Category Archives: Main Dishes

Egg Quesadilla

quesadilla.2

I discovered a recipe for omelet like quesadillas on Heidi Swanson’s blog, 101 cookbooks, two or so years ago. My mind was blown. Like most people, I love quesadillas. After all, cheese falls second on my “irresistible food list” only to the perfectly prepared baked good. (I’m looking at you buttery, flaky, hip hugging scone.)

Also, like most people, I can’t afford the fatty indulgence of a quesadilla with any sort of regularity. In comes this updated version. Here, a single egg is beaten and cooked to set on a tortilla. The tortilla and egg are flipped to allow the former to brown and the later to cook through. Fillings and toppings are added and viola, breakfast (or lunch or dinner)! The beauty, no need for excessive cheese to create flavor and fill you up. The other beauty, endless options for preparation. In addition to the recipe below, here are some of my other favorite flavor combinations:

– Queso fresco and black beans mixed with cumin, smoked paprika, and lime

– Goat cheese and spinach (with the latter preferably sauteed with garlic and red pepper flakes)

– Cream cheese and loads of herbs

– Avocado smashed with a hint of lime and chopped mint all spread in the center

But really, just use whatever you have in your kitchen. (Note my version that follows. Leftover steak from an Argentine restaurant, nearing its life expectancy rapini, and slivers of cheese from one of the seven wedges adorning my refrigerator.)

quesadilla

Egg Quesadilla

inspired by 101 cookbooks

Serves 1

1 small egg

Salt

Small splash of olive oil

1 corn or whole wheat tortilla, room temperature

Adobo sauce, to taste

A bit of chihuahua cheese (white cheddar, Monterrey jack, or any other type of mild, white cheese should work too)

Cilantro, chopped (optional)

Beat the egg and a pinch of salt in a small bowl. Beat the egg really well, so it’s uniform in color.

In your smallest skillet, over medium heat, add a tiny splash of oil. Let it heat, then add the egg to the pan. Let it set for just 10-15 seconds. Place the tortilla on top of the egg. The top of the egg should still be a bit runny, so it should attach itself to the tortilla as it sets. When you feel like the egg has set enough not to run, flip everything.

Add several drops of adobo sauce over the egg and then sprinkle on the cheese and cilantro, if using. Let cook until the cheese has melted and the tortilla has browned. Fold the tortilla in half and serve. (Alternately, if your tortilla is browned but the cheese isn’t melted yet, after you add the adobo sauce, cheese, and cilantro, fold the tortilla in half in the pan. Stick the whole pan in a hot oven for a minute. Once the cheese is melted, remove the pan from the oven and serve.)

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Filed under Breakfast and Brunch, Main Dishes

Orecchiette with Sausage and Swiss Chard

In the month of nothingness I had after traveling and before joining the real world, I filled my time with books. I read A Visit from the Goon Squad. I read Never a City So Real. And I also read a stack of cookbooks so heavy I thought it would break my desk.

That time of nothingness has long since past. My now jam packed days are filled with teaching third grade summer school in Chicago and taking on all the other tasks that come with being a new teacher. With zero amount of free time, my reading list has dwindled to third grade text selection guides and math ISAT prep books.

In the calm before the storm – in an era when my hours were occupied with stories of food – I finally made my way through  The Mozza Cookbook.  Owner of Pizzeria Mozza and Osteria Mozza, author Nancy Silverton writes lovingly about her time in Italy and its relationship to the food that now comes out of her kitchens. Her recipes are creative yet humble. While many, like this one, err on the side of daunting, it is obvious great care was taken to make them accessible to the home cook. Accessible, in this case, still means an all day cooking adventure which, at one point, left me watching three episodes of Mad Men as I shaped nearly two pounds of “little ear” pasta.

Despite it difficulty, the pasta is well worth trying to make. However, if your don’t want to spend your entire day in the kitchen, buy pasta from the store and make just the sauce, which was, in my opinion, the truly exceptional component of the recipe. (To do this your will need to follow the directions for “make the chard” and “make the finishing”.)

