Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Lebanese Chicken and Chickpea Stew

Hello winter.  I was wondering when you were going to arrive.  Now, here you are, full force.  Not that I'm complaining, mind you.  I actually really like cold weather.  I love the way cold air feels against my face and the way it makes me feel completely awake and alive.  I love bundling up to go outside, coming home to a warm house, and cooking meals that stick to my bones and keep me warm from the inside out.  This meal totally fits in that category.  

I made it for some of my girls one night.  We've started a tradition we call "sweatpant suppers."  The three of us get together at someone's house, drink some wine, chat, and enjoy a homemade meal along with each others' company.  But no cutesy, fancy outfits here!  No, no, no.  We have a strict dress code of sweatpants, workout gear, yoga pants, and the like.  Make up is optional.  It's pretty great.

We haven't had a bad meal yet, but this one may have been my favorite.  It's great for you--packed with protein and bursting with bold spices.  It smells delicious from the get go and it's a cinch to make, which means it's a great option for a busy weeknight or a fun dinner when you want to spend time with friends instead of your stove.  Plus, you'll only need one pot to make the stew.  (Two if you make the rice to go with it.)  

So celebrate winter!  Bundle up, pour yourself a glass of wine, and cozy up to this outstanding meal.

This lean, protein-packed meal is bursting with bold flavors and is guaranteed to keep you going strong, even on the coldest of winter days.

Lebanese Chicken and Chickpea Stew
adapted from Inquiring Chef

3 TBSP olive oil, divided
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 large garlic cloves, minced or pressed
2 TBSP ground cumin
1 TBSP ground smoked paprika
2 TBSP tomato paste
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 bay leaves
2 (14.5-oz.) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 c. chopped roasted red peppers (I used jarred)
2 TBSP fresh lemon juice
3 TBSP chopped fresh parsley
brown rice, for serving
plain Greek yogurt, for serving
lemon zest (from juiced lemons), for garnish

1.  In a heavy soup pot over medium-high heat, warm 2 TBSP of the oil.  Season chicken with salt and pepper, then add it to the pot and cook until well browned, 8-10 minutes on each side.  Transfer to a plate.

2.  Reduce heat to low and let the oil cool for 1 minute.  Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add cumin, paprika, tomato paste, and red pepper flakes.  Stir until a smooth paste comes together, 1 minute more.  Add chicken back in along with any juices.

3.  Pour 4 c. of water into the pot.  With a wooden spoon, scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, then add in the bay leaves.  Increase heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until chicken is tender, about 20 minutes.  Stir occasionally.  

3.  Transfer chicken to a plate.  Add the chickpeas to the pot and cook for 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, shred the chicken.  Add it back to the pot along with the red peppers and lemon juice and cook until warmed through.  Taste and adjust seasoning.

4.  To serve, heap brown rice into individual bowls, then add stew.  Garnish with a dollop of Greek yogurt, chopped parsley, and lemon zest.

Yield: 4 servings