Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Spice of Life

Variety is the spice of life, so I assume that using spices might add some variety to my culinary repertoire.

While looking for recipes which rely on spices that I have in our spice cabinet, I came across this in an old issue of Everyday Food Magazine:

Chicken Tenders with Cucumber Salad and Chickpea Couscous
(from Every Day Food Magazine)


- 1 (1 pound) seedless cucumber
- 1/2 cup whole flat-leaf parsley leaves
- 1 to 2 tablespoons white-wine vinegar
- 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
- Coarse salt and ground pepper
- 1 can (15.5 ounces) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1/3 cup raisins (I left them out)
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 1/2 pounds chicken tenders
- 1/2 cup couscous


1. Make salad: Quarter cucumber lengthwise; slice quarters 3/4 inch thick diagonally. In a medium bowl, combine cucumber, parsley, vinegar, and 1 tablespoon oil. Season with salt and pepper; toss to coat. Set aside.

This is where I had to call my dad and read him the recipe so he could translate for me.

"What does it mean to quarter cucumber?" I asked.

"You cut them in quarters."

"Yeah, but what does that mean exactly?"

I'm a bit dense when it comes to directions sometimes. Without a video connection, my dad couldn't demonstrate.

"Don't worry. I'll figure it out," I reassured him.

When I got off the phone, I cut the cucumber in four pieces lengthwise and then did my best to slice them diagonally. But, the pieces looked too long, so I cut them again.

2. Make couscous: In a small saucepan, combine chickpeas, raisins, 1 teaspoon oil, 1 cup water, 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, and 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper; bring to a boil. Stir in couscous, and cover pot; remove from heat. Set aside (at least 5 minutes) while cooking chicken. Fluff couscous gently with a fork before serving.

This was the easy step. I left out the raisins since I don't like raisins in my food (except for Raisin Bran).

3. Make chicken: In a medium bowl, combine ginger, coriander, 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, and 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper. Add chicken and toss to coat.

This was surprisingly easy and fun. The only question I had was: what are chicken tenders? Are they like chicken nuggets or cutlets? I'm still not sure, but I used chicken breasts and they did just fine.

4. Cook chicken in two batches: Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high; add half the chicken, and cook until browned, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate; add remaining tablespoon oil to skillet, and repeat with remaining chicken. Serve with cucumber salad and couscous.

I cheated and cooked the chicken in one batch. Basically, all I did was coat the chicken with spices and sautee it in oil. I kept checking to make sure it didn't get overcooked. Amazingly, I pulled it out at the perfectly tender moment.

When Avo got home, he was thrilled to see dinner on the table waiting for him. Usually, I just make one or two dishes, so making three separate things to complete a balanced meal was a big accomplishment for me.

He bit into the chicken first.

"Delicious!" he exclaimed.

He looked at the cucumber salad and crinkled his nose.

"I wasn't sure if I cut it the right way," I explained, showing him the recipe.

"You're supposed to hold the cucumber lengthwise and then cut it once horizontally and once vertically so you get quarters."

"Oh! Now I get it," even though I still a bit confused.

I admit the cucumber salad looked weird, it was crunchy and refreshing (and a worthwhile companion to the spiced chicken).

The couscous, however, was too mealy and bland. Next time, I'll try to spice it up some more (maybe some garlic would help?)

NOTE: Photo courtesy of Martha Stewart's Everyday Living (my meal didn't look nearly as photogenic).

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