You know how there are some words you can never seem to spell correctly? Although I have no trouble spelling words like fiduciary or onomatopoeia, the word responsible gets me every time. Most recently, shawarma earned a spot on the list of words I can’t seem to spell. I’ve somehow convinced myself that the first “a” just doesn’t exist. So, when I searched for authentic shwarma seasoning on Pinterest the other day, I had trouble finding answers to what makes the slightly smoky, slightly sweet marinade so irresistible.
Eventually, I navigated my way to the answers I was looking for and was shocked by the laundry list of spices that make the perfect shawarma. Cumin, paprika, garlic – these were givens, but cardamom, ginger, and cloves? Who knew?! I was honestly a little skeptical in making my own seasoning, but oh my goodness, it is delicious! And it smells just as divine.
I also did quite a bit of research to figure out what exactly goes into a traditional fattoush salad dressing. My absolute favorite meal when I come home is the chicken fattoush salad from a local spot called Ark Mediterranean that comes with their signature pomegranate vinaigrette. Their famed, tangy beige dressing does not look or taste like there is any trace of pomegranate in it, but sure enough, after doing my homework, I learned that pomegranate molasses is commonly used in Mediterranean cuisine.
I didn’t know pomegranate molasses existed before then and started to wonder how much I really knew about Mediterranean cuisine. Whenever I make a recipe from another cuisine, I try to understand the cultural significance of the cuisine. My goal is to pay homage not only to the food but the people behind it. Until now, I’m ashamed to say that I had equated Mediterranean food with Greek food, and nothing else.
However, Mediterranean cuisine actually denotes cuisine influenced by the Mediterranean sea, which has influences from 20 countries that border it. Moreover, these countries are broken down into the Southern European coast, Levantine coast, and North African coast. Greek food hails from the Southern European coast, but the Mediterranean food we are talking about here comes from the Levantine coast which is comprised of Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, and Cyprus. So pretty much, I didn’t know an apple from an orange.
All this research to say, I went about this recipe thoughtfully and did my best to highlight the flavors that make what I now know is Levantine cuisine, one of my absolute favorites. I made a couple of modifications in adding avocado and ditching cucumber our of personal preference, but I hope you find that this recipe is otherwise true to the cuisine it is inspired by, and absolutely delicious!
- 10 oz butter lettuce
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes
- 1 avocado (thinly sliced)
- 1 cup crumbled feta (I recommend getting a block of feta, it just tastes better)
- 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast
- dried mint (to garnish)
- dried sumac (to garnish)
- 1 tbsp. plain Greek yogurt
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 tsp. honey
- 1 tbsp. shawarma seasoning
- 1 tbsp cumin
- 1 tbsp coriander
- 2 tsp ginger
- 2 tsp garlic
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp cardamom
- 1/2 tsp cloves
- 1/4 cup lemon juice (2 lemons)
- 4 cloves garlic
- 2 Tbsp pomegranate molasses
- 1 tsp sumac
- 1/2 tsp dried mint
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- Start by combining the spices for the shawarma seasoning in a mason jar. Shake to evenly distribute the spices.
- Next, placing the chicken between two sheets of cling wrap or in a large Ziploc, use a mallet to pound the chicken into 1/4 inch thickness.
- Slice the chicken lengthwise into 1-inch strips.
- In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the Greek yogurt, olive oil, honey, and shawarma seasoning to make the marinade. Add in the cut chicken and stir to evenly coat the chicken in the marinade. Cover the bowl with cling wrap and place in the fridge to marinate for 1-24 hours.
- Moving on to the dressing, combine the lemon juice, garlic, pomegranate molasses, sumac, mint, and olive oil in a food processor/blender and blend to emulsify. You can make the dressing 1-2 days ahead of time and store in the fridge prior to using it.
- If using wood skewers, soak them in water 30 minutes before threading them to avoid the wood burning on the grill. Once ready, thread the strips of chicken on the skewers and set aside.
- Heat a grill pan/grill to medium-high heat. If using a grill pan, add 1-2 tbsp. of canola oil (or other vegetable oil with a high smoke point) in the pan. Then, add the chicken to the grill and cook for about 12 minutes, turning it occasionally to brown all sides.
- Remove the chicken from the pan and check one of the larger pieces for doneness. Then, set aside.
- Toss the butter lettuce in the dressing and plate with the cherry tomatoes, avocado, and crumbled feta. Sprinkle additional sumac and mint over each salad and top with the chicken.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 636Total Fat: 43.8gSaturated Fat: 12.7gCholesterol: 135mgSodium: 1313mgCarbohydrates: 22.4gFiber: 5.3gSugar: 11.3gProtein: 40.9g