Chicken Shawarma Salad
I think it's appropriate, maybe even imperative, that a light, fresh dinner come your way. After all the sugary, doughy, fried and baked food marathon we had over the holidays, it's time to shift back to something healthy. And not because January One is on the horizon. I generally dislike delineating foods as healthy. It categorizes them as good or bad, as something that would be of interest only to the green juice-obsessed, kale inhaling, organic types. Of which I wouldn't mind being one of, but since I've moved out of LA, I think I'm automatically disqualified. Really, I think health is about biting into something vibrant that nourishes the body just as it craves. It's something that fits into your routine and lets you and others experience the pleasure of good food. I can say this Chicken Shawarma Salad does that, and more.
The method of roasting the chicken slathered in spices, chopping it, and then lightly frying it in olive oil yields something that rivals your favorite fast food shawarma. The outside crisps up while the inside of the dark meat stays juicy. I paired it with an Israeli salad because of its ease and simplicity, and natural compatibility. Also because my eight year old can chop it up and assemble it herself. I'll take any help I can get.
I generally make the shawarma spice blend myself. I'm not a spice alchemist but I think the combination is just right and I feel better knowing what's in my blend. A store bought one works just as well. You might be tempted to serve the chicken after it's first roast but I assure you that the extra step of frying it makes all the difference. It explains why I was left with an empty pan and hopeful sets of eyes looking for a third and fourth round. You can serve it with pita, as I did, or even laffa. Add tahini, hummus or babaganoush on the side and there's dinner.
Chicken Shawarma Salad
For the Shawarma spice blend,
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon cumin
½ tablespoon ground coriander
½ tablespoon garlic powder
½ tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt or sea salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
A pinch of ground chile pepper or cayenne pepper (optional)
For the chicken,
2 heaping tablespoons of shawarma spice blend
3 tablespoons olive oil
1.5lb chicken thighs, skinned and deboned
3 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered or cut into eight
3 cucumbers, diced
¼ red onion, finely diced
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Juice from 1 lemon
Salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 425F. In a small bowl, combine the spices and set aside. Place the chicken in a mixing bowl and sprinkle with shawarma spice and oil. With your hands, rub the spices into the chicken and transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Roughly chop the meat into strips.
Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil and fry the chopped chicken until the edges crisp, stirring often.
To make the salad,
In a bowl, combine the cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, and cilantro. Add the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and toss to combine. Top with shawarma chicken and serve.
Note: If you want to cook and reheat the chicken at a later time, don’t fry it until the edges are crisp, but rather still soft so when you reheat it the meat won’t dry out.
If you want to keep leftovers overnight, store the salad and chicken separately.