Don’t you just love it when life throws you off guard with an unexpected, yet delightfully pleasant surprise? Like when a two-minute make-up job ends up beating your usual stare-into-the-mirror marathon. Or when you’re at a loss for words, then suddenly, poetic grace miraculously flows from your mouth. Or in my most recent case, when a last minute, somewhat remiss meal turns out to be something that simply must become part of your permanent repertoire.
I guess it just goes to show that not all delicious dishes require exotic ingredients and hours of preparation. Indeed, there truly are healthy, quick, taste bud-tantalizing gold mines out there. And this is one of them.
Now, I'm already a huge fan of Mediterranean food. Just ask the Kabob joint by my office. In fact, I think in appreciation of my loyalty, they should seriously consider naming their shawarma/fatoush combo meal after me. So it comes as no surprise that a meal with similar flare would be welcomed with open arms to my dinner table.
But there are so many other reasons why I love this recipe, too. One of the biggest is the fact that I had all the ingredients on hand, aside from the onion and pepper. And that, my friends, is a huge plus in my book. Not that I don't like grocery shopping. I do. But two-hour ingredient stakeouts on Friday nights are getting kind of old, so this was a nice break.
Another great quality this meal possesses is simplicity. You gotta love a recipe with only one small paragraph of instructions. Take the chicken, for example. Instead of the usual, three-bowl, flour-egg-breadcrumb drippy mess, it only required a quick toss in a little seasoned flour and it was in the pan. And thanks to the thyme, it smelled like heaven while cooking and had a great, Greek flavor.
After four wonderfully-scented minutes on each side, I was seriously ready to dig in (what you can’t see in the photos are all the pieces I cut off for “necessary taste tests”). But my chicken was still a little pink in the middle, so instead of just keeping it warm, I covered and baked it for about ten minutes at 350º while I prepared the veggies.
And what the chicken left behind in the pan was glorious – a display of tiny, tasty caramelized bits, which I later learned is called “fond,” that were about to bring loads of flavor to my peppers and onions. And by adding the broth and white wine vinegar, I began “deglazing” the pan, something I always hear on cooking shows, which loosened all that fabulous fond and created a flavorful sauce.
And let me tell you. We melted, too. It was delicious. And yet so simple and fast! I was planning on making some garlic couscous for a side, but it slipped my mind in all the excitement. It probably would have made the perfect accompaniment, but even without it, this dish was fantastic.
This is truly a meal anyone can make, any night of the week, all while barely lifting a finger. Well, aside from the eating part. That is definitely a step you won't be able to avoid.
Thyme & Feta Chicken with Peppers & Onions
Cooking Light, October 1999
Yield: 2 servings
Yield: 2 servings
Cookbook Note: Crumbled feta cheese and fresh vegetable strips bring the flavor of the Mediterranean to the table in no time with this quick all-in-one dish.
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram or thyme (I used thyme and highly recommend)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 (4-ounce) skinned, boned chicken breast halves
1 teaspoon olive oil
2/3 cup red bell pepper strips
1/2 cup vertically sliced red onion
1/3 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1/4 cup (1 ounce) crumbled feta cheese, divided
Oregano sprigs (optional)
Combine first 4 ingredients in a shallow dish. Dredge chicken in flour mixture. Heat oil in a nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add chicken, and cook 4 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove chicken from pan; keep warm. Add bell pepper, onion, broth, and vinegar to pan; cook 5 minutes or until vegetables are soft, stirring frequently. Spoon bell pepper mixture into a bowl; stir in 2 tablespoons cheese. Return chicken to pan, and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons cheese. Cover; cook over low heat 2 minutes or until cheese melts. Divide the vegetable mixture evenly between 2 plates, and top each serving with a chicken breast half. Garnish with oregano sprigs, if desired.
Nutritional Information: Calories: 234 (28% from fat), Fat: 7.3g (sat 2.8g,mono 2.7g,poly 0.7g), Protein: 29.8g, Carbohydrate: 8.2g, Fiber:1.3g, Cholesterol: 78mg, Iron:1.8mg, Sodium: 461mg, Calcium: 95mg.