One Pot Mediterranean Chicken and Vegetables (with Tahini Sauce)

So, my plan for tonight was to go to see Dave Foley tonight at the Comedy Club in Webster. I was decidedly excited. I have loved Kids in the Hall since, well, since it was first aired in the U.S. back in 1989.

However, I changed my plans. I’ve had several long days this week, and I decided I wanted nothing more than an evening at home to spend cooking, writing, and relaxing. And, quite honestly, it’s been a delight. I’m not boring, I promise, I’m just a wee bit introverted. 🙂

It has now been a whopping 9 days since I went Paleo, and I am still absolutely loving it. My energy is consistent and centered through the days, I am sleeping peacefully though the nights, and waking up feeling refreshed and energized in the mornings. It even seems like my respiratory allergies aren’t bothering me as much as they usually do, but more time will tell with that matter.

I’ve been surprised at how few cravings I’ve gotten for non-Paleo food items, especially since many of the items I cook and bake at work contain sugar and grains. However,  I continue to integrate more Paleo items into the prepared foods we offer at Lori’s, and I am just amazed and inspired by how many delicious things I can eat, and am having so much fun approaching food with creativity and exploring new ideas about ingredients, that I don’t miss the things I’ve sacrificed in the name of greater health.

With all that said, I had fun preparing dinner this evening. (Yes, I admit it, I am in love with cooking: I get home from a full day cooking at work, and I want nothing more than to cook a bit more.) I made a big batch of Mediterranean Chicken and Vegetables, which I served along with some homemade tahini sauce, and I love it! The chicken turned out tender and flavorful, the vegetables were a built-in side dish full of tasty happiness and vitamins, and the tahini sauce complemented them perfectly… and it made enough that I don’t have to worry about lunches the next several days. It will also serve as a base for a couple of breakfasts: see the note in point 7 of the directions.

The recipe calls for a whole chicken that you quarter yourself. This definitely saves you some money if you’re going for a local, organic chicken (which, of course, I suggest doing, for health, ecological concerns, and resistance to the factory farm industry): whole chickens are priced significantly less per pound than ones that have already been cut into pieces. If you are unsure how to quarter a chicken, don’t worry, Youtube will come to the rescue: I found this video to be clear, direct, informative, and accurate.

Nothing else in either the ingredients list or the directions requires much additional explanation, so here you go:

IMG_6281One Pot Mediterranean Chicken and Vegetables with Tahini Sauce

  • 2-4 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 8 oz. mushrooms, stems removed and sliced ¼-1/3 inch thick
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 red bell peppers, sliced
  • 2 zucchini, sliced about ½ inch thick
  • 1 young organic chicken (about 3 lbs.), quartered
  • ½ bunch Italian parsley chopped
  • 2 T chopped rosemary
  • 2 T chopped mint
  • 1 T chopped dill
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 8 c baby spinach leaves
  • Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 5 c filtered water

Tahini Sauce:

  • 4 oz. tahini
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 2 or 3 cloves garlic
  • ½ t paprika
  • ¼ c water
  • ½ c extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and black pepper to taste

TO MAKE THE CHICKEN AND VEGETABLES:

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. Place olive oil in a large, oven-proof stock pot: heat over medium heat. When the oil is heated, add the onion and sauté until fully translucent.
  3. Add the mushrooms and continue to sauté until the moisture that is released from the mushrooms is fully evaporated.
  4. Add the zucchini and bell peppers and sauté 3-4 more minutes.
  5. Add the remaining ingredients, stir to combine, and cover with an oven-proof lid. Bake for 75 minutes. Meanwhile, make the tahini sauce.
  6. Remove from the oven and set your oven to broil. Remove the bay leaves from the broth. Place chicken pieces under the broiler for about 6-10 minutes, turning over halfway through, until nicely browned. Remove from the broiler and serve on top of the vegetables and a bit of the broth, topped with tahini sauce.
  7. SAVE THE ADDITIONAL BROTH! A delightful Paleo breakfast can be made by heating up some of the vegetables and broth over the stove, poaching an egg, and eating it all together (with or without some of the tahini sauce, and with or without some of the chicken). It’s a quick and healthy start to the day!

TO MAKE THE TAHINI SAUCE:

  1. Place all ingredients EXCEPT for the oil in a food processor and combine thoroughly. Slowly add the olive oil in a thin stream until fully emulsified.
  2. Adjust seasonings to taste.

You-Won’t-Believe-They’re-Vegan Turtle Brownies

Okay, I have a confession to make: I’ve never been a huge fan of vegan baking. Oh, sure, I’ve done a lot of it, especially while living at the Zen Center, preparing foods for special events, or entertaining at home and wanting to provide a menu that is welcoming to all my friends. But I have never had much of a desire to actually eat vegan desserts or baked goods myself: in fact, I have often prepared a non-vegan version of most of the vegan desserts I’ve made so that I could enjoy the “real” version.

Because, you see, I love butter. And cream. And cheese. And some more butter, just in case. My attachment to dairy is the major sticking-point in my otherwise mindfully-healthy diet. (Well, okay, dairy and sweets.)

