Wednesday, July 29, 2009

GUEST POST: Chicken Shawarma (Insert Shawarma Pun Here)

Kris and Leigh (that’s us) are on vacation this week, so we asked some of our most hilarious friends to pen guest columns for CHG. Today’s post comes from occasional contributor and fabulous cook Rachel.

For real, now: have you guys seen the August Food & Wine? Because sweet Alice Waters on a soapbox, it's awesome. Deeply, wonderfully, guy-who-founded-Le-Pain-Quotidien-spills-his-guts awesome.

With that said, I need to backtrack a little. I read the August issue before getting around to July's F&W. July is good, but after August's wonderment, anything short of Eric Ripert standing in my kitchen and being all, "After we eat this dinner I've lovingly crafted, let's make zee amour," would have been disappointing. (C'mon. You know you've thought about it, too.)

July still had a few things that lept out at me--specifically, F&W's simplified version of chicken shawarma. Shawarma is a Middle Eastern staple, and generally involves some combination of meat, vegetables, and yogurt sauce or dressing. It sounded delicious, and while I usually look more towards French and Italian inspirations, curiosity (and a brimming CSA basket) were reason enough to give it a go. Fairly fast, suprisingly satisfying, and really CHG-able, Jeff and I declared this one a repeat-worthy dinner. Because of the crumbly nature of pita, she ain't always the prettiest daisy in the school play, but by the time we stopped to care about the imperfect visual, we'd already cleaned our plates.

(This is also dish that really capitalizes on the virtues of ethnic markets. My local merchant charged me $.75 for six beautiful pitas, and the spices were practically free.)

There was just one hitch: yogurt. I'm the nerd who can't do dairy and this recipe called for a full cup of plain, low-fat yogurt. My intolerance has made me pretty skilled with subsitutions, so I hopped on the webternet and found this recipe at It turned out really, really well.

Tofu Sour Cream
(Created by Matt Eberhart)

1 10.5-oz package of lite silken tofu(firm), crumbled
1 tbsp. canola or olive oil
4 to 5 tsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. of any sweetener
1/2 tsp. salt

1) Combine everything in a food processor or blender. Blend until all creamy-like. Store in fridge.

I whipped up a batch, used a cup of this instead of the yogurt, and it totally did the trick. So, without further ado...

Chicken Shawarma
Serves 6
From July 2009 Food & Wine

1 pound zucchini, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/2 pound green beans
2 tsp. olive oil, divided
Cooking spray
Kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
4 large skinless, boneless chicken thighs
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup of vegan sour cream
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Six 6-inch pitas, split horizontally
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
Smoked paprika

1) Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with foil, and coat with cooking spray. Spread the zucchini and green beans on the baking sheet, coat again with cooking spray, and season with salt.

2) In a small bowl, mix allspice, black pepper, white pepper, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, and 1 tsp. of olive oil. Coat chicken with paste. Salt to taste. Place on a separate foil-lined baking sheet.

3) Roast chicken for 15 minutes on lower rack in the oven. On the upper rack, roast the veggies for the same amount of time. Poultry should be cooked when finished. Take out veggies. Broil chicken about 10 minutes, turning once halfway through. Slice into long strips.

4) While those are cooking, in a small skillet, heat remaining 1 tsp. of olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic. Saute until fragrant, about 30 to 60 seconds. Turn heat off. "Whisk in the tofu mixture and lemon juice." Salt to taste.

5) Place pitas on a cutting board, cut side up. Brush each with 1-1/2 teaspoons of sauce. Evenly distribute chicken, veggies, and red onion among them. Roll the bread into wrap-form.

6) Get out a heavy pan. Heat it over medium-high. Place rolls on pan seam side down. Cook 2 minutes. Flip. Cook 2 more minutes. It should be "golden and crisp" when done. Cut rolls in half. Sprinkle with paprika. Serve.

Rachel is an actor, writer, and aspiring cook. Given the opportunity, she will charmingly talk your face off about food.

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