It’s all a numbers game. How many are home on a given night? How many of those who are home will actually eat what’s for dinner? Tricky calculations. With summer underway, and three out of four kids away for July, the numbers are now in my favor. I now have a little more flexibility in the things I can cook. With no more worrying about allergies, likes, and dislikes, I can actually try something unusual or different. But, ironically, now that I am cooking for half the family, I almost feel like, well… like there’s no one to cook for. It almost doesn’t feel worth it. (No offense to the family members who are still home!)
But, we gotta eat, so cook I must, and cook I will.
Now that I have free reign, so to speak, I feel I must try some ingredients that are usually banned from the house. I should rephrase that, because nothing is actually banned from the house, it’s just that no one eats them except me. Exotic ingredients, unusual combinations, never before seen recipes — you get the point. To some people, this may be everyday fare, but for others, they are dishes which will never see the light of day.
I’ve decided that I am going to try one or two new recipes a week this summer. Not a crazy, overwhelming amount of cooking, but enough to feel creative and exciting. And guess what else? I don’t mind eating leftovers, so there will be no complaining. No “What? Chicken again?” or “We already ate that!” Or, at least not as much complaining with fifty percent of the complainants gone.
So, to start off my summer of exciting cooking, I will make a Moroccan chicken recipe that is amazing. How do I know it’s amazing? Because I’ve made it before, way before the kids knew they could make requests, and before I really knew what they liked and didn’t like, or what they really hated!
This chicken has tomatoes and eggplants and almonds. By the numbers, two don’t like tomatoes, three don’t like eggplant, and one is allergic to almonds. A dish like this is generally a non-starter as it’s usually not worth it with those numbers, but with the current standings there is only one member of the family who won’t eat tomatoes or eggplant. The other two eat it all! So, the numbers work in my favor and I win!
Moroccan Chicken with Eggplant, Tomatoes and Almonds
Adapted from “Bon Appetit” (2004). Although the ingredient list is long, it is well worth the effort!
- 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 3 cups quartered and sliced onion
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
- 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground fennel seed
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 2 cups drained diced tomatoes
(from 28 oz. can)
- 1 cup water
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 8 chicken thighs, skinned
- 8 drumsticks, skinned
- 1 large eggplant, unpeeled, cut into
1 inch cubes
- 1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
- Chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and garlic. Cover and cook until the onions are soft, stirring occasionally. (About 5-7 minutes.) Add all the spices and stir for about 1 minute, until fragrant. Add tomatoes, water and lemon juice and bring to a boil.
Arrange the chicken in a single layer in the skillet. Spoon some sauce over the chicken. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Turn chicken over and simmer another 20 minutes, until chicken is tender.
While chicken is simmering, place diced eggplant on baking sheet and toss with remaining 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Bake until soft and brown, about 25 minutes. Chicken and eggplant can be made 1 day ahead, but keep refrigerated separately.
Stir eggplant into chicken, and simmer uncovered 10 minutes to heat through. Season with more lemon juice, salt and pepper, if desired. Transfer chicken to a large shallow bowl and spoon vegetables on top and sprinkle with almonds and cilantro.
By Rachel Berger