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Friday, February 6, 2015

Eggs in a Blanket (Baked Eggs in Toast)

This is a creative way to have sunny side up eggs on baked toast.  Usually the two are eaten together, so why not combine them into a beautiful and fun presentation (and let's not forget the most important part, EASY)?! The toasted bread is the perfect vessel to hold your soft sunny-side up egg. Switch up your standard egg routine and give this a try :) I especially love this as a quick but healthy option for on the go breakfast. I wrap each one up in a napkin and hand them out as we're rushing out the door.

The kids loved indenting the toast and making a well for the eggs. Have fun and try to make different shapes in your toast! If you use a large piece of toast you can make the shape of a heart and crack 2 eggs into it.

I'm providing the instructions to make one egg on toast, but this is easily multiplied into whatever quantity you'd like.

 Just keep one thing in mind as you cook these: low and slow! If you turn the heat up too high your toast will burn on the bottom and your egg will not set. Give yourself less than 10 minutes and watch the magic happen :)

Makes 1 serving

-1 slice of toast
-1 egg
-salt and pepper

Optional garnish...get creative!
-tomato slices
-spinach, arugula, kale
-hot sauce

To make
-Using anything round (I used a measuring cup), press down firmly in the middle of your toast, leaving about 1/2 diameter all around the edges. You are creating the well for your egg to cook without spilling over the toast. Press down as much as you can but be careful not to rip your toast.
-Place toast in a non-stick skillet or griddle and turn the heat on the lowest setting. Crack your egg directly in the middle of the toast. Lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper and cover with a lid.
-Let your toast cook for about 5-10 minutes, depending on how set you want your egg. For a runny egg cook closer to 6 minutes, for a firmer yolk cook about 9 minutes. Be sure to keep your heat on low to prevent burning your toast on the bottom.
-Remove baked egg and toast from skillet and enjoy!

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Looking for more easy egg inspiration? Try my egg and cheese quesadillas, they're a favorite around here! 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Cardamom Date Tart with a Browned Butter Crust

This tart is sometimes referred to as cheesecake because of the creamy layer of sweetness above a cookie crust, but I lovingly call it Tamr Tart. 'Tamr' is the Arabic word for 'date' and if you know anything about Arabs you know we have a love affair with dates. Moroccans and Algerians use them in savory food, many traditional Palestinians use them in a molasses, and all Arabs include them heavily in many sweets. Tamr tart is a relatively modern dessert that developed recently in Syria. I tried it there about 10 years ago and was surprised with how well East met West in this delicacy.

 Fast forward a few years later when I wanted to make it and couldn't find a single version online that was close to what I had enjoyed while on vacation.  Finally a friend of mine emailed some family members of hers in Syria and got me their version...which was a start on the right path to the mythical one in my mind ;)  I translated the emailed recipe from Arabic to English and began to play around with the recipe, removing most of the butter from the crust (like 12 tablespoons to be exact), finding American replacements for the Arab products, testing out different cookie options for the base, playing with the cream ratios, adding all the spices and nuts...and years later here I am with what I consider the best tamr/date/tart/cheesecake to be found!

Note that all the 'optional' spices are things I always include, but I realize not everyone is a fan of cardamom or anise and the tart still tastes delicious without them. I have tried every variation of cookies you can imagine for the crust layer and my favorites are the tea biscuits. Recently I've been using the butter shortbread cookies that get sold during the holidays in big tins to use up the ones I have, and they make a really good crust because of the added butter flavor! Other crusts that would taste delicious are my gingerbread molasses crust or an easy chocolate Oreo crust

This tart is on the sweeter side, so I recommend enjoying it in modest portions and for the more sophisticated foodies out there it is DIVINE with a sprinkling of sea salt! The only desserts I prepare when hosting a gathering are ones I can do in advance...and I really seek out desserts that taste better the longer they last. This is that dessert. Make it and pop it into the freezer until you're ready for it, no need to even thaw before serving! The dates will firm up and the cream layer gets thicker. If you keep it in the fridge the dates and cream will be soft and smooth...either way you can't go wrong. I've had a couple mini tarts that hung out in the freezer for about 2 months one time and when I took them out to eat they were honestly just as delicious (obviously they need to be sealed properly to preserve freshness).