Orecchiette with Sausage and Swiss Chard 

adapted (just the sauce!) from Nancy Silverton’s The Mozza Cookbook

I found the process of forming the orecchiette described in the original recipe slightly challenging. I’ve left their method in the directions but have also included my own. If you want to see a video of my method, click here and watch my first ever post to youtube (!) to get a better grasp on how I formed the orecchiette. On an ingredient note, if you buy a small bunch of swiss chard from the farmer’s market, like I did, you may want to use only one arbol chile. They are hot so proceed with caution.

Serves 3-4

For the Orecchiette

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

1 3/4 cups semolina flour, plus more for dusting

1 1/4 cups water

For the Chard

1 bunch Swiss chard

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Kosher salt

1/2 large yellow Spanish onion, thinly sliced

2 dried arbol chiles

For the Finishing and Serving

3/4 pound Italian Sausage, casing removed

1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper

1 cup chicken stock

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Kosher salt

12 ounces Orecchiette

3 tablespoons high quality extra virgin olive oil

Parmigiano-Reggiano, to taste

Toasted bread crumbs, to taste

Make the orecchiette: Combing the flour, semolina, and water in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed until the dough comes together. Turn off the mixer, remove the paddle attachment, and replace it with the dough hook. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat the dough with the dough hook on medium speed until it forms a ball, about 5 minutes. Dust a flat work surface with flour. Turn the dough out onto the dusted surface and gently knead it for 20 to 25 minutes, until the ball begins to feel elastic and the surface of the dough feels smooth and silky. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes and up to overnight before sheeting it (any longer and the dough will discolor).

Slice the round of dough into 1-inch thick slabs and cut each slab into 1-inch wide slabs. Roll each section on a clean, dry work surface into a tube 1/4 inch thick, and set aside. Dust the work surface with flour and return the tubes to the dusted surface. Use a long knife or a straight-edged rolling pastry cutter to cut the dough into 1-inch long pieces, discarding the misshapen ends.

Dust a baking sheet lightly with semolina. Dust a plastic cutting board or other slightly textured surface very lightly with flour. Place one pasta segment on the cutting board with the cut end facing you. With the flat side of the tip of a table knife, gently press on the end of the segment closest to you and continue to pressing away from you toward the other end of the segment, flattening the dough into a small disk about 1/4 inch thick in the process. Pick up the disk and invert it onto you index finger so that the side of the dough you pressed on is facing down. Use the fingers of your other hand to pull the edges of the dough around the index finger, forming a caplike-shaped ear. Place the pasta shape on the prepared baking sheet and repeat, shaping the remaining dough segments in the same way.

(Alternately, place one pasta segment on the cutting board with the cut end facing you. Put your thumb on the end closest to you and, with the flat side of the tip of a table knife, press gently on the end farthest from you and continue pressing toward you, flattening the dough into a small disk and 1/4 inch thick. Pull the dough around the thumb you had placed at the front of the segment using the fingers of your other hand to shape the dough. Place the pasta on the prepared baking sheet and repeat.)

Use the orecchiette or cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap and refrigerate the pasta for up to one day. To freeze, place the baking sheet in the freezer until the pasta is firm to the touch. Transfer the pasta to sealable plastic bags, or an airtight container, dusting off the excess semolina, and freeze for up to two weeks.

Make the chard: To prepare the chard, pull the leaves from the ribs. Roughly chop the leaves and set aside. Cut off and discard the very ends of the ribs and slice the ribs 1/4 inch thick.

Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat until it is almost smoking and slides easily in the pan, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the chard ribs, season with salt, and saute for 2 to 3 minutes, until barely translucent. Add the onion, garlic, and chiles, and season with salt. Saute the vegetables for about 10 minutes, adding water to the pan (as much as 1 cup total), stirring often to prevent the vegetables browning. (You add water to the pan so you can saute and sweat the onion without browning it, but you never want the onion swimming in water–just enough so the pan isn’t dry.) Add the chard leaves, season with salt, and fold the leaves in with the onion for 1 or 2 minutes to wilt them slightly. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the chard leaves are very dark green and the onion, leaves, and stems are one soft, homogenous mixture. Turn the vegetables out onto a cutting board and chop, cutting first in one direction and then perpendicular to the first direction, until the vegetables are finely chopped to the point of being almost pureed. Measure out a heaping 1/4 cup of the vegetable for the pasta dish. Use the rest as an excuse to prepare this dish again in the very near future, or spoon a heaping spoonful under a piece of grilled fish.

