Happy New Year! I hope your new year has been relaxing. It’s very cold here on the East Coast (in some places, it’s reported to be colder than certain places on Mars, thankfully not where I am!). Before the holidays, I signed up for a subscription for the magazine Milk Street, which is Christopher Kimball’s approach to “new home cooking.” It has relatively easy recipes from exotic locations, with nice introductions and descriptions of the dishes and their cultural significance. Needless to say, my husband and I fell in love with it and signed up for a subscription quickly.
We came across this recipe and were both intrigued. I haven’t had or cooked Palestinian food before, and neither had he. And, surprisingly, I did not have a bottle of ground sumac on my massive, 5 level spice rack. So, this was a good excuse to purchase ground sumac on Amazon and give it a try. I bought some chicken thighs from Costco, got the rest of the ingredients at my local grocery store, and decided instead of their recommendation of pita breads, I would make my gluten free plantain flatbreads.
This dish is called “musakhan,” in Palestine, and apparently it is served traditionally during the olive harvest. It contains a copious amount of sumac, which is made from deep red berries of the sumac bush. It has a pleasant, citrusy flavor, and is very tart. The article mentioned that before the Romans introduced lemons to Europe, sumac was the main source of tartness. This magazine is full of fascinating tidbits like this, although it is usually buried in the long description of how the author came upon the dish, lengthy travel-related descriptions, etc. Sometimes I just like the interesting facts about the history and culture of a dish, and skip a lot of the “author-y” parts talking about their friends and their family, how that particular restaurant looked or served their food, and other fluffy details.
And so, here are my modified recipes for the chicken and flatbreads! I also served the chicken with extra vegetables because I wanted it to taste more varied, and have extra nutritional content. Enjoy!
Palestinian Sumac Chicken
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed
- 1 tsp kosher salt and black pepper 1/2 tsp of each
- 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil divided
- 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts divided
- 1 large yellow onion halved
- 4 cloves garlic thinly sliced or minced
- 4 tbsp ground sumac divided
- 2 tsp sweet paprika
- 3 cups water
- 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley chopped
- tahini to serve
- 1 package organic grape tomatoes halved
- 1 whole seedless organic cucumber diced
1. Wrap the chicken in paper towels to dry. In a large cast iron Dutch oven over medium high high, melt 1 tbsp of the oil until just smoking. Add as much chicken as fills one layer at the bottom, and cook until browned, about 5-7 minutes per side. Continue to cook the chicken in batches as needed, adding oil if needed. Set aside all seared chicken on a separate plate.
Chop half of the pine nuts (ideally in a food processor, but if you don't have one, I usually put them in a plastic bag and beat it with a meat tenderizer, just be careful not to rip the bag!). Heat 2 more tbsp of oil in the Dutch oven. Add the onion and cook while stirring for about 5 minutes until softened.
Add the garlic, chopped pine nuts, 3 tbsp of ground sumac and paprika. Cook for about 30-60 seconds, then add the water and bring to a simmer. Return the chicken to the pot, cover, and reduce the heat to medium low. Cook until tender, about 26 minutes.
Heat the oven to 450 degrees F with a rack in the center position. Use a slotted spoon to take out the chicken, place it in a bowl, and shred the meat with two forks. Bring the liquid to a simmer over medium high, and stir until most of the moisture has evaporated, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Return the chicken to the pot and stir in the remaining 1/4 cup of pine nuts. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Cover and set aside.
Brush the pita with olive oil and arrange on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for about 5-7 minutes until browned on the edges. Sprinkle both sides of the pita with ground sumac. Stir the parsley into the chicken. Serve on top of warm pitas with tahini drizzled on top.
- 1 medium ripe plantain
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup coconut or dairy milk
- 1 1/2 cup tapioca starch
- 2 tbsp ghee or palm shortening
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
Peel and chop the plantain. Put the pieces into a food processor and blend on high for about 30 seconds, or until pureed.
Put the rest of the ingredients in the food processor (except for the tapioca starch) and blend until completely pureed.
Add the tapioca starch to the mixture, but blend into the puree with a spatula first, until most of the starch is blended into the mixture (and not sticking all inside the processor). Blend for 1 minutes or longer, until the puree is completely uniform.
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line two or three baking sheets with parchment paper (yield can be unpredictable, and these may need more space than you think). Take a 1/4 cup measuring cup and portion out individual flatbreads about 3 inches from each other on the parchment paper. The batter may run a bit, but it does not run when baking, so just make sure there is plenty of space between each on the parchment paper.
Bake for 10 minutes, rotating baking sheets halfway through baking. The flatbreads should puff up a bit and be golden around the edges. When cool, you can store them in the refrigerator for several days, but they freeze even better. You can take them out of the freezer, pop them in the toaster, and voila!