Makes about 16 slices

-2 1/2 cups tea biscuit cookies/graham crackers/vanilla wafers/speculous cookies
-1/4 cup browned butter (4 tablespoons) OR coconut oil
-2 teaspoons cinnamon powder
-dash of salt

Cream Layer:
-2 cans Nestle table cream
-1 can sweetened condensed milk (I always use fat-free!)
-1 tablespoon vanilla
-2 cups pitted and chopped dates (about 16 medjools)
-1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom 
-1/4 teaspoon anise seeds
-1 cup chopped nuts (my favorites in order: pistachios, pecans, walnuts or almonds)
-light sprinkling of sea salt after tart has baked 

To make
-Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a tart pan, taking care to spread the butter into the rim of the pan, and set aside.
-Place a skillet on stove and heat through. Add 4 tablespoons butter and whisk on medium heat until the color turns a golden brown and you smell a nutty and caramel odor. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for a moment. (Alternatively you can just melt the butter quickly in the microwave for 15 to 30 seconds then add to the cookie crumbs. I like to brown the butter to add a dimension of flavor in the crust.) *If using coconut oil do not brown, just melt and add to cookie crumbs*
-In a food processor (or a ziplock bag) crush your cookies by pulsing until they are fine crumbs. Add the melted butter to the cookie crumbs, along with the cinnamon powder and a dash of salt and continue pulsing until the butter is well incorporated into your cookies, forming a crumbly mixture.
-Press the crust evenly into your buttered tart pan, and go up along the edges to create a crust.  Bake on the middle rack of oven for about 5 minutes, until the crust is lightly browned or puffed up.
-While the crust is baking, remove the pits and roughly chop dates. I slice each date in half lengthwise then chop it into 3 parts, getting about 6 pieces from each date. Mix together the Nestle cream, condensed milk and vanilla then stir in the dates and optional ingredients.
-Spread the cream layer over the crust and space out the date pieces if needed. I usually have about 1/2 cup of extra filling that I make a mini tart with or save for another time, but if you have a deep tart pan you can use it all. 
-Place the tart pan on a larger baking sheet (to catch any potential overflow as it bakes, which hasn't happened to me but I like to be safe lol) and return the tart to the middle rack of the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes. You are looking for the cream to start bubbling and browning all around. Once you are satisfied with the browning remove it from the oven and let it cool.
-Serve warm or cold (I prefer it cold but my sister always likes a slice straight from the oven)

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Check out my other date dessert...its one I love!

For a savory take on dates, try my sweet and savory lentil salad :)

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Lemon Garlic Chicken and Potatoes (Jaj iw Batata)

I learned to make this from my grandmother in Syria many years ago. Every time I make it I feel a little nostalgic about childhood summers when she cooked it for us and I'm proud to prepare it for my own children now. Of course I've adapted it slightly to save preparation time, but it still tastes just like my grandma's :)

This is a simpler version of my popular sheesh tawooq recipe because everything gets thrown into one pot and its ready to eat in about 30 minutes. No special produce is required, just some chicken, potatoes, garlic and lemon...ingredients which are pantry staples for most of us.  I make this on nights when I'm pressed for time and my ingredients are limited. Of course squeezing fresh lemons is a more natural way to go, but when I'm in a pinch I've used bottled lemon juice and I'll tell you there's no shame in that game (although my Grandma would probably disown me if she found out I've done this because she's so authentic and natural in her cooking that she even prepares her own red pepper paste...)

This is a great dish for dinner parties because you can prepare it the night before and just place it in the fridge until you're ready to cook it. You can also use your slow cooker, following the same directions except increasing the cooking time to 4-6 hours. 

