Homemade Chicken Shawarma with Yogurt Sauce

I’ve been craving chicken shawarma ever since I first saw The Avengers movie (years ago!)  Since I’m in NY, and the city wasn’t really broken like in the movie, I even looked up the place where the last scene was filmed (when they were all sitting around eating shawarma).  But somehow, I never managed to get there.  I was re-watching the movie again recently and had the same craving again. Then I thought, wait, I know how to cook! Why go out and schlep all the way to midtown when I can make homemade chicken shawarma instead?

So, instead of going out, I went to the Internet and found a NY Times recipe.  This dish is traditionally made on a spit or a rotisserie, but who has a roasting spit in their home? Not me, and certainly not in my tiny kitchen.  The oven works just fine.  If you want, you can roast the chicken first, and then fry it in a pan to make it crispier.  I prefer my chicken moist and tender, so I skipped that step.

You make this dish in two stages. First marinate the chicken, make the yogurt sauce, and let both sit in the fridge. It’s best if it sits overnight, but allow at least an hour so that the flavors have time to blend together.

I put the chicken and the marinade ingredients in a plastic zip lock bag, shook it all up, and rubbed the sauce into the meat.  One less bowl to clean! The yogurt sauce went into a small ramekin.

There are hundreds of different ways to make the sauce: with za’atar or sumac, with dill, mint, basil, mostly mayo, yogurt/mayo, and on and on and on.  I’ve listed several different variations, just pick the one that suits your tastes and the ingredients you have on hand.

I could use za’atar and sumac, but I left them out of the instructions since they are a bit exotic in the US and I try to stick to ingredients that are readily accessible. The lemon zest, salt, and pepper that are in the recipe are a decent substitute for the sumac.  You can combine thyme, sesame seeds, sumac (or lemon pepper), plus salt and make your own za’atar substitute.

If you like, combine the dry ingredients for the marinade together and keep them in a spice jar.  Then, you just have to add fresh lemon juice and you’re ready to cook.

Serve this with a Greek salad, rice, olives, feta, or even (gasp) French fries. Fried or roasted eggplant would be great too.




 

Homemade Chicken Shawarma Substitutions and Variations

  • Serve with Persian or English cucumbers and fresh tomatoes
  • Top with feta cheese
  • Add chopped dill or mint to the sauce
  • Put za’atar or sumac in the sauce
  • Make the sauce with tahini
  • Serve with a Greek salad (olives, feta, tomatoes, and cucumber)

Tools and Ingredients for Homemade Chicken Shawarma

norpro porcelain ramekinsNorpro 4oz/120ml Porcelain Ramekins, Set of 6norpro porcelain ramekins

These little ramekