Yogurt Marinated Chicken Thighs

I have an enormous appreciation for Mediterranean kitchen. Maybe because Azeri food is very similar to Mediterranean cuisine. Maybe because in my heart of hearts I want to travel so badly and I would start with that part of the world 🙂 maybe one day soon I will 😉 who knows.

Anywho…this recipe is super easy and super delicious. The beauty of it is that you can modify however you like. You can add various spices to the marinade, use the whole chicken, just breasts, just thighs or a combination. You can roast it or bake it. Your preference, really.

Yogurt Chicken Thighs

Yogurt Marinated Chicken 

6 chicken thighs (or a whole chicken cut up, adjust to your need/preference)

1/2 cup Greek yogurt (again, I use Fage only)

1/2 cup Plain yogurt (any will do, but I prefer the organic kind)

2 tsp salt

2 tsp pepper

1 tbsp Turmeric

Olive oil for drizzling over the chicken

** i also used 1 tbsp of a Tuscan Seasoning (it’s  a mix of dry garlic, onions, bell peppers, oregano, rosemary, lemon peel, sea salt)**

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Preheat the oven to 375, In a large pan combine everything except chicken. Stir well. Dip every piece of chicken in the yogurt mixture. Use your hands to make sure the yogurt mixture gets all over the pieces. Don’t be afraid to use too much, you want the chicken to be moist.

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Place the chicken into a pan (if you want to bake it, this will make the dish more wet), or on a roasting pan (which is what I did). Once the oven has preheated place the roasting pan into the oven (on a middle rack) and cook for about 30-45 minutes (depending on which part of chicken you are cooking).

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Serve it with potatoes or rice. I made some plain white rice in a rice cooker. I also made a neat little salad that I tried at my favorite Italian restaurant in Manhattan – Da Marino. It so simply delicious that I curse myself for not making it every day:

Take about 3 medium size tomatoes and 1 cucumber. Chop them up into a medium size pieces (closer to small than medium) and place them in a deep place. Pour a little bit of olive oil over the vegetables. Now chop up 2 cloves of garlic and add those to the plate (I would suggest smashing the garlic for more flavor). Now add salt and set aside for about 30 minutes. The juices will run and IT WILL BE DELICIOUS!

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Yum yum!

Turkish Baklava

I made something deliciously evil last night. Evil – because of its high sugar content. Delicious – because of its high sugar content. Please disregard my uneven cutting technique. This, my friends, is Baklava. The Turkish/Greek kind I suppose. Azeri Baklava (Paxlava) is way harder to make, and requires hours of dough rolling. This Turkish treasure is easier to make, hence takes a fraction of the time and tastes just as good. The recipe can be found here: http://ozlemsturkishtable.com/2010/06/baklava-with-pistachios-and-walnuts-fistikli-ve-cevizli-baklava/#comment-52321

Baklava

Baklava

Chilled Yogurt Soup: Dogramach or Ovdukh

I have a love/hate relationship with herbs. I dislike them in soups and stews. I love them fresh. I know they add tons of flavor to food and are a staple in Azeri kitchen, but I shy away from them. The dislike for cooked herbs started when I was a child, and continued into adulthood for me. I have however started warming up to it slowly…I actually like sebzi gourma (it’s a type of plov where meat is cooked with tons of herbs) and dovga (a cooked yogurt and herb soup).

This brings me to yesterday: the weather in my part of the state has been horrendous. It’s been extremely humid, rainy and wet. My hair does not appreciate this weather. Nor does my body. Needless to say, I did not feel like standing in front of the stove and cooking yesterday, so I opted out for something quick and cold. I remembered I had a tub of yogurt I bought from the Russian store  that was soon to be expired. I thought of making dovga, but that again would require me to actually stand and mix for good 20 minutes on the hot stove. Then I remembered: DOGRAMACH! It’s pretty much the same thing as Dovga, with a few exceptions, one major one being that it requires NO COOKING, just some chopping.

