We’re in the throes of August, and thanks to climate change, the heat this summer has been incredibly intense and therefore I’m fully in line with Michael about not turning on the stove until late September at the earliest at this point. This of course means that our Tuesday chicken thigh dinners have transferred to our Griddler since early June, and while I’m usually happy to play with our spice blends and serve some chicken thighs with a nice arugula salad, I’ve found another dish that has served me over the past few months, thanks to Spanish Diner in Mercado Little Spain.
During our spring trip to New York, I naturally dragged Michael there for dinner and part of our spread of dishes was what they simply referred to as ensalada de pollo. What it turned out to be was chicken coated in Moorish-inspired species served over Romaine lettuce with pistachios and spring onions with a tangy citrus yogurt dressing. I was obsessed with it and resolved to make it at home as soon as possible.
Which I did, but then I never got around to writing the blog post for it.
Thankfully, I had the very good idea to write down what I did at the time, so I could share it with you now as you look for inspiration for refreshing dishes in this intense heat.
The spice blend is inspired from a Sam and Sam Clark recipe for Moorish-spiced pork skewers from the celebrity chef section of The Book of Tapas. I had a version of this dish on our first trip to Barcelona a decade ago and absolutely loved it. There’s a lot to this blend: pimentón de la vera, cumin, turmeric, fennel, garlic powder, coriander, and ground safflower because I cannot abide using fancy saffron for a dry rub. Save the Spanish or Iranian stamens for a really good pan of paella, and buy the much more affordable American safflower (which should be labeled as such) for uses such as this; you’ll thank me later.
The citrus yogurt dressing is straightforward enough: a mix of lemon juice and zest to make the most out of the fruit itself, stirred with full-fat Greek yogurt and a little extra virgin olive oil and some kosher salt, of course. If you find yourself without yogurt, you could also make a simple vinaigrette that works in a pinch, but the yogurt dressing is much more satisfying.
Spring onions or fat scallions offer some zesty flavor with their crunch, while the pistachios play well with the yogurt dressing and the lettuce itself. It’s a substantial meal in one bowl without feeling overwhelming, and all of that lettuce goes a long way to help rehydrate after a hot day outside.
And let’s be frank: as they days get shorter again, it’s a reminder that autumn and winter are coming, so let’s embrace that heat while it’s still here, am I right?
Moorish-spiced chicken thigh salad with pistachios and citrus-yogurt dressing
Inspired by Spanish Diner
Serves 4-6 as an entree or as part of a tapas spread
- 3 lbs boneless, skinless, chicken thighs
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- 1 TB pimentón de la vera
- 1 TB garlic powder
- 2 tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tsp ground safflower
- 2 heads Romaine lettuce
- 4 fat scallions, sliced thin
- ⅓ cup shelled pistachios
- 5 oz Greek-style yogurt (I prefer Fage Total)
- 1 lemon
- 2 TB extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt
First, make the spice blend and marinate the chicken: combine the cumin, fennel, and coriander seeds into a spice grinder and grind until fine. Combine in a small bowl with the pimentón, garlic powder, turmeric, and safflower and mix until well-blended. Place the chicken thighs into a gallon-sized freezer bag and add in the spice blend, tossing well to coat. Let sit for at least two hours to overnight.
When ready to cook the chicken, heat a grill or grill pan or Griddler to medium heat, and season both sides of each thigh with salt. Place the thighs on the grill and cook until 165 degrees, about 10 minutes depending on method, until the thighs are 165 degrees. IF using a grill pan or grill, flip the thighs halfway through cooking. Work in batches if necessary, and place the cooked thighs on a plate to rest while finishing the rest.
Roughly chop the Romaine lettuce and place in a large bowl, and add the scallion slices and pistachios and mix well with your hands. To make the dressing, combine the zest and juice of one lemon with about a teaspoon of kosher salt and the yogurt in a small bowl, and then stir in the olive oil. Toss the dressing with the greens to let it coat well.
To serve, divide the salad between 4 bowls or 6 small plates, and place 1-2 chicken thighs on each bowl. Serve immediately.