Ready to cook :)

Serves 4-6

-2 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast
-2 pounds gold potatoes (or russet, but you need to peel those first)
-1 cup lemon juice (you can add 1/2 cup extra if you like a strong lemon tang)
-1/2 cup minced garlic
-2 tablespoons red pepper paste (found in the ethnic section of large markets or in most Middle Eastern stores)
-1 tablespoon ground coriander
-1 tablespoon lemon pepper (optional)
-1 teaspoon salt
-1/2 cup olive oil
-4 cups water

To make
-Cut chicken breast into 1 inch cubes and place in pressure cooker (you can make this in a regular pot but increase the cook time to about 40 minutes or until chicken and potatoes are tender.)
-Wash and cut potatoes into 1 inch cubes and add to pot.
-Add lemon juice, minced garlic, red pepper paste, coriander, lemon pepper, salt, olive oil and water.
-Cover pot and pressurize. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 25 minutes.
-Release pressure from your pot,  uncover and stir gently. If you have too little sauce add some water. This is also a good time to adjust the lemon taste by adding more if you need it.
-Serve with pita bread and enjoy!

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Monday, December 29, 2014

Peanut Butter Oreo Truffles

The only thing better than chocolate? Chocolate + peanut butter. Peanut butter lovers rejoice at this addition to the classic Oreo balls, and peanut butter haters are also pleasantly surprised at how well the flavors mix together. My daughter refuses to eat anything with PB but makes an exception for these truffles. Don't be discouraged if you're completely anti the peanuts, I've included the measurements for traditional Oreo truffles as well.

These are easy to make and are a good activity to involve kids in the kitchen because there is no stove top or oven required to make them. The hardest part about making these truffles is not eating the mixture before its complete, because it really tastes that good! The flavor of the Oreo mixture intensifies the longer it mixes with the cream cheese, so these are a GREAT dessert to make ahead of time! You can even keep the mixture in your freezer (as a whole portion of dough or pre-sized balls) and just dip them in chocolate when you're ready to serve.

A variation to dipping the mixture in milk chocolate is to use white chocolate chips. It tastes incredible...however white chocolate is annoying to work with and if the Oreo truffles are not super firm when you dip them in the chocolate the truffle dough will mix with the white chocolate as you dip them. Milk chocolate is much easier to dip, so for the sake of ease I've included the measurements for that here. When I have extra time I like to dip half my truffles in milk chocolate and half in white for the variety and color contrast :)

-36 Oreos (chocolate wafer cookies filled with cream)
-8 ounces cream cheese ( I always use reduced fat)
-2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
-1/4 teaspoon vanilla
-1/8 teaspoon salt (if using salted peanut butter don't add extra salt)
**You can make regular chocolate Oreo truffles by reducing the amount to 30 Oreos with 8 ounces cream cheese and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla. Leave out the peanut butter and salt**

-1 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips (my favorite brand is Guittard)
-1 tablespoon vegetable oil

-1/3 cup peanut butter chocolate chips (I usually buy the Reese's brand or buy them during the winter season from Trader Joe's)
-1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil (I've found it takes more oil to make peanut butter chocolate chips smooth than it does for regular chocolate chips)

To make
-Using a food processor (not necessary but this will give you the smoothest texture) grind the Oreos until they turn into a fine crumble. Add cream cheese, peanut butter, vanilla and salt and pulse the mixture in your food processor until smooth and well mixed. Place mixture in your freezer for about 30 minutes to set. You can leave it in your food processor bowl or transfer it to something else if you like to add more dishes to your sink ;) (Alternatively you can skip this step of freezing the mixture if you're pressed for time and move on to the next one, but your shaped truffles may not be as smooth because the soft mixture is sticky and messy).
-Remove your Oreo mixture from the freezer and shape into balls using a tablespoon scoop. Place the rounded truffles on a tray lined with parchment paper and refreeze for another 30-60 minutes until the truffles are firm.
-Place milk chocolate chips in a bowl with vegetable oil and microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring every 30 seconds until smooth and melted.
-Remove frozen truffles from the freezer and dip each ball in the chocolate and gently remove with a fork and tap off the excess chocolate, then place on the parchment lined tray. Repeat the process until all your Oreo truffles are coated. As the truffles start to come to room temperature dipping them will get messier, so try to work as fast as possible.
-Place the peanut butter chocolate chips with the vegetable oil in a bowl and melt in the microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring every 30 seconds until well melted. You may need to add more vegetable oil to get a smooth consistency. This mixture needs to be thinner than the milk chocolate coating. Place the melted peanut butter chips in a ziploc bag and close tightly, letting out the extra air. Snip the bottom of the bag and drizzle neatly across each truffle, until your truffles are all coated.
-Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. These keep well for about a week.

