A brief statement of purpose

There are already about a billion food blogs, so what might be a justification of yet another one, and who am I to do it?

What I aim to do in this blog is more than simply provide recipes. While recipes of my own will, in fact, be posted, some of the blog will consist of a variety of comments about restaurants and their practices, food preparation tips, personal annoyances (such as loud restaurants and the epidemic of misspellings on menus), and whatever else pops into my head relating to what we put in our mouths (and swallow, I hasten to add). The whole thing is meant to be somewhat provocative. I hope, if nothing else, it won't be boring. I, of course, solicit reader participation.

As for who I am and why I think I might have something to contribute to public discussions on this essential and pleasurable activity - eating - you'll have to click here.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Mideast stuffed chicken breasts

Chicken breasts, boneless and skinless, 1 or 2
Eggplant, 1 large or 2 or 3 Japanese eggplants
Liquid smoke, 1 tsp
Tahini, about 4 Tbs
Lemon or lime juice, 1 or 2 tsp
Garlic, 1 Tbs minced
Salt and pepper
Sumac, 1 or 2 tsp
Fava beans, 16 oz can with liquid
Yellow bell pepper
Kalamata olives
Make the tabbouli first. If there is a Middle Eastern store near you, you could just purchase it. It appears increasingly in prepared form in many grocery stores. Some are better than others. There are many recipes on the web. Here’s one: Buy some medium cut bulgur, put a cup of it in a bowl, pour a cup of water over it, stir a bit, and allow to sit for an hour or more. At the end of this soaking time, squeeze out any remaining water. Put 4 Tbs olive oil and 4 Tbs lemon/lime juice in a bowl and stir to emulsify. Mince a cup or more of either curly or flat-leafed parsley (opinions differ in the Mideast as to the proper ratio of bulgur to parsley). Combine the parsley and the bulgur. Mix in the dressing and toss in a tablespoon or less of cumin. Minced onions are a nice addition. Tomatoes are sometimes added, but unless you have access to homegrown ones, don’t bother. There should be a Federal law against labeling those things in grocery stores “tomatoes”. Call them instead “somewhat red spherical things of little flavor undeserving of a place in any produce section”. I sometimes wonder how many people have eaten only these abominations and have concluded, “Hmmm, if this is the taste and texture of tomatoes, I think I can do without them - except maybe in a hamburger.” These people will go to The Place From Which No One Returns the poorer for it. Now, after I've criticized store-bought tomatoes, you'll notice some of them in the photo above. Cherry tomatoes from your local grocery store can be very satisfactory.
All right, now for the chicken. Flatten them just a bit and cut a horizontal opening in them. Cut the eggplant in half, place in a 400 degree oven cut side down and roast for 45 minutes or so until soft when poked with a fork. Extract the flesh, removing most of the seeds, which is sometimes difficult. Try to find Japanese eggplant which have fewer seeds. Add the liquid smoke to the flesh. Place the eggplant, the garlic, the tahini, the lemon juice, salt and pepper, and the sumac in a food processor and puree. Remove and set aside in a saucepan or microwavable container for rewarming later. Rinse out the bowl of the processor.

Place the canned favas and their liquid in the processor and puree. You could add some ground cumin or coriander if you like. Place in a saucepan for heating.
Chop the yellow bell pepper and sauté. Set aside. 
In the cavities you’ve created in the chicken breasts, put in the eggplant-tahini mixture. Some will leak out in the process of cooking. Duct tape or industrial-strength staples might prevent this, but there are downsides to these techniques. Best just to accept this partial loss of the mixture. Sauté the chicken. 
Spread the pureed favas on a plate, put a chicken breast atop, and scatter about the bell pepper pieces. Spoon out the tabbouli on the side. Toss in some Kalamata olives.
A note about sumac: It’s a crushed berry which is, in fact, related to the poisonous sumac bush. Not to worry, though; they’re only botanical cousins and you will not endure an itchy stomach. Look in Middle Eastern or Indian stores for it. Whole Foods may have it and Penzey’s Spices will have it. There is no substitute. 
More on tomatoes: Is it a vegetable or a fruit? Botanically, it’s a fruit, but the US Supreme Court decreed it a vegetable over a century ago. For a précis or the decision itself, google Nix v Hedden (149 US 304).

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