I've discovered that being a grown-up has its perks -- shocking, no? :) The first that comes to mind is that you can have cake (and only cake) for dinner. Been there, done that, recipe coming this week. You can also stay up until 2AM watching a hockey game on the West Coast when you need to wake up five hours later for work. You can even buy whatever groceries you want without having to worry about someone telling you that your sister/father/mother doesn't like that food so please, Katy, try to pick something that everyone likes. One drawback? When you're buying the groceries, you will do anything in your power to avoid wasting food because it's directly your money that's going into the trash. I shudder at the thought.
Though it's not as glamorous as dishes taken from the pages of Gourmet or created from a craving, meals are occasionally thrown together in an attempt to use up an ingredient or two that has been lingering in the pantry for weeks that I refuse to waste. That ingredient happened to be dried dates. I know. "What on earth possessed you to buy dried dates?"
You see, we've become obsessed with Larabars, in which dried dates are a key ingredient. So, per Matt's suggestion, I bought dried dates. Out of the whole bag, I've had one and he's had maybe three, that's it. (In case you're wondering, they taste a bit like a raisin only bigger.) I've learned that they're just not my kind of snacking food.
Determined not to waste the dates, I found a recipe that mixed them with chopped apples to be served over spiced chicken -- apparently a Moroccan dish. Was I a little skeptical? Absolutely. But that's understandable since this is pretty far outside my typical chicken comfort zone. Was I glad I chose this recipe? You betcha! This dinner was a party for the senses, and everyone is invited.
The first thing that hit me was the smell of the cinnamon. It's not surprising that this is the predominant spice in such home-warming dishes as apple pie and oatmeal raisin cookies... this spice just spreads comfort wherever it goes. What about the taste? Though my smeller was drunk with scent of cinnamon, my taste buds jumped at the cumin flavor. I'm a little ashamed to admit this, but before this dish, cumin was something that I'd usually skipped in recipes because I didn't have it and didn't think it would matter. Well, I have it now and will never overlook it again, scout's honor! (If you're unfamiliar with cumin, think the predominant spice in taco seasoning and falafel... bold, warm, and so smoky.)
The sweet apples and dates are the perfect counterpart to the savory chicken. The apples are slightly tender but still have a tiny crunch to them, while the dates are sweet and chewy. I honestly couldn't decide which to eat first, the chicken or sweet topping. I don't know about you, but often I prefer to eat the plain parts of a main dish first, saving the more flavorful dressed or sauced parts for last. That was not the case for this chicken. Oh what a dilemma to have -- what to eat first?
Cinnamon-Spiced Moroccan Chicken
(adapted from Whole Living)
A few notes: Though the apples and dates round out this dish completely, don't hesitate to make just the spiced chicken alone. It is that good, trust me. It's been added to my favorite chicken recipe mental file. And hey, couldn't we all use an uber easy and exciting twist on boring chicken? Perhaps serve with some steamed spinach and rice or couscous.
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup dried dates, roughly chopped
2 medium apples, peeled and chopped into small pieces
Cooked brown rice, for serving (optional)
In a large resealable plastic bag, combine 3 teaspoons of the cinnamon, the cumin, chili powder, and salt. Add chicken, seal, and toss well to coat evenly.
Heat olive oil in large nonstick skillet. Saute the chicken over medium high heat until no longer pink in the middle, about 5 minutes on each side. Remove chicken from skillet to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.
Saute apples and dates in skillet for 1 minute. Sprinkle the remaining 1 teaspoon of cinnamon over the fruits and toss to coat, cook for 1 additional minute. Spoon apples and dates over chicken and serve warm. Enjoy!