Spiced Chicken Pita with Eggplant Puree and Pomegranate

Ufra, Aleppo and Sumac
It's always been a pet peeve of mine to hear TV chefs tempt and tease their audience by saying that they wish that people could smell what's going on in their kitchen. (Even worse when corny references to "smell-o-vision" are made.) While it's true that the fragrances that develop play a huge part in what makes cooking so enjoyable, I believe expressions like that should only be used when you really mean it. Last night, somewhere between all the searing, toasting and roasting, the fragrances just bloomed and captivated the kitchen and I couldn't help but think - I wish you could smell what's going on in here today..
Toasting Spices
The key to great dishes is layers of flavor and with that comes aromas that build the excitement and anticipation that enhance the whole art of cooking. Calling on influences from the Middle East and Mediterranean cuisine, this dish was simple by design but bold in flavor. Zesty sumac, earthy urfa and spicy aleppo were the main flavor components and together, once toasted with a touch of lemon zest, they created such an intoxicating aroma, it left me wishing I could have captured those scents.
Roasted Eggplant and Lemon
While those aromatic spices were toasting away, in the oven, the eggplant was roasting, gently softening along with half of a lemon. Light and perfumey, the fruity scents grew more powerful as the flavors concentrated and deepened. Once cooled, the eggplant was peeled and whipped into a puree along with a hint of nutty tahini and a couple drops of rich pomegranate molasses to add a sweet and tangy note, that smelled just as good as they tasted.
Spice-Rubbed Chicken Breast
That aromatic toasted spice blend was used, along with olive oil and lemon juice, to dust over chicken before the outsides got seared and then it was into the oven, while whole wheat pita bread toasted away. To finish it all off, the chicken was thinly sliced and peppered with just a bit more of the spice blend and laid over the whipped eggplant and warmed pita. Pomegranate seeds were then dotted on top to provide a surprising little "pop" with each bite and fresh chopped mint and slivered scallions provided a bright and fresh flavor.

I attribute all of these intoxicating smells wafting out of the kitchen to the use of ingredients and combinations that are relatively new to me. I'm making a conscious effort to push myself to try new cuisines and flavors and it seems I can't get enough of learning about food, utilizing different techniques and creating new dishes. The added bonus of the personal satisfaction gained from giving the kitchen an enticing aroma and great food to match is what keeps me motivated and ready to get started on the next meal.


Elizabeth @ Saffron Lane said...

I know, right? Smell-o-vision? I've been there before, especially when it comes to toasting spices. As a kid, my uncle owned a well-known spice shop and would share the most exotic mixes. They transform even the simplest dish into something extraordinary. I hope the new career is going really well for you!

Mom said...

Wow!! I am so impressed with this dish! This dish gets an A++!! Way to go!! <3

newlywed said...

Can I ask what your source is for the sumac and aleppo? I am always looking for aleppo, and I never see it.

The Small Boston Kitchen said...

Hi Newlywed, all three of these ingredients were purchased at the Armenian markets in Watertown..if you haven't been, check them out! So many good finds..

Ranjani @ Four Seasons of Food said...

I wish I could smell it too! This looks amazingly flavorful. i'm familiar with sumac and aleppo, but what is ufra? I've never heard of it...

The Small Boston Kitchen said...

Hi Ranjani, Thanks for your comment! Ufra is a dried Turkish pepper that has a beautiful earthy and somewhat sweet flavor to it. If you live in the Boston area, you can find it at the Armenian markets in Watertown.

What's Hot From The Small Boston Kitchen