This dish is very refreshing, it has aromatic herbs, chilled yogurt and cucumbers. You can’t get any more summery than this dish. It’s a Gazpacho of Azerbaijan cuisine 😀 The only negative about this dish is that herbs are harder to chop, especially when wet. Well, for me anyhow. I struggled with it yesterday, herbs sticking and spreading everywhere, but eventually managed to get them where they needed to go! Oh and an extra added bonus, my kitchen smelled divine!

NOTE: Buy your yogurt at a Russian/Turkish or Persian stores. We buy ours from both, and I am not sure where it is made, but it comes from a Turkish company in NJ. Your best bet for better tasting yogurt is to buy them from an ethnic store. 

Mint

Mint

 

Cucumbers

Cucumbers

Basil

Basil

Dill goes in

Dill goes in

Chilled Yogurt Soup: Dogramach or Ovdukh

4 cups plain yogurt

2 cups water

2 cucumbers, medium sized

1 bunch dill

1 bunch scallions

a handful of basil (to taste)

a handful of mint (to taste)

salt

pepper

dried cumin

2 garlic cloves

 

Pour yogurt and water into a pan, mix well until combined. If you want your soup thicker= add less water, thinned out = add more. Wash all the herbs and set aside. Start chopping. It really does not matter in what order you go, it all goes into the same pan anyways, but it’s easier to get the cucumber out of the way.Peel and chop up cucumbers, add to the yogurt mixture. Chop up the scallions. Next chop up mint and basil. Last but not least chop up the dill. Crush two garlic cloves and add them to the soup. Add salt, pepper, cumin (to taste), mix well. Set in the refrigerator if not eating right away. The soup will be chilled because the yogurt will be cold. Serve with bread, rye bread is your best bet!

Dogramach

Dogramach

NOTE: You can also add radish, or any other herbs you like. Traditionally boiled eggs go into this as well, if you prefer, you can hard boil, chill, chop and add them to the soup. This can also be made with ground or cubed beef. I would suggest cooking the meat first (sauteing or frying) and then adding it to the soup. 

Cooking with love: Badimjan Dolmasi or Stuffed Eggplants

All right…at some point I’ll get on schedule where I blog as soon as I cook, or cook as I blog…but for now I’ll share with you a recipe that I haven’t made in over a month. The reason why I share this is because it’s by far one of my favorite Azerbaijani dishes: Badimjan Dolmasi (Eggplant “stew” or stuffed Eggplants is the best way to describe it).  Don’t worry, the dish is not composed of Eggplants only, it also contains tomatoes and bell peppers, all three stuffed with sautéed ground meat and stewed to perfection. I couldn’t really tell you why it’s my favorite dish, but it is. The flavors are just perfect; it’s savory, filling and homey (at least to me). It’s also simple to make, once you’ve gotten used to making it. I’ve only made it 4 times in the past year (I don’t know that may be a lot for some folks) but I can at this point make it with my eyes closed (ha-ha I almost believed that one).

So the basic concept is simple enough: sauté ground beef with some spices; “gut” the vegetables, fill them with meat, place them in a pan, add butter and water and let cook for 30-45 minutes. However, with this recipe it’s the little details that make or break it. The timing is very important; you don’t want your vegetables to turn to mush while cooking. Also, the technique: should you roast or boil your eggplants to make them softer? And what about peppers? Should you keep the tomato pulp? And so on.

Perhaps this is why I love this recipe: it requires a lot of attention to details and personal touches. It took me 2 times making it until I was able to get everything just where I liked it: the meat tasting just right, the tomatoes staying in shape and not becoming too mushy. I tend to get frustrated when something doesn’t work EXACTLY how I want it to, so I was very relieved when it all finally came together.

