Aunt Suzy says . . . .

This is a fast, easy and delicious meal-in-a-bowl that I learned in my early 20’s.  I lived in New York City at the time and was taught this dish by a friend whose husband was originally from Spain.  My friend, who called this Pisto, learned it from her mother-in-law.  You might note I’m not calling it this, which is because I’ve understood since that Pisto usually refers to the Spanish version of ratatouille.  Although, I just looked up Pisto to find  in the Spanish dictionary that it cites a secondary definition as “hodgepodge”, which could be used to describe this dish.  Whatever it’s called, I’ve been making and loving this all my adult life.  I had not made it recently, but was reminded about it by my brother John, who cooked it last week.  It’s a dish that once I’ve got it in front of me, I can’t get enough of.  I hope you enjoy the unusual blending of flavors in this hodgepodge of rice, artichokes, roasted red peppers and a healthy dose of garlic – all drenched in lemon.   And as Randy said − “great mouth appeal”.  Serve with a salad with lemon-olive oil dressing and a nice lemony Sauvignon Blanc or Albarino.

This recipe serves 6 and can be cut in half

2 cups white or brown rice

3 1/2 cups water or chicken stock

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 15-ounce cans artichoke hearts (NOT marinated), 10-11 medium

1 12-ounce jar roasted red peppers, about 2 large

4 cloves garlic, minced

2-3 tablespoons butter

1 8-ounce ham slice, diced

2 teaspoons olive oil

2 lemons, either Meyer or Eureka

Place the rice and liquid in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer till done.  (White rice about 20 minutes, brown rice about 40 minutes)

Meanwhile, cut the artichoke hearts in quarters.  Cut the roasted peppers in 1 x 1/2-inch strips.  Melt the butter in a medium saucepan.  When just starting to bubble, add the garlic and stir for a minute.  Add the artichokes and roasted red pepper.  Turn heat down to medium low and simmer until the rice is done.

Meanwhile, in a small saute pan, heat the olive oil till shimmering.  Add the ham pieces and saute on medium high heat for 5 or so minutes until it starts to brown.  Add the ham to the artichoke mixture and stir to blend.

When the rice is done, place in a large bowl, add the artichoke-ham mixture and stir to thoroughly blend all together.  Serve with lemon wedges.  People can squeeze juice from 1-2 wedges over their individual servings.

NOTES ON INGREDIENTS:  I almost always make this with brown rice, but white is good and quicker if pressed for time. I almost always use chicken stock or part stock/part water for a richer taste.  Look for smoked ham with the least amount of sugar and definitely not one where maple syrup has been used in the curing.  I prefer Meyer lemons, but regular Eureka lemons are delicious as well.  I learned to make this with butter (even more than I called for!), but I think olive oil could be substituted.

Margaux says

This dish is a staple in our household.  The chicken is perfect: juicy, flavorful and perfectly cooked every time.   The carrots are super delicious…my husband, who doesn’t like cooked carrots, even loves them.  It’s also very easy to make, and can be a relatively quick weeknight meal.  You need to have the preserved lemons in order to make this (I made it without them once and the chicken wasn’t nearly as good!).  If Meyer lemons aren’t available (and they’re not right now…they’re only in season from February-April), you can use regular lemons.   And you can buy preserved lemons in some stores, like Whole Foods, but they’re not NEARLY as good as homemade.

Aunt Suzy says

I also love this recipe and Margaux is reminding me that we have not made this in a long, long time!  I just noticed carrots available for the first time at the farmer’s market last weekend, so I have a hunch this will be on our menu soon.  The original recipe for this did not call for preserved lemon, instead calling for thin slices of lemon placed over the chicken.  I’ve made it both ways and like it with the preserved lemon better – but then I love preserved lemon!!  Sparkle Rice seems to be a perfect match for this dish, but I’ve been thinking of experimenting with Isreali Couscous lately as a side dish.  The original recipe suggested an off-dry riesling or a rose – either is perfect!

MOROCCAN-STYLE CHICKEN WITH SPICED CARROTS

Serves 4

The Carrots

6-8 large carrots

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 ½ teaspoons lemon juice

½ teaspoon coriander seeds

¼ teaspoon cumin seeds

pinch cayenne pepper

salt and pepper to taste

Peel the carrots.  Using a study vegetable peeler, cut carrots into lengthwise ribbons.


Toast the cumin seeds lightly and then crush in a mortar and pestle.  Toast the coriander seeds. (I toast them together and crush both.)   Toss the carrots with all remaining ingredients and place in a 9×13 baking dish.  Bake at 500 degrees in the upper third of the oven, uncovered, for 7 minutes – stir after 4 minutes.

The Chicken and Finishing

8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs OR 4 boneless, skinless breast halves (we always use breasts)

1/8” wide strips of preserved lemon (or thin slices of whole lemon, cut cross-wise)

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro (we always use more, but then we’re cilantro lovers!)

Brush the chicken lightly with olive oil and place on top of the carrots after they have baked per above.  Place the strips of preserved lemon or fresh lemon slices on top of the chicken.  Put back in the oven for about 10-15 minutes more (depending on thickness of the breasts), until the juices run clear.  Don’t overcook.  Place chicken on a platter.  Toss the carrots with the cilantro and place beside the chicken on the platter.

Sparkle Rice

Sauté in a little vegetable oil until soft – 2-4 garlic cloves, minced; 1-2 tablespoons chopped ginger; 1 medium onion, diced; 2 carrots, diced.

Add 2 cups white basmati rice and sauté till translucent.  Add a little less than 4 cups of vegetable or chicken broth and 5 whole cloves and a 2-inch piece of cinnamon.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer till the broth is absorbed, about 20 minutes.

Let sit for a few minutes, then remove the cloves and cinnamon and stir to blend.  Add some golden raisins if you wish.