Thursday, September 3, 2009

Moroccan Chicken Skewers

I don't remember how we decided to do this meal, but I do know that a thawed chicken breast was involved. I think there was some slowly expiring hummus in the equation as well. Since we both love Middle Eastern food, i guess Moroccan-spiced chicken skewers just sounded like a good idea (and it was!).

Morrocan Chicken Skewers

The Food (Jhan)

I love Middle Eastern food and I never get enough of it! Actually, I loved this dinner so much that I tried to hide the leftovers to could keep them all for myself - unfortunately that didn't work! Next time I'll have to put them out in the garage fridge - if he doesn't see them he forgets about them. :) (Bad wife!)

Now that we can't go out to eat due to the crazy state of the economy and the infamous California budget cuts -read pay cuts - I thought that I'd rustle up something to quell my cravings. The marinade for these chicken skewers is very easy but you should try to marinate the chicken for about 48 hours before cooking. The skewers can be broiled in the oven or grilled on the BBQ. We did ours in the oven since it was a weeknight and I was getting home fairly late. (Remember to soak wooden or bamboo skewers in water for 30 minutes prior to loading them with the meat and vegetables.)

Cut up the veggies in fairly large but even chunks. You can use whatever vegetables you like but peppers and onions really add to the flavor of the meat. (I prefer red bell peppers because they are so sweet when grilled.) To round out the meal I added hummus, tahini sauce and onion flat-bread. We also had some Kalamata olives and marinated artichokes as added fixin's.

Tony made the tahini sauce this time and it was very tasty - again, we were fighting over the leftovers, it was so good. He mixed sesame seed paste with water,added some olive oil, minced garlic, kosher salt and a squeeze of lemon. The hummus was the creamy Israeli style with a little minced garlic and olive oil added. We tried a new type of flat-bread that has bits of grilled onion in it, it's almost like an onion naan, soft, not dry like some pitas and flat-breads - great.

The marinade:
Mix together in a mixing bowl:
2 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp dried thyme (crush it up in your palm before using)
1/4 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1 -2 cloves minced garlic
1/4 cup chopped onion
mix in:
1/2 cup EVOO
1/4 cup lemon juice
Stir to mix well
Pour marinade over skinless, boneless chicken breasts and refrigerate 36-48 hours for full flavor. Turn chicken breasts in marinade several times to completely coat and flavor meat. Remove chicken from marinade (dispose of remaining marinade), cut chicken into cubes, thread on skewers with vegetables and cook about 15 - 20 minutes or until cooked through. Turn skewers while cooking.

Morrocan Chicken Skewers

The Plating

I'm not sure why I went with the square plate for this meal, but it works OK. I think a better presentation could have been created using other plates, but this got the job done.

I wanted a little extra color, so I put some paprika and olive oil on the hummus, sprinkled a little paprika over the skewers and added some chopped mint to the tahini. These all helped, but the dish still came out a bit one dimensional color-wise. More green was needed.

Morrocan Chicken Skewers

The Photography & Lighting

Morrocan Chicken Skewers Lighting
I'm beginning to learn something about lighting (about time, I know). Too many lights used on a white setting (white plates, white tablecloth) produces a rather flat and featureless light that isn't appealing. I don't have the same problem with the same lighting set up when I'm shooting black plates on a black tablecloth.

It's clear that the subject affects the lighting as well as the other way around. I didn't know that before. In the future, I will adjust my lighting accordingly.

But for this shoot, I didn't know that, so even though I started with three lights and then dropped to only two in order to introduce some depth, most of the images are still relatively flat. Boo. And it was such a wonderful dish.

Lessons Learned
  1. The color of the subject (plate, table, food) affects the quality of the lighting. 
  2. I'm actually capable of learning something about lighting!

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