Recipe du Jour

Moroccan Chicken

grilled-moroccan-chicken-platter-575x423

MOROCCAN CHICKEN

This fall it was my pleasure to provide healthy recipes for a new fitness book hitting the shelves in 2017 (a long time from now…I know!) The authors—fitness expert extraordinaire Obi Obadike, and one of his many celebrity success stories, Morris Chestnut—graciously let me inject my own culinary sensibilities into their book, with the caveat that the recipes not exceed 500 calories each. This wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be, and I am eating much healthier because of it.

One of my favorite recipes of the bunch is this Moroccan Chicken.  It relies heavily on Harissa, which I make from scratch, but you don’t have to. It helps if you can marinate your chicken for at least 6 hours—overnight if possible. I suggest that, if you are trying to follow a low calorie count, you should marinate and cook a few extra pieces to keep them on hand (in the fridge or freezer) for a number of meals. It makes eating healthy a little easier! You are less likely to want to order a pizza if your Moroccan chicken is ready to heat and eat!

Ingredients

2 4-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon coconut oil

1 tablespoon paprika

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground caraway

½ teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon sea salt

2 cloves garlic, minced

Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

¼ cup cilantro, chopped

1 teaspoon sesame seed

¼ cup harissa

Method

  1.  Combine chicken with sesame oil, coconut oil, paprika, cinnamon, caraway, cumin, sea salt, garlic, lemon zest and juice. Toss well to coat thoroughly, then refrigerate overnight to marinate.
  2. Cook the marinated chicken on a grill, or sauté until browned on each side (about 5 minutes per side) and finish in a 350°F oven for 20-30 minutes.  Chicken is done when the internal temperature reaches 165°F.  Cool chicken for 5 minutes, then slice on the bias and garnish with cilantro, sesame seed, and harissa. Serve with garlic-roasted sweet potato, eggplant, roasted red chiles, roasted cauliflower, or a combination.
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Techniques

Zesting

lemonzest
Zest is the outer-most rind of any citrus fruit. It’s where all the color is and, not coincidentally, all the flavor too. The zest is loaded with essential oil and is crucial to any good citrus-based recipe.

I prefer to use the finest holes of a grater for this task. It takes the zest off in small enough pieces that they can be added right into a recipe. There is a groovy tool called a microplane that does an excellent job of this. (The microplane is a carpenter’s rasp fitted with a stylish handle, and sold for mega-bucks at kitchen gadget emporiums. Any old rasp from the hardware store will do the job.)

A tool I do not like nearly as much is the zester. One might think that because it is named zester, it is the perfect tool for the job. Not so! It strips zest off in long pieces which must then be chopped fine with a knife. (An extra step? No thanks!) Also, the zester frequently digs too deep, pulling up the white bitter pith underneath the zest. Not good.

Take care when grating zest that you do not grate too much off. The fruit should look naked when you’re done, but still round.

Zest can be harvested and frozen for later use. Keep it in a zipper bag in your freezer for last-minute citrus inspiration.

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