I’ve developed a new habit.
In our new house, the mailbox is no longer at the end of the driveway. It is conveniently located right outside our front door attached to the house (PS- it was originally this tacky, faux gold color that I updated with Annie Sloan paint and is now a lovely shade of Paris Grey. Her stuff is amazing). Anyway, when the mail comes I poke my head out the door, lift the lid, and have a look at what’s inside. I rustle though all of the envelopes and if there’s not an abundance of catalogues in there including the latest issue of Pottery Barn, I’m really not that interested (who needs bills?!).
So, I close the lid and go back inside… without the mail.
Who on earth does that?!
I’m only telling you this because I am blatantly staring at my front door right now, while eating this at my kitchen table. The mail is right there. I just can’t do it.
Now that I’ve completely embarrassed myself, let’s talk about this dish. Shall we?
It’s like a Middle Eastern stir-fry served on a bed of cracked wheat (bulgur). Bite-sized pieces of chicken are dusted in cumin and paprika, and sautéed with garlic until fragrant. The meat is removed from the pan and then the eggplant goes in- I love thick slices of golden, creamy eggplant. The chicken returns to the pan for a final warm through, along with a can of chickpeas. Transfer to a bowl and work it with some olive oil and fresh lemon juice.
Feta makes a late arrival, but is always welcome.
Speaking of habits, healthy grain salads are something that I make quite often at home for lunch (like this one!). Greens are my usual go-to, but something like this is very satisfying and unexpectedly different. It will definitely keep you going… you know, for that long walk to the mailbox ;)
- There are several varieties of eggplants to choose from. I’ve found that the long Japanese eggplants are the best to sauté and fry. They tend to hold their shape very well and are easy to slice. If you cannot find them, choose one that is small and firm.
- One of the best tricks for cooking eggplant (to prevent it from becoming mushy) is to use a non-stick pan. A eggplant is a like a giant sponge and will absorb oil or moisture very quickly. With a non-stick pan, you can use less oil allowing the eggplant to stay somewhat firm on the outside and creamy in the center. It also helps to monitor the heat; too hot and it will burn, too low and it won’t cook. Somewhere in the middle is just right.
- 2 c. cooked cracked wheat (bulgur)*
- 2 chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1/4– 1/2 tsp. cumin
- 1 tsp. sweet, smoked paprika
- 2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 Japanese eggplant, cut into half moons
- 1 can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 2 lemons
- 1/3 c. roughly chopped parsley
- 1/2 c. crumbled feta
- olive oil
- salt + pepper
- parsley springs
- extra lemon
*I use instant cracked wheat from Trader Joe’s.
- Cook the cracked wheat according to the package instructions. Set aside until ready to use.
- In a large bowl, add the chicken and 1 tsp. of olive oil to coat. Add the cumin, paprika, and season with salt and pepper. Toss well.
- In a large non-stick skillet, warm a splash of olive oil over moderate heat. Add the chicken and half of the garlic. Saute until golden brown and the chicken is cooked all the way through. Remove from the pan and transfer to a plate. Keep warm.
- In the same pan, add a little more olive oil. When it’s hot, add the eggplant and the remaining garlic. Season with salt and pepper and saute until golden.
- Add the chicken back to the pan along with the chickpeas. Stir to warm through.
- Transfer the chicken, eggplant, and chickpea mixture to a large bowl. Add the cracked wheat. Drizzle with olive oil and the juice of 1 lemon. Taste the salad, and add additional lemon juice and salt and pepper as needed.
- Top with fresh parsley and crumbled feta.
- Garnish with parsley sprigs and extra lemon.
- Serve warm or at room temperature.