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Monday, December 15, 2014

Raspberry Oat Bars (or any other fruit jam!)

One of the most frequent questions I get asked is how I bake all these sweets and who eats them...the simple answer is that the unhealthy stuff is only made for special occasions or to be taken somewhere...I can honestly say that I've probably never made a batch of brownies or a cake just for my immediate family to snack on. What I do constantly bake is healthy stuff that still tastes delicious, like these banana muffins or my personal favorite thing in the whole world. I love enjoying healthy sweets in the mornings, and streusel oat bars are near the top of my list. Clearing out my fridge after my Thanksgiving re-do dinner got me thinking about cranberry sauce beyond turkey, and I decided to create a healthy oat bar. Most of what I found online had a minimum of 1 cup butter or 1 cup peanut butter. I'm all about healthy fat, but I didn't want a strong nut flavor in my fruit bars just to replace the butter. Oat bars should be chewy, dense and have a little crunch on top to balance out the soft sweetness of the fruit filling. These are just that, with a nice inclusion of healthy fats and complex carbs.

If you don't have cranberry sauce lying around, use any fruit spread you'd like...I'll be making these a lot and my next fruit flavor will be strawberry, after that is fig and then I'm planning on that I don't have to feel guilty when I eat these they'll be around here often! The first time I made these bars I used my cranberry sauce but each time after that as I continued to develop the recipe I used different jams, and raspberry with lemon zest was a huge success. Experiment with different toppings, I sprinkled shredded coconut and pistachios on half my pan and the adults enjoyed those a lot. I contemplated chocolate chips but decided to stay true to the fruit flavor, although I'm not making any promises for the next batch :)

These are easy to make, require only 1 bowl, no mixer and are vegan! Even if you don't mind using dairy products, its nice to be able to bake when you're out of eggs. This is a great activity to get kids into the kitchen and my boys had a lot of fun sampling the oat mixture and pressing it into the pan.

-1 cup flour
-1 cup old fashioned oats
-2/3 cup brown sugar
-1/2 teaspoon baking soda
-1/4 teaspoon salt
-1 teaspoon vanilla
-2 tablespoons cold coconut oil
-2 tablespoons peanut butter (I used a variety called Better 'n Peanut Butter, a 85% less fat spread I buy from Trader Joes)
-2 tablespoons orange juice (or almond milk, regular milk, water)
-1 teaspoon lemon zest
-1 tablespoon flax seeds (optional)

-1 cup raspberry jam (or other fruit)
-1 cup cranberry sauce
-1 teaspoon cornstarch
-1/2 teaspoon orange zest

To make
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 11x7 inch (2qt/2L) pan with foil (for easy removal) and spray with non stick cooking spray.
Jam is spread and the oat topping is next
-Combine flour, oats, brown sugar, baking soda and salt and stir until well mixed. Then add the vanilla, coconut oil, peanut butter, orange juice, orange zest and flax seeds and mix well with a spatula until fully incorporated and crumbly.
-Using your hands, knead the oat mixture a minute and reserve 1 cup of the mixture. Pat the rest into your greased pan evenly and create a slight crust on the edges (this prevents the jam from spilling over the edges).
-Evenly spread the jam mixture over the oat layer, leaving about 1/4 of an inch all around the edges. This will spread out while baking. Sprinkle the reserved 1 cup of oat mixture on top of the jam. Sprinkle with optional toppings.
-Bake on the lower rack of a preheated oven for 28-33 minutes (I took mine out at 30 minutes) or until the crumbled streusel topping looks puffed in the middle and lightly browned. Remove from the oven and let cool, then cut into bars and enjoy. These do not need to be refrigerated and stay delicious for about 3 days (after that refrigerate or freeze to preserve freshness).
-Enjoy and don't forget to tag me in your pictures!