Make the finishings: To make the sauce, heat a saute pan over high heat for about 2 minutes until it’s very hot. Add the sausage to the pan and cook it undisturbed for about 2 minutes, until the meat is seared. Stir the meat and cook for another 4 minutes, breaking it into pea-size pieces, until it is cooked through. Add the chopped chard and cook for 2 to 3 minutes to warm it through, stirring the chard into the sausage as it cooks. Sprinkle the pepper over the chard and sausage, add the chicken stock, and cook the sauce for 2 minutes, stirring constantly, to bring the ingredients together. Add the butter, stir until it melts, and turn off the heat while you cook the pasta.

Fill a pasta pot or large stockpot with 6 quarts of water, add salt to taste (be generous!), and bring the water to a boil over high heat. If you are not using a pasta pot, place a colander in the sink or have a large wire strainer handy to life the pasta out of the pot.

Remove the orecchiette from the refrigerator or the freezer and drop them into the boiling water. Stir to prevent the pasta from sticking together, partially cover the pot so the water returns to a boil quickly and continues boiling, and cook the pasta until it’s al dente, about 2 minutes. About 1 minutes before the pasta is done, place the sauce over high heat. Lift the pasta out of the cooking water or drain it and immediately add it to the pan with the sauce. Cook the pasta with the sauce together for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring with a rubber spatula, until the sauce is thick, adding fresh water to the pan if the pasta looks dry or sticky instead of slippery and glistening. Turn off the heat and add the high quality olive oil and Parmigiano Reggiano, stirring vigorously and shaking the pan to emulsify the sauce.

Pile the orecchiette in the center of each plate. Sprinkle a generous tablespoon of bread crumbs over each serving, and serve with  the remaining bread crumbs on the side.

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Filed under Grains, Main Dishes, Meat, Pasta

Sweet Potato Soup

Not surprisingly, one of my favorite pass times is reading cookbooks. And food blogs of course. There’s something incredibly gratifying about finding that one recipe I’ve been searching for or stumbling across a combination of flavors that gives me a spark of creativity. Even better than the recipes found in cookbooks and on food blogs are those inspired by friends and family.

Our freshman year, Melanie and I lived two rooms apart in our dirty dorm, whose walls were infused with the stench of Skol and Jose Cuervo. We bonded during late night study sessions taking breaks to question the composition of the ominous stain in the middle of my carpet or dance to the dub step and top 40 hits emanating from the frat quad. Three years later she still lives two doors down, this time in our apartment.

I visited Melanie this summer at her home in D.C. Her mom cooked me chicken Parmesan and salmon with a dill yogurt sauce. We sat around her kitchen table – Mel, her mom, and I – taste testing Godiva chocolate and gossiping about boys at school. And then her parents treated us to tapas: endives with goat cheese, almonds, and oranges, bacon wrapped dates, potatoes topped with a spicy tomato sauce, and more salmon, this time with raspberries and cauliflower puree. Those couple days were filled with the deliciousness that was unsurprisingly absent from the summer camp dining hall I had been eating from for the previous month.

The gift of food can only be repaid with more food. So I dragged Mel in to her kitchen to bake a batch of scones for her and her family. Melanie told me she couldn’t bake, describing the time she forgot to add baking soda to chocolate chip cookies, which naturally then spread across the entire baking sheet. Her sister jokingly called them “diarrhea cookies”. Enough said.

