How to Cook Up a Middle Eastern–Inspired Dinner in Just 30 Minutes

My dad’s Lebanese, so cooking up recipes infused with Middle Eastern flavors is well within my comfort zone. I have multiple containers of tahini in my pantry, my spice jars of allspice, cumin, marjoram, sumac and oregano are always full, and when I visit my family, I leave extra room in my suitcase so to bring home jars of Dad’s pickled turnips.

Middle Eastern food is all the rage right now, thanks to the popularity of chefs like Michael Solomonov and Yotam Ottolenghi. And that’s great for us all, since we can find more—and better-quality—Middle Eastern ingredients at many large supermarkets.

While some classic Middle Eastern recipes take a long time to prepare, Za’atar-Roasted Chicken Tenders & Vegetables with Couscous can be on your table in just 30 minutes. Here’s how we get it done fast:

1. Za’atar: Spice blends like za’atar give you big flavor from just one ingredient; it’s a mix of thyme, sumac, salt, sesame seeds and sometimes other herbs. Look for it in the bulk-spice section of natural-food stores, in specialty food stores or on amazon.com. Want to make it yourself? Blend 1 teaspoon each ground sumac, sesame seeds and dried thyme with 1/4 teaspoon salt. (Feel free to make a bigger batch to stash in your pantry—it’s great for sprinkling on anything you’re roasting.)

2. Chicken Tenders: They require zero prep (just rip open the package) and cook in a snap because they’re so thin, which makes them perfect for fast weeknight meals. The tender is typically found attached to the underside of the chicken breast, but they can also be purchased separately.

3. Couscous: Many whole grains take 30-plus minutes to cook, but whole-wheat couscous is ready in 5. It’s a flavor sponge, so serve with a saucy dish or try stirring fresh herbs or citrus juice into it. If you don’t always like the taste of whole-wheat, don’t worry—it’s mellow in couscous.

 

Carolyn Malcoun,

 

 

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