Thursday, September 16, 2010

Mediterranean Chicken Flatbreads with Baba Ganoush, Pickled Onions and Feta Cheese

This dish has become a regular on my dinner table.  It was inspired 5 years ago, after moving to DC and meeting my husband, Jeremy.  I was immediately smitten and knew Jeremy was special when he told me he had just bought a leg of lamb from, of all places, Costco - my favorite!  We spent hours on the lamb, infusing it with garlic and olive oil and grilling/smoking it low and slow over charcoal on the roof deck.  Then we built an amazing sandwich with the lamb and grilled eggplant.  Most of the time, however, slow cooking for 4+ hours is not an option.  This recipe has been transformed over the years, still capturing the essence of the original dish, but now it can be easily prepared after a long day's work.

Left: the inspiration - grilled lamb sandwich.  Right: the new, easier recipe

Here are the ingredients you'll need:

  • 1 pound ground chicken breast
  • 1 package of feta cheese
  • 1 package of flatbread or naan
  • 1 cup packed stale bread 
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup parsley
  • 4 scallions
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 eggplant
  • 1 red onion
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 3 tbs olive oil 
Start by roasting the eggplant.  Heat an oven to 400 degrees and roast a whole eggplant for 30-40 minutes, until the skin whithers and the eggplant looks like it will collapse.  It is okay if the skin looks burnt, since you will peel it off later.  Once done, remove the eggplant and allow it to cool on the counter for about an hour.

Eggplant after roasting

While the eggplant is roasting, pickle the red onions.
  • 1 red onion sliced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
Cut up one large red onion, place onion slices into a bowl add red wine vinegar, salt and sugar.  Marinate the onions in a jar or bowl in the fridge for 3 hours or up to a week.  The longer they pickle the more they become sweet and sour and the harshness of the onion melts away.  These onions are a great way to add crunch and coolness, and they cut the richness of the other ingredients with their acidity.

Pickled red onions with the chicken mixture in the background

These chicken patties are healthy, easy to make and tender - thanks to the bread and milk mixture, called a panade.

  • 1 cup stale bread
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 pound ground chicken breast
  • 4 scallions diced
  • 1 tsp red pepper flake
  • 1/2 cup parsley
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
Pour the milk into a medium sized bowl, and soak the stale pieces of bread.  A helpful hint: I love fresh bread from the bakery but hate that it becomes stale so quickly. So, I freeze all my stale bread to use for panades to help make meatballs, meatloaf or patties like these tender - plus, it is a great way to use leftovers.  Back to the recipe: add the scallions, parsley, red pepper flakes, salt and egg to the panade, and mix together with your hands. Another tip: to ensure proper seasoning, take a dime sized portion of the chicken mixture, cook it in a skillet and taste it. Once you are happy with the seasoning, place the chicken mixture in the fridge for up to 24 hours, or portion out servings and freeze.  Defrost in the fridge when ready to use.

Once the eggplant has cooled it is time to make the baba ganoush.

  • 1 roasted eggplant
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp red pepper lakes
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp salt (varies according to taste)
Cut the roasted eggplant in half and scoop the flesh out into a bowl.  Add the olive oil, red pepper flakes, lemon juice and salt.  Use a stick blender to puree until smooth and creamy.

All of the components mentioned above can be made in advance and stored in the fridge for 24 hours. The chicken patties can be cooked in 15 minutes, so dinner can be made quickly after a busy work day.  Form the chicken mixture into elongated patties - about 2 inches wide, 1/2 inch thick and 6 inches long.  Heat a nonstick skillet on medium.  Once hot, add 1 tbsp olive oil  and then the chicken patties.  Cook the patties for about 4-5 minutes on each side, until nicely browned.  Remove and allow them to rest for 10 minutes.  While cooking the patties, toast the flat bread or naan with a little bit of olive oil and a light sprinkling of salt.

Time to build your sandwiches!  Spread the baba ganoush on the toasted flatbread, top with a chicken patty and finally add the pickled onions and feta cheese.  Wrap up and enjoy!