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Rachael makes juicy za’atar-marinated chicken paired with charred pita, tahini-yogurt sauce, lots of fresh herbs + veggies + turmeric-flavored rice pilaf.
As Rach says, once you make the Middle Eastern spice blend, this recipe couldn’t be easier. If you have a full spice drawer, it’s quick to prepare your own. And since za’atar—which has a lot of spice and flavor, but not a lot of heat—is so versatile, Rach suggests mixing up a double or triple batch. (It will keep for months in an airtight container.) Use it on popcorn, in marinades, sprinkled into pilafs and onto Greek yogurt drizzled with olive oil. You can also buy za’atar in stores or online. Rachael loves to serve the shawarma with her turmeric-toasted rice pilaf.
For more recipes that use za’atar, check out Rach’s Tahini Caesar Salad and Za’atar Burgers.
Ingredients For the Za’atar Spice Blend:
- About 2 tablespoons EACH sumac and toasted sesame seeds About 1 tablespoon EACH Aleppo pepper or hot paprika, ground cumin and ground coriander About 2 tablespoons EACH dried thyme or dried oregano and granulated garlic 1 tablespoon EACH salt and black pepper
For the Marinade and Chicken:
- 2 tablespoons tahini paste Zest and juice of 1 lemon 2-3 tablespoons water ¼ cup EVOO 2 ½ pounds chicken thighs, cut into thirds lengthwise 2 medium white onions, cut into thin wedges
For the Tahini-Yogurt Sauce:
- ¼ cup tahini 1 tablespoon EVOO Juice of 1 lemon 1 cup plain Greek yogurt A little water, if necessary to thin
For the Rice Pilaf:
- 1 tablespoon EVOO 2 tablespoons butter½ cup broken thin spaghetti, 1-inch pieces1 ¼ cups white rice Salt and pepperPinch of turmeric or small piece of fresh turmeric 2 ½ cups water or chicken broth (or half broth and half water)
- 1 cup fresh dill, mint and parsley combined, then choppedChopped lettuce, diced tomatoes, thinly sliced red onion 1 cup chopped giardiniera Charred pita Israeli pickles
For the za’atar, combine ingredients in a small bowl.
For the marinade and chicken, in a large bowl, whisk up about ⅔ of the spice blend with the tahini, lemon zest and juice, water and EVOO, add the chicken and onions and toss, then marinate 30 to 60 minutes. Preheat broiler with rack one above center and cook chicken and onions on a large foil-lined sheet tray 25 to 30 minutes, turning once.
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For the tahini-yogurt sauce, combine remaining spice blend in a food processor with tahini, EVOO, lemon and yogurt, then process and add salt or water, if needed. Place in squirt bottle or serving dish.
For the rice pilaf, heat EVOO and melt butter into it over medium to medium-high heat in saucepot or covered medium pot. Add broken pasta and lightly brown, then add rice and season with salt, pepper and turmeric and toast 2 minutes more. Add broth or water or mix of the two and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover and cook 15 minutes. Remove from heat, let stand covered 10 minutes. Fluff with fork and serve alongside shawarma.
When chicken comes out of oven, top with herbs and arrange on bed of lettuce, tomato and onion. Top with giardiniera. Pass pita, tahini-yogurt sauce and pickles.