A quick recipe for Middle-Eastern spiced lemon chicken breasts, savory fried chickpeas and herby green tahini sauce. Serve with pita, whole wheat bulgur or couscous.
Minimal prep and maximum flavor — those two things are at the top of any busy (and hungry) person’s priorities. Here’s a recipe that delivers that: Citrusy lemon chicken rubbed with the Middle Eastern spice blend za’atar, served along with quick-fried chickpeas and an herby tahini sauce (with even more lemon!).
This is a great recipe to make with pantry staples like canned chickpeas and tahini and it doesn’t require much time to put it all together.
Cooking a complete meal in less than an hour (and a one-dish one at that) makes me very happy, especially when it’s a perfect marriage of interesting flavors and textures. In this case, plain chicken breasts get spiced-up with citrus and za’atar. The whole dish has a Levantine flair, tied together with feta cheese, flash-fried chickpeas and an herbal green tahini sauce.
What is za’atar?
Za’atar (zahtar) a/k/a “magic dust,” is both an herb and a seasoning blend. Confused?
The herb, which is also known as Syrian oregano or hyssop, is related to mint and oregano and grows wild in the Middle Eastern regions of Lebanon, Syria and Israel, as well in Mediterranean areas of Southern Europe.
As a spice blend za’atar has varying components depending on region. But for the most part, it’s basically a mixture of the dried za’atar herb, thyme, sesame seeds and sumac. It’s deeply aromatic in a way that will remind you of oregano times 10, with a splash of grass, pepper and a hint of smoke.
You can often find za’atar in the spice section of large supermarkets, spice shops and definitely on Amazon.
If you can’t find za’atar and want to make this recipe, mix a quick homemade blend: Combine equal amounts of crushed or ground thyme, sumac and sesame seeds in a small jar and shake together. Can’t track down sumac either? Try mixing in freshly ground black pepper and ground coriander instead (not authentic, but it will taste wonderful).
za'atar lemon chicken with feta, fried chickpeas and herb tahini sauce
Yield 4 servings
Quick, delicious recipe for Middle-Eastern spiced lemon chicken breasts, savory fried chickpeas and herby green tahini sauce.
Serve with toasted pita, whole wheat bulgur or couscous for a one-dish meal.
Herb Tahini Sauce:
- 1 garlic clove
- 3/4 cup Italian parsley leaves
- 1/2 cup fresh basil or mint leaves
- 1/2 cup tahini
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 cup cold water (plus additional as needed)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- Grated zest from 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons prepared za'atar seasoning
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped or pressed
- Kosher salt
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained
- 1 teaspoon crushed red chili pepper (or to taste)
- Kosher salt
- Make the Herb Tahini Sauce: Pulse all the ingredients in a small food processor until smooth. Add more water if necessary to achieve a loose mayonnaise consistency. Taste and season with more salt if you like. Sauce keeps in the refrigerator up to 3 days ahead.
- Mix the lemon zest, juice, olive oil, za'atar, garlic and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Add the chicken breasts and toss to coat with the marinade. Set aside to marinate for 15 minutes or cover and refrigerate up to 4 hours.
- Cook the chicken on a preheated medium-hot grill until cooked through, about 8 minutes per side. If cooking on a stovetop, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and coat lightly with oil. Cook the chicken until golden brown and cooked through, about 8 minutes per side. Remove from the heat and let rest 10 minutes.
- To make the chickpeas, place a large skillet over medium-high heat until a drop of water sizzles on the surface. Add the oil, chickpeas, chili pepper and salt to taste. Fry the chickpeas, stirring frequently for 5 minutes or so until they become crisp and golden.
- Slice the chicken breasts into 1/2-inch pieces and arrange on serving plates. Pour some of the tahini sauce over the chicken. Top with the chickpeas, feta cheese and chopped parsley.
Courses main course/poultry
Cuisine middle eastern/mediterranean