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Friday, December 12, 2014

Green Bean, Pomegranate and Sweet Potato Lentil Salad

So...maybe I'm on a lentil craze lately, but I can't help myself, the fiber content is just too awesome to ignore. I thought about this recipe a lot before I put it together. I wanted to create a salad that was different yet highlighted seasonal produce at their peak. Many of us are recovering from Thanksgiving and markets in America have readily made sweet potatoes and green beans available, so I put them together with some of my favorite ingredients for this satisfying, unique and unforgettable salad. Every ingredient will have you pausing in delightful surprise...who knew that green beans went well with pomegranates? Or sweet potatoes with lentils? Or that you could throw dates and maple syrup into a savory salad? Apparently I did, and I'm so excited to share it with you! A bonus perk is the fact that its paleo, gluten-free and vegan...score!

This is a sophisticated salad for the developed palette..."frou frou" ;)  The portion is just right for my husband and I to lunch on for a few days before its gone. The leftovers are BEAUTIFUL...nothing soggy or wilted, amazing for a salad! It also tastes great cold or at room temperature, which makes it a great picnic or potluck item to take and leave out without worrying about it going bad.

Serves 2 as dinner or 4 as a starter

-2/3 cup dry brown lentils or 1 1/2 cups cooked lentils (any color works, I just used brown for color contrast to other ingredients)
-6 cups salted water
-One piece of red onion (optional, but this flavors the lentils while cooking)
-8 ounces (about 2 loosely packed cups) fresh green beans
-1 cup diced sweet potato
-1 cup fresh pomegranate seeds
-4 medjool dates
-2 tablespoons thinly slivered red onion
-2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
-1 teaspoon cumin seeds
-1 scant tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
-1 scant tablespoon maple syrup

To make
-Wash and strain lentils. Place in a a saucepan with salted water and a piece of the onion and bring to a boil. Once mixture is boiling, reduce heat and simmer for about 30-35 minutes, or until the lentils are soft with a slight chew.
-While lentils are boiling, wash, stem and chop green beans into 1/2 inch pieces. Bring another pot of simmering water to a boil and drop green beans into the water. Boil for about 2 minutes then immediately strain from hot water and place into a bowl filled with ice and cold water. This is called blanching the beans and prevents them from over cooking to retain their bright green color and a crisp texture. Let the beans cool in the water for a minute then strain well from the water and place into your serving bowl.
-Heat the same saucepan used to boil the beans and saute (I didn't use any oil but you can if you'd like) the chopped sweet potatoes. Season with salt and pepper and stir frequently. Cook for about 5 minutes, until browned on the outside and softened when you taste a piece. Once these are finished cooking, remove the pot from the stove and allow the sweet potatoes to cool completely, then add them to the green beans.
-Add the pomegranate seeds to your serving bowl.
-Pit the medjool dates and then cut into thin, long slivers. I cut about 7-8 slices from each date. Add the slivered date slices to the serving bowl.
-Chop the red onion and add to the serving bowl.
-Break up the walnuts into small pieces and add to the serving bowl.
-Add cumin seeds then drizzle olive oil and maple syrup to the other ingredients and gently mix the salad. Taste and adjust the salt seasoning. Salt really helps bring out the flavors and cut back on the sweetness, so make sure to season properly.
-Serve cold or at room temperature and enjoy!

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Salted Caramel Chocolate Tart

Where do I begin with this tart....should I rave about the delicious caramel? The way it is buttery and  silky smooth and so delicious? Or should I tell you how the texture is just right, not too runny and not the hard kind that sticks to your teeth but how instead its absolute liquid gold? How about the fact that this is a no-bake dessert... and that you can throw it together using only a single pot? Or how about the cool part where you can make it and store it in your freezer to enjoy with guests or just whenever you feel like it...or not store it at all and eat it within an hour? IF, and that is a huge if, its not all gone by the end of one sitting it'll stay nice and tasty whenever you reach for it (just make sure to seal it properly).

Nah, I don't think I'll tell you about any of those things. Instead I'll tell you that it's gross and you shouldn't make it. Because I'm almost tempted to keep this one all to myself, I'm kind of attached to it. It's just so EASY. And so GOOD. And people LOVE it. I don't think I need to really say anything though because these pictures are doing all the talking...