She may not be able to bake (Although, I don’t quite believe that seeing as how she baked a decadent raspberry vanilla cake just a couple weeks ago.) but she has proven she can cook, recently making lasagna, quiche, and butternut squash soup. It was soup season she said. And I agreed. Her soup was thick and creamy. And as it bubbled over the stove its aroma filled my apartment reminding me that at last my favorite season had arrived. And so a week later, it was a fall soup I was craving to cook up and devour.

While Melanie gave me soup inspiration it was Kirstin who brought sweet potatoes in to the picture. Kirstin and I first crossed paths shortly before our first day of college. From the area, we had both made the drive to school towards the end of August intent upon picking up our student IDs before the rush of other freshmen flooded the office. As we waited in line Kirstin turned around to introduce herself. That was luckily not that last time I was greeted by Kirstin’s friendly smile and warm hello. Our paths have continuously crossed since that day from classes to student group events to most recently, a potluck at my apartment, to which Kirstin brought the best, yes the best, salad. “Fall Salad” she had titled the recipe sent to me via email. Riddled with pecans, goat cheese, apples, and dried cranberries it was a salad I throw together for lunch on a regular basis. But then I found the sweet potatoes hidden beneath a mix of leafy greens. It was the sweet potatoes that elevated the salad from lunch time fare to a potluck worthy dish. And it was the sweet potatoes, roasted in dijon mustard and maple syrup, that gave me my final needed push of soup inspiration.

And so this soup was born, subtly spicy and slightly sweet, out of good friends and their adventures in the kitchen. Grab a spoon. Join me. Dive in. And thank Mel and Kirstin for the sweet potato soup warming your body and your heart.

Sweet Potato Soup

Loosely adapted from the Food Network’s Claire Robinson

Makes 4 to 6 servings

3 pounds sweet potatoes

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 onion, chopped

4 cups low-sodium vegetable stock or broth

1/3 cup maple syrup

3 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Salt and pepper

Goat cheese

Dried cranberries, finely chopped (optional)

Pecans, finely chopped (optional)

Cinnamon (optional)

Preheat oven to 375°. Roast sweet potatoes until very soft, about 1 hour. Let cool. Cut a slit from one end of the potato to the other and remove flesh with a spoon. Place in a bowl and set aside.

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until softened, about 6 minutes. Add the sweet potatoes, vegetable stock or broth, maple syrup, and dijon mustard. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook until the sweet potato is broken down, about 15minutes.

Cool the sweet potato mixture for about 5 minutes. Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender until smooth, transferring the puree to a clean saucepan as you work. Season the soup with salt and pepper, to taste, and simmer 5 to 10 minutes over medium heat to combine the flavors. Ladle the soup into serving bowls and stir in goat cheese just until it begins to melt in. Top with cranberries and pecans or sprinkle with cinnamon if desired.

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Filed under Main Dishes, Soups and Stews, Vegetables

Tomato Bread Soup

A couple weeks ago I went to one of my favorite nearby restaurants, a fabulous tapas bar. As usual, I forced my table to order the queso de cabra. For those unfamiliar with tapas, queso de cabra equates to goat cheese baked in a tomato sauce served with slices of baguette, which I prefer toasted with a little garlic and olive oil.

After sopping up the last of the cheese and tomato sauce I had to wonder how I could possible make this dish more accessible to my everyday diet. I suppose I could have opted to replicate the tapa completely and eat it for a meal on its own, but for some reason a pot of tomato sauce with a hunk of goat cheese baked in the middle and some garlicky toasts on the side didn’t seem like a stand alone meal. It seemed like a great tapa but not a complete dinner. Why tomato soup seems like more of a dinner I cannot tell you, but it did. So, my queso de cabra version of tomato soup was born.

I wanted to use fresh tomatoes given their abundance at the farmer’s market and I also wanted bread to somehow be included in the mix. This is where the  Bill Telepan recipe adapted by Luisa Weiss of the Wednesday Chef came in to play. (Read Luisa’s review of this soup by clicking on the link below. If that doesn’t make you want to whip up a batch of this soup I don’t know what will.) The recipe calls for making an easy tomato soup recipe, stirring in hunks of sourdough bread towards the end, and topping it all with cheese and basil. Sound pretty good to me.

