This dish is aromatic and delicious, but it has a lot of steps. It’s easier—for me, at least—to prep the chicken, cauliflower-rice, and vegetables on Day 1, followed by browning the chicken, roasting the vegetables, and cooking the dish on Day 2.
Need to lower the carbs? Skip the cauliflower-rice and save 4.5g of carbs per serving. Vegetarian? Swap canned chickpeas for the chicken and use vegetable broth.
Middle Eastern Spiced Chicken with Eggplant
Yield: 4 servings // 437 calories, 10g net carbs
6 cups cauliflower rice (thawed, if frozen)
2 teaspoons baharat spice blend (see recipe, below)
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon cinnamon (smoked cinnamon is lovely, here)
1/2 teaspoon cardamon
1-1/2 pounds boneless, skinless pasture-raised chicken thighs
2 teaspoons sea salt
1-1/4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 large eggplant (1-1/4 lbs.), halved lengthwise & cut into 1″ half-moons
1 medium zucchini, sliced into 1/2″ rounds
1 large Spanish onion, halved lengthwise & sliced into half-moons
1 red bell pepper, seeded, sliced into 1/4″ thick strips
6 sprigs fresh thyme
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1-1/3 cups pasture-raised chicken broth
Chopped fresh cilantro or mint
Greek yogurt (optional)
Heat the oven to 425 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the thawed cauliflower-rice with 1 teaspoon of baharat (recipe below), along with the turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, cardamon, and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir repeatedly, and well, until the all the tiny bits of cauliflower-rice are well-covered with spices. Let it sit, unrefrigerated, while prepping the rest of the dish.
Cut extra fat off the chicken thighs. In a large zip-lock bag, toss the chicken with 1 teaspoon of baharat, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper. Seal the bag. Massage and turn the chicken until all the pieces are well-covered with spices. Refrigerate while prepping the rest of the dish.
Using 3 rimmed baking sheets, pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil on each sheet. Spread it around (I use my hand). Put the eggplant on one rimmed baking sheet, flipping the pieces quickly. (They soak up oil very quickly) Put the zucchini on the second pan; combine the onion and bell pepper on a third pan. Toss the vegetables until they’re well-oiled. Season with salt. Top each baking sheet with several thyme springs. Roast until the vegetables are browned at the edges—flipping them over after 5 minutes—for a total of 10 minutes roasting time (or more if needed). Watch carefully; don’t let burn. Remove the thyme sprigs and set the baking sheets aside.
In a 5-quart Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil. Swirl to coat bottom of pot. Add the chicken thighs and cook until brown, about 2 minutes on each side. Transfer the chicken to a plate. Repeat the process until all the chicken has been browned.
Return the chicken to the Dutch oven. Sprinkle 2 cups of the spiced cauliflower-rice around the chicken. Pat to create an even layer. Lay onions and peppers on top in an even layer. Sprinkle with 2 cups of cauliflower-rice. Layer eggplant and zucchini. Pat remaining 2 cups of cauliflower-rice on top of it.
Carefully pour chicken broth down the edges of the Dutch oven. Bring to a boil. Cover the pan, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 25 minutes. Using an instant-read thermometer, check that the chicken pieces have an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees.
Serve with fresh cilantro or mint and a dollop of Greek yogurt. Classic side dishes are chopped preserved lemons, a spicy chutney, or cumin-infused chopped tomatoes and onions.
Baharat (my version)
Yield: 1/2 cup (store in airtight jar)
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons Turkish Aleppo chili pepper (or fresh black pepper)
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon allspice