This is what you'll need

This is what you’ll need

Badimjan Dolmasi

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What you will need:

1-1 ½ lbs of ground beef, good quality, or a combination of lamb and beef (Whole Foods has great quality ground beef)

1 tsp salt

1tsp pepper

1tsp cinnamon

1 tbs dry mint

½ cup butter

*you can use olive oil as well, but them eat will taste much better with butter

4 green peppers

*I use Cubano ones usually, but this time I used bell peppers

4 medium to large tomatoes

4 medium to small sized eggplants

*now this is where I always encounter problems where I live. The only eggplants I can find are the really huge ones, and they just do not work for this recipe. They take up too much space and it makes no sense. I’ve gotten lucky a few times where at my local grocery store I was able to find small, individually wrapped eggplants. But that does not happen often. So if you have a place nearby that sells “normal” size eggplants, great. If you don’t, you can try the big ones.

A pinch of salt

 

Preparation:

1) Ground the lamb, or any other meat if you need to (like i did in the picture above). Place the ground meat in a frying pan, preferably a deep one, and add some water to it (about ¼ of a cup, little by little, don’t overdo it). Steam the meat in the water for a few minutes, breaking the meat up with a wooden spoon as you go along.

2) Once the water has evaporated completely (and you have to make sure it has evaporated, no ifs ands or buts) add the butter and sauté the meat up until it gets a nice brown color, continuing to break up the meat with the spoon. You don’t want the meat to sauté in chunks.

3) While the meat is cooking, you can add all the spices: salt, pepper, cinnamon and mint. Mix it up very well

4) Wash the tomatoes, and one by one cut off the top, and take care not to cut off too much. Do this by placing the tomato on its side, and making a vertical cut off the top, make sure to save the tops, you will need them again. Take a teaspoon and “gut” the tomato and clean out all the pulp; reserve the pulp Take care not to pierce through the tomato while cleaning it out.

5) Wash the peppers and also cut off the top and clean out the seeds with your hands. Save the tops of the peppers, with the stalk in tact.

6) Wash and dry the eggplants. Make a vertical slit on the inside of the eggplant, the side that curves in, not out. Salt inside the slits and set them aside for 10-15 minutes. Take a deep pan and place it on the stove, warm it up. LAY the eggplants side by side inside the pan (if your eggplants are too big, or pan too small, you can do this one by one, it will just take longer). Turn them around frequently, just until all sides have been roasted and the eggplant is semi-soft. This is done so it will be easier to stuff them. Once the eggplants have softened and done roasting, set the eggplants aside so they can cool. Once cooled, you can try and scoop some of the inside of eggplants out as well, be very careful, do not poke holes in them.

The eggplants are ready to go

The eggplants are ready to go

7) For starters, take a tablespoon of the meat and stuff the tomatoes, peppers and eggplants one by one. Then keep adding meat, until all vegetables are full, but not overflowing. You have to be able to put the tops back onto the tomatoes and the peppers. Eggplants are the trickiest in stuffing, so BE VERY CAREFUL not to pierce through any of the vegetables, but especially eggplants, because they will get very soft.

8) Once all the vegetables are filled, place the tops back onto tomatoes and peppers and lay them inside a deep pan or a pot. I use a pot most of the time. Place the eggplants first, and then if you have space on the same level, place the tomatoes and peppers side by side. If you don’t have the space, then make layers: eggplant, peppers and then the top layer should be tomatoes. The peppers and tomatoes should stand no problem, the eggplants you will need to lay on the side, and just squeeze them side by side so they support each other.

9) Once all the stuffed vegetables are set in the pan/pot pour just a little bit of water, about ½ cup just so they can steam. Place the reserved pulp from tomatoes on top. The tomatoes will release a lot of water themselves, so do not overdo it with the water (I’ve done that and the end result were tomatoes that fell apart when trying to pick them up to serve, which resulted in the meat being all over the pot and not on your plate).

10) Cut up half a stick of butter into chunks, and place them all over the vegetables. The thing with Azerbaijani dishes is that flavor is everything and butter is everything (ha-ha). You want this dish to be savory and butter helps with it a lot.

ready to cook

ready to cook

 

11) Turn the heat to medium-low and let it cook/steam for about 30 minutes. Check the vegetables from time to time. Once the peppers and eggplants look like they’ve steamed enough, the dish is done!

Serve with some garlicky yogurt and bread!

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