavors.
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon ground oregano or thyme
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon ginger
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
Mix ingredients together. This spice mix will keep in an air-tight container for
about 4 weeks.
Makes 4 servings
1 ½ lbs thinly cut skinless, boneless chicken breast
1 lb thinly cut skinless, boneless chicken thighs
½ cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons tomato sauce
4 tablespoons plain, Greek yogurt
3 tablespoons white vinegar
1 head of garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons Shawarma Spice Mix
3 Roma tomatoes, sliced into thick rounds
4 pita bread rounds
Rinse the chicken pieces with cold water then cut horizontally into thinner cuts of about ½ inch (each piece could possibly be split into 2 slices depending on thickness). Place the chicken pieces in large bowl.
Mix the lemon juice, tomato sauce, yogurt, vinegar, garlic, oil, salt, cumin, coriander, salt, oregano or thyme, paprika, turmeric, ginger, cayenne pepper, and the nutmeg in a blender. Add the spice mixture to the chicken and mix well. Cover and let marinade in the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight.
When ready, grill the marinated chicken and some sliced tomatoes using a grill pan on the stovetop. Heat the grill pan and add 2 tablespoons of oil. Or alternately, grill using a Panini grill, or a George Forman grill for about 15 minutes on medium heat. You can also cook the chicken on a BBQ grill. Baking or broiling in the oven dry out the chicken.
Once cooked, allow the chicken to cool and then shred the chicken as thinly as possible. Traditionally, the pita bread is spread with Lebanese Garlic paste or you can use a good quality mayonnaise mixed with 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder and ½ teaspoon of lemon juice.
Spread the chicken shreds along the diameter of a piece of pita bread. Some restaurants place French fries inside of the sandwich. Others add a cabbage and mayo salad, along with salty Middle Eastern cucumber pickles. You can substitute shredded coleslaw, and sliced, dill pickles, if desired, and grilled tomatoes or fresh tomatoes.