But now I am a cook at the almost-exclusively vegan and gluten-free deli at Lori’s Natural Foods: you can check out the deli’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/lorisnaturaldeli. It seems prudent to become as deeply familiar with all of our food as possible: as a result, I have eaten more vegan desserts and baked goods in the last couple of weeks than ever before. And I have learned that I have been unfairly maligning vegan desserts all along.

And so it was that I went to my favorite used book store’s website, http://www.betterworldbooks.com/, and ordered a few new cookbooks. One of my selections was Sinfully Vegan by Lois Dieterly. The night after it was delivered, I flipped through the pages and salivated at the many delightful-sounding recipes contained therein.

Yesterday night, I gave the first of these recipes a try. I have posted it below almost exactly as it appears in the book (except for the title: Lois calls it “Heavenly Brownie Torte”), with only a few clarifications in the directions, because the recipe is pretty much flawless.

In fact, I must confess that these are probably the best brownies I have ever had in my life. They are so decadent, so rich, so moist, so delicious, that I wouldn’t change a thing about them. They are everything I have ever wanted from a brownie and more. The fact that they are vegan goes completely without notice to my taste buds. They are positively divine.

Because I am posting this recipe pretty much unaltered, I would like to counter the possible copyright infringement with a strong suggestion that you consider acquiring a copy of Sinfully Vegan to call your own. Given the resounding success of this recipe, I am looking forward to trying the other recipes in the book.

I have a handy square cake pan with a removable bottom that came very much in handy while assembling these brownies. If you have a similar pan, I suggest employing it on this recipe.

I do recommend preparing the different components for the brownies in the order that they are listed. You want to give the caramel sauce maximum time to cool (and thereby thicken) while you prepare the brownies.

And now, with no further ado…

You-Won’t-Believe-They’re-Vegan Turtle Brownies

The caramel sauce:

  • 1/3 c light corn syrup
  • 1/3 c dark brown sugar
  • 2 t alcohol-free vanilla extract
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 3  1/2  T vegan milk (I suggest almond or coconut-almond)
  • 1 c whole pecans

The brownies:

  • 1  1/3 c sugar
  • 3/4 c unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 c plus 2 T almond milk
  • 2 t flax powder
  • 2 t alcohol-free vanilla extract
  • 1  1/3 c unbleached all-purpose flour (or Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour)
  • 3/4 c unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 t baking powder
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/2 c vegan chocolate chips

The chocolate candy topping:

  • 1/2 t alcohol-free vanilla extract
  • 1/2 vegan creamer (I suggest Silk brand)
  • 2 cups (12-oz.) vegan chocolate chips

Caramel Sauce:

  1. Place the corn syrup and brown sugar in a small, heavy-bottomed pan. Heat over medium-high heat until boiling. Simmer without stirring until it reaches the soft-ball stage (240 degrees F).
  2. Add the vanilla, salt, and milk, and stir just until combined thoroughly. Remove from heat.
  3. Allow the mixture to cool completely at room temperature: d not refrigerate before assembling the brownies.
  4. Reserve the pecans for assembling the torte.

Brownies:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, cutting a slit down to corners to ensure a smooth fit.
  2. Stir together the sugar, applesauce, and 2 T of the almond milk in a medium-sized bowl. In a small cup, mix the flax powder with the remaining almond milk. Add to the applesauce mixture and stir to combine. Stir in the vanilla.
  3. In another medium bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. Whisk together to fully combine. Add the applesauce mixture to the flour mixture and stir just until combined (if using gluten-free flour, stir a bit longer, as you obviously don’t need to worry about over-processing the gluten). Stir in the chocolate chips.
  4. Pour into the prepared pan and bake 40 minutes for chewy brownies or 45-47 minutes for more cakelike brownies.
  5. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pan before removing from the pan. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before assembling.

Before making the chocolate topping, begin to assemble the brownies:

  1. Place the completely cooled, unsliced brownie upside down on a wire rack placed atop a plate that has a diameter larger than that of the brownie.
  2. Gently pour the caramel sauce over the brownie, leaving about a 1/2-inch margin without caramel around the edge of the brownie. Reserve some of the caramel to drizzle on the plates when you serve the brownies.
  3. Place the pecans in an evenly-spaced pattern around the top of the brownie on the caramel, spacing them close together so that all the caramel is covered.
  4. Refrigerate to harden the caramel while you heat the chocolate.

Chocolate Candy Topping:

  1. Heat the vanilla and vegan creamer in a small pan over medium heat until hot but not boiling.
  2. Slowly stir in the chocolate chips. Stir until the chips are completely melted and the mixture is smooth.
  3. While the mixture is hot, gently pour over the brownie, nuts, and caramel, being careful not to dislodge the nuts or caramel. Allow the excess chocolate to drip onto the plate under the brownie.
  4. When the brownie is completely covered with chocolate, place the plate, wire rack, and brownie in the refrigerator until the chocolate hardens.
  5. Remove from the refrigerator and remove any hard drips of chocolate that formed when the chocolate ran off the brownie through the wire rack (kitchen shears work well for this). Carefully move the brownie from the wire rack and onto a serving platter.
  6. When serving, drizzle some of the reserved caramel on each individual serving plate and place a slice of the brownie on top.