The only changes I made to Luisa’s version were to peel the tomatoes. If you’re going for ease though feel free to leave them unpeeled. Luisa did! And to use goat cheese instead of ricotta. Next time I might try roasting the tomatoes or adding the goat cheese to the soup when I add the bread. For now though, with my pre-lunch stomach growling, I think I’m just might have to warm myself up a bowl. And then buy some more tomatoes this weekend to make it all over again.

Tomato Bread Soup

adapted (slightly) from the Wednesday Chef

The changes I made to the Wednesday Chef’s version of this recipe are detailed above. If you only want to eat one serving immediately and save the rest for later I suggest cooking the entire tomato soup for 45 minutes according to the directions below. Then, once it’s ready, pour the serving size you want in a smaller pot, add the bread, and cook for another 10-15 minutes. The rest of the soup you can refrigerate and add bread to when you heat up your next serving.

Serves 3 to 4

3 pounds plum tomatoes

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 small onion, minced

3 cloves garlic, minced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 cups sourdough bread, without crusts, cut into small cubes

1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese

1 tablespoon fresh basil leaves, minced

Fill a large bowl halfway with ice water. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Using a paring knife, score the bottom of each tomato with an X. Add tomatoes to boiling water and cook 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until skin at the X begins to peel back. Using a slotted spoon, remove tomatoes and immediately place in bowl of ice water. Once cooled, peel and core tomatoes. Place in food processor and pulse to chop.

Heat oil in 4-quart saucepan. Add onion and garlic and saute until soft, but not browned. Add tomatoes and their juices. Season with salt and pepper, bring to a slow simmer and cook 45 minutes, covered, stirring from time to time.

When the soup has simmered for 45 minutes, stir the bread cubes into the soup and simmer for an additional 10 to 15 minutes. Adjust seasoning if desired.

Serve hot or at room temperature, with goat cheese and minced basil sprinkled on each serving.

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Honey Rye Waffles

Last year I lived off of Eggo waffles. Whole wheat Eggo waffles to be exact. This year, however, in my quest to eat more whole foods and make most of my dietary staples at home, I decided to cook my own waffles and freeze them. In theory, this was more than a great idea. In practice though, it meant finding a suitable whole grain waffle recipe. Not the easiest thing to do in the recipe world seemingly deplete of whole grains.

But folks, I have found the whole grain waffle recipe that I will use for the rest of my life. The recipe I will memorize from making it so many times. The recipe my children will learn and love.

With my freezer waffle barren it was time to begin the search for yet another waffle recipe. I was immediately drawn to Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain, a beautiful cookbook filled with recipes that use an array of whole grains. I had previously strayed away from such grains under the impression that any flour other than all-purpose and whole wheat would be difficult to obtain. I found myself very very very wrong when wandering through the nearby Whole Foods I stumbled upon an aisle containing nearly every flour under the sun. So, this time when Boyce’s whole grain waffle called for amaranth flour, I didn’t shy away but rather made a grocery list and walked the couple blocks to Whole Foods.

Unfortunately, amaranth flour was a whooping nine dollars for a tiny bag. Not about to pay that much I opted for rye flour, which I knew Heidi at 101 Cookbooks used as the central flour in her multigrain waffles. The next morning I whipped up a batch of these waffles substituting the rye flour for amaranth and olive oil for butter. The hot, steaming, gorgeously browned waffles topped with a dollop of Greek yogurt and farmer’s market bought raspberry rhubarb jam made for probably the best homemade breakfast any college student has eaten in a long time. These waffles were so good in fact, I think I might even be able to convince my whole-grain resistant dad to dig in to a plate. Now that, is saying something.

Honey Rye Waffles

adapted from Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce with a little inspiration from this recipe at 101 Cookbooks

As mentioned, I substituted rye flour for amaranth flour and olive oil for butter. My reasoning for the flour was purely cost driven. In terms of the fat, to be quite honest, my reasoning was laziness. My apartment does not have a microwave and instead of pulling out a pot to melt the butter on the stove I opted for an already liquid fat form, olive oil. While the results were delicious, you can chose to return to Boyce’s original recipe if desired, which too will doubtlessly produce an astounding outcome.