If you follow me on instagram (and if you don't you absolutely SHOULD!) you know I've been working on this tart recipe for a while. I wanted it to be perfect before I passed it on. Perfect means optimal flavor with minimal work. Something even a beginning cook/baker can make. And here it's so simple you don't even need an oven! These tarts started out in individual form, but that requires a special pan, so to make them easier to assemble I'm providing instructions to make them in a regular 9 inch tart pan. If you have the mini tart pans, go ahead and do that, they're beautiful but take a little bit more time to put together.

Don't be intimidated by the list of ingredients, I've just split it up into layers to make it easy to know how to put it together. This is a simple dessert that just seems complex when you present it, which is the SavvyChef style ;) When you make this make sure to tag SavvyChef on facebook or instagram...I love seeing what you guys have done and would love to feature you on my page :)

Makes a 9 inch tart...servings depends on how strong your self control is. Ranges from 1 to 12 people

-24 Oreos (or other chocolate wafer)
-4 tablespoons chocolate fudge sauce (something thick, not the liquidy syrup)
-1/4 teaspoon sea salt
-1 teaspoon vanilla
*you can replace the fudge with 4 tablespoons butter, but fudge tastes better ;)

Salted Caramel:
-8 tablespoons butter (1/2 cup=1 quarter stick)
-2/3 cup brown sugar
-1/2 teaspoon sea salt
-1 teaspoon vanilla
-1/4 cup heavy cream

-2/3 cup heavy cream
-1/2 cup (8 ounces) chopped chocolate (I use a combination of Guittard milk and semi sweet chips)

-1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
-3/4 cup toffee bits or chopped toasted almonds

To make
-In a food processor pulse the oreos, salt and vanilla until they are well crushed into crumbs (you could also do this step in a ziplock bag and mash the oreos). If your fudge is too thick, warm it in a pot for a quick minute and then add it to the crushed Oreos and pulse in the food processor until well combined. Spray or butter a 9 inch tart pan and firmly press the Oreos into the pan, pushing up along the edges to create a crust. Place in your freezer to set.
-Heat a pot on medium heat and add the butter, brown sugar and sea salt, mixing until dissolved. Bring the mixture to a boil then let it simmer for 2 minutes. This is what will thicken your caramel. Remove the pot from heat and stir in 1/4 cup of heavy cream, stirring gently until smooth. Allow the caramel to cool for 5 minutes then remove you tart pan from the freezer and evenly pour the caramel over the crust. Return to the freezer to let the caramel firm up.
-Wipe down your pot with a clean napkin and reheat it on the stove. Pour 2/3 cup of heavy cream and bring to a simmer. Turn off the stove and add 8 ounces chocolate chips. Leave the mixture for a few minutes and then mix the melted chocolate into the caramel until smooth. Remove the tart from the freezer and spread the chocolate ganache evenly over the caramel. Sprinkle with sea salt and top with toffee pieces or almonds.
-Place the tart in the fridge until the ganache has set. Serve this dessert chilled. If I am taking it out of my home I keep it in the freezer beforehand so it can retain a cold temperature as it travels.
-Slice, serve and enjoy!

The final layer...almost time to dig in!

Experimenting with different toppings

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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Musakhan: Middle Eastern Chicken Rolls

These are pretty much the Middle Eastern version of taquitos :) Musakhan chicken wraps are based on a classic Palestinian dish that has gained in popularity all over the Middle East in sandwich form. Traditionally whole chicken pieces are seasoned and cooked in a clay oven then placed on top of fresh flat bread. Classic musakhan (msakhan/imsakhan) is a special meal shared with a group of  family and close friends where everyone gathers around and gets their hands dirty eating the chicken and bread...often times straight from the large platter it is served on. It is truly a delicious meal to eat and one that I will share with  you sometime. This version is for a beginning or busy cook, looking for something fast, delicious and e.a.s.y. I love to prepare a batch of these and keep them unbaked in the freezer, ready to be grilled at a moment's notice for a quick lunch or on the go meal.

Using rotisserie chicken is a huge time saver, and this is also a great recipe for leftover chicken. Simply scale back on the portions to make as much as you need, my general rule is 1 cup onions/1 cup shredded chicken/ 2 tablespoons sumac seasoning and you can take it from there. The measurements I've listed make about 18 tortilla wraps. and usually each tortilla is cut in half or in thirds. If I'm making them as a main meal I leave them whole, otherwise I do cut them. The pictures in this post show the rolls cut in half.

Typically there is no lemon juice added to musakhan but I like to include it to provide juiciness to the filling while cutting back on the oil and enhancing the sour tang of sumac. If you're not trying to make this as healthy as possible, go ahead and use more olive oil. I add a tablespoon at the end of the cooking process because I've found that it enhances the olive oil flavor without having to use too much in the beginning. Many people will just saute onions, add chicken and sumac and call it a day...but that's not the way we roll at SavvyChef. Our food has texture, flavor, complex layers of subtlety, and you just can't get that without spending a little extra effort on the filling. This dish is almost guaranteed to be present at any Middle Eastern dinner party because of its simplicity and popularity, but I promise you: all musakhan rolls are not created equal.

The main flavor in the filling is the sumac, a seasoning that comes from sour berries that are dried and ground into a spice. It is purple in color and has a tangy flavor similar to lemons. You can buy sumac from any Middle Eastern market or online. The spices that are listed as optional are not traditional and many people leave them out, but I never do as they really provide for a flavorful filling, I encourage you to use them. My children like to dip these in plain yogurt, which is a little blasphemous for traditional  musakhan eaters, but hey...whatever provides for a peaceful meal around here is fair game...

Makes about 18 full wraps (feeds 6-8 for dinner or 20 for an appetizer)

-2 tablespoons olive oil
-4 cups thinly sliced red onion (or other variety)
-4 cups cooked, shredded chicken (Rotisserie chicken is a GREAT short cut)
-4 tablespoons lemon juice
-1 cup sumac seasoning
-1/2 teaspoon black pepper
-1 teaspoon allspice
-optional: 1 tablespoon lemon pepper seasoning
-optional: 1 tablespoon ground coriander
-optional: 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

-optional: 1 cup toasted nuts (usually pine nuts, but slivered almonds are a good substitute)
-1 tablespoon olive oil
-about 18 flour tortillas

To make
-Heat oil in a large pot then add sliced onions. Saute until caramelized, about 15 minutes, stirring frequently. This is a good time to shred your rotisserie chicken.
-Add shredded chicken, lemon juice, sumac, black pepper, allspice, coriander and ground cardamom. Break up the chicken as you cook and mix the ingredients together, letting the chicken soak up the flavors and seasonings. Cook mixture on low heat for about 5 minutes. Add optional toasted nuts and then remove the pot from heat.
-Place the pot aside to cool the mixture and add final tablespoon olive oil. Use the best quality you have.
-Preheat your oven to 450 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil. Spread between 1/3-1/2 cup of chicken filling along the longest length of your tortilla in a horizontal line, starting 1/2 inch up from the bottom. Make sure your filling is spread evenly across, then bring the bottom edge of the tortilla up over the filling and wrap tightly. Place the rolled tortilla seam side down on the baking sheet. Continue this process until you have finished your chicken filling.
-Optional: Brush the wrapped rolls with olive oil to enhance crispiness when toasting. (You can cook these in a skillet, griddle, panini press or in the oven. When I make them for a crowd I always place them in the oven because I can do them all at once. Sometimes I'll skip preheating the oven and just place the tray on the middle rack of my oven on broil, watching CAREFULLY for a few minutes while the tops toast). Bake on the middle rack of a pre-heated oven for about 10-15 minutes or until toasted to your liking.  Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before you cut them in half or in thirds. Another option is to cut them before toasting as this will give you toasted edges on all the pieces.
-Serve and enjoy!

Evenly spread 1/3 cup chicken filling across tortilla
This is a perfect starter recipe for beginning cooks
Brushed with olive oil and ready to bake
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My daughter shared her finished musakhan with friends