Grilled Mediterranean Chicken Meets Cauliflower "Rice" with Parsley, Tomatoes, and Kalamat
Hi, everyone! After going on another mini-vacation to attend a cousin's beautiful wedding in Michigan (Such a terrific and gorgeous couple), in addition to celebrating my stepmother's milestone birthday in South Haven (We absolutely love that community and its blueberries), I'm back to writing about one of my biggest passions. Food!
I don't know about you, but I love to experiment with herbs and spices in the kitchen - including when I cook chicken. My Mediterranean chicken paired with my cauliflower "rice" is a fun way to shake things up with poultry while sneaking in some extra vegetables. The delicious combination of olive oil, garlic, flat-leaf parsley, cumin, thyme, and lemon juice in the marinade for the chicken enables this lean protein to stand on its own. But the chicken truly comes to life when it's garnished with a refreshing cucumber-yogurt sauce. Bonus: The cucumber-yogurt sauce can be made the night before serving it. Winning!
And the cauliflower "rice," which of course does not taste identical to rice - because it's cauliflower - is so darn delicious. It's my hubby's favorite "rice" dish in our house....and he likes rice! The fresh flat-leaf parsley adds a peppery kick, while the garlic/onion combo offers a pungent flavor - topped off with a salty hit of Kalamata olives, and a hint of sweetness from the tomatoes. The result is pure produce deliciousness.
And since cauliflower contains a very small amount of carbohydrates - and our body actually needs carbohydrates for energy - think about adding some whole wheat pita bread to this meal and dipping it in the cucumber-yogurt sauce! Or enjoy your favorite fruit as an additional source of complex carbohydrates (They provide the body with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants).
As you're reading through my recipes below, you will notice that the chicken and the cauliflower rice contain a large amount of fresh garlic and flat-leaf parsley (Garlic powder can also be used as an alternative in these recipes if need be. I simply prefer the freshly minced version). Please don't skimp out on the fresh flat-leaf parsley. Its robust flavor definitely gives the chicken and the cauliflower rice a punch! The food processor can be helpful for making this prep work faster (I like to throw my onion for the cauliflower rice dish into the food processor as well).
1 1/4 pounds of skinless chicken tenders (Or 1 1/4 pounds of skinless, boneless chicken breast which you can cut into 1/2 inch wide strips OR four 5 ounce skinless, boneless chicken breasts)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons garlic, minced (Around 9 cloves) (Or 2 1/4 teaspoons of garlic powder) (Adjust to taste)
3 tablespoons of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt (Adjust to taste)
Freshly ground pepper (Adjust to taste)
Yield: 4 servings
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced (Around 2 cups)
2 tablespoons garlic, minced (Around 6 cloves) (Or 1 1/2 teaspoons of garlic powder) (Adjust to taste)
*1 large head cauliflower, riced (Makes 8-9 cups of riced cauliflower) (Or pre-made riced cauliflower) (See cook's note)
1 1/4 cups grape tomatoes
12 Kalamata olives, halved
6 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Freshly ground black pepper (Adjust to taste)
Kosher salt (Adjust to taste)
Feta cheese, crumbled, for garnish (Optional)
Yield: If using a large head of cauliflower, makes at least 4-6 servings depending on how hungry you are.
1 cup Fage Total 2% Greek yogurt
**1/2 to 1 English cucumber, diced (If using a different type of cucumber, peel it, halve it, and seed it) (See cook's note)
2-3 teaspoons garlic, minced (Adjust to taste)
1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons red onion, minced
1/2 teaspoon fresh squeezed lemon juice (Adjust to taste)
Freshly ground pepper (Adjust to taste)
Kosher salt (Adjust to taste)
Yield : Makes around 1 3/4 cups of cucumber-yogurt sauce when using an entire English cucumber.
* One large head of cauliflower riced in the food processor will generate around 8-9 cups of riced cauliflower, while a medium head of cauliflower will offer 5-6 cups. Feel free to substitute a medium head of cauliflower for this recipe and adjust the seasonings accordingly (Or you can create riced cauliflower with the large head of cauliflower and freeze part of the riced cauliflower for future use in a freezer bag if you prefer not to use the entire quantity listed in the recipe). If you plan on making riced cauliflower in your food processor, it's worth noting that the food processor's shredding attachment will give more of a rice-like appearance, while the chopping attachment will provide a couscous effect. Before placing the cauliflower into the food processor, it's helpful to first chop the cauliflower into florets on a cutting board, discarding the tough inner core. In the food processor, pulse the florets in stages - in small amounts. For a large head of cauliflower, I pulse the florets little by little (For example, I place 1/3 of the cauliflower florets in the food processor and pulse multiple times until the florets have been transformed into a rice-like shape. Then I remove that batch of the riced cauliflower and set it aside in a bowl. I repeat this process with the remaining florets). Alternatively, you can use a cheese grater to make riced cauliflower OR purchase pre-made riced cauliflower from the grocery store (Given that the quantities of pre-made riced cauliflower sold at the grocery vary, you will want to adjust your seasonings accordingly).
** The more cucumber you use in the cucumber-yogurt sauce, the thinner the sauce will be due to the water content of the cucumber. If you prefer a thicker sauce, use 1/2 of the cucumber. If you would like a thinner consistency, use 1 cucumber.
1. Begin by making the marinade for the chicken. In a medium bowl, combine the olive oil, garlic, flat-leaf parsley, cumin, thyme, lemon juice, ground pepper, and salt. Adjust to taste. Next, pour the marinade into a one gallon sealable plastic storage bag. Add the raw chicken to the plastic storage bag, making sure that the pieces of chicken are evenly coated in the marinade and its seasonings (You can place your hands on the outside of the bag and massage the chicken with the marinade to more evenly distribute it). Seal the plastic storage bag containing the chicken in its marinade, and refrigerate for at least one hour (You can also store the chicken in the marinade overnight in the refrigerator, followed by grilling it the next day).
2. To make the cucumber-yogurt sauce, place all of the ingredients for the sauce in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Adjust to taste. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
3. When you're ready to cook the chicken, it will be helpful to have your prepped ingredients for the cauliflower rice organized and nearby so that you can quickly begin preparing the cauliflower rice as soon as you've placed the chicken on the grill pan to cook. To cook the chicken, begin by either spraying a grill pan with nonstick cooking spray or lightly brushing it with oil. Next, heat the grill pan to medium-high. Place the raw chicken on the grill pan (While keeping an eye on the chicken, begin preparing the cauliflower rice in step four below). Grill the chicken until it's cooked through (The chicken’s internal temperature should read 165°F on a meat thermometer). When grilling chicken tenders on my grill pan, this takes around 5-6 minutes per side (Adjust cooking time as needed).
4. As the chicken is being grilled on the grill pan, prepare the cauliflower rice. In a large skillet, heat the oil using the medium-high setting. When the oil is hot, place the onions in the skillet, stirring frequently for 3-4 minutes, followed by adding the garlic and cauliflower to the same skillet and stirring often for an additional 5-6 minutes. Toss the grape tomatoes and olives into the mixture, stirring frequently until the cauliflower has a tender texture (Around 1-2 minutes). Next, add the parsley and stir continuously for 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper, and adjust to taste. Remove from heat.
5. Divide the grilled chicken onto four plates and place the cauliflower rice in a large serving bowl. Serve the cucumber-yogurt sauce in a small serving bowl. Enjoy!