Makes about 10 waffles 

¼ cup rye flour

¼ cup flaxseed meal

1 cup whole-wheat flour

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 cups buttermilk

¼ cup plus 2 tbsp honey

2 eggs

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon butter, for the waffle iron

Greek yogurt, optional

Jam, optional

Turn the waffle iron to its highest setting. (Even if you don’t usually heat it this high, these waffles come out best when cooked at high heat.) Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl, pouring back into the bowl any bits of grain or other ingredients that may remain in the sifter.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, honey, eggs, and olive oil until thoroughly combined. Using a spatula add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and gently combine. The batter will begin to bubble and swell as the baking soda begins to react with the buttermilk.

Generously coat the waffle iron with butter. Using a ladle or measuring cup scoop the batter onto the iron and promptly close. Remove the waffle with a fork when the indicator light shows that it is done and the waffle is a dark golden-brown, about 4 to 6 minutes. Repeat with the remaining batter.

Serve right off the griddle with a spoonful of Greek yogurt and jam, if desired.

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Curried Chicken Salad

I don’t really eat meat. If you put it in front of me, like most food, I’ll probably eat it. But if I have choice I usually take a pass. So if I don’t really eat meat naturally I cook meat almost never. (You may have noticed the lack of meat anything in my previous posts…). This week was an exception. Obviously.

Two Sundays ago I went to tea with my sorority. Yes, I am in a sorority. No, we are not all stick thin blondes who avoid anything that appears to contain a calorie. However, when we arrived at tea we feigned British manners. We sat, legs crossed, at white linen covered tables conversing while waiting for everyone to enter the venue. That lasted for all of 15 seconds when the seniors made a beeline for the food. Game over. Eat on.

In addition to the traditional cucumber sandwiches and biscotti was absolutely delicious curried chicken salad tucked between two pieces of fresh white bread. It was good. Really good. So good, in fact, that when I got home I immediately went to my computer to search for a recipe. A week later I finally got around to bringing the recipe in to the kitchen. And let me tell you, for someone who doesn’t eat meat, I’ve eaten a lot of this in the past two days. I think it has something to do with the combination of spicy and sweet and those grapes, which add that extra layer of flavor. Dig in.

Curried Chicken Salad

I highly recommend letting this chicken salad sit in the fridge overnight before serving. Letting it rest really allows the flavors to meld, making it…I would say…ten billion times better. Also, keep in mind, chicken salad can be served on its own, as a sandwich, or over lettuce. Chicken salad salad anyone?

Serves 4

3-4 chicken breasts (about 2 pounds)

1/4 cup sliced almonds

1 cup red seedless grapes, halved

1/4 cup chopped celery

1/4 cup chopped red onion

1 tablespoon yellow mustard

2 tablespoons curry powder

1 teaspoons paprika

2 teaspoons sugar

1/2 cup plain yogurt

Olive oil

Salt, to taste

Pepper, to taste

Put 8 cups of water and 3 tablespoons of salt in a large bowl. Place chicken breasts in the water and salt mixture. Refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.

Take chicken from the refrigerator. In a large sauce pan boil two cups of water. Rinse each chicken breast and place in the boiling water. Reduce the heat, cover, and cook for 12 to 15 minutes. Remove chicken from the water and place on a plate. Let cool.

Toast almonds in a 350 degree oven for 6 to 8 minutes or on the stovetop over medium heat. Chop the chicken in to half inch cubes. In a large bowl toss the chicken with olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste. Add almonds, grapes, celery, and red onion.

In a separate bowl combine the mustard, curry powder, paprika, sugar, and yogurt. Mix well. Pour the yogurt mixture over the chicken and stir until chicken is evenly coated. Cover and refrigerate for six to eight hours or overnight.

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Filed under Fruit, Main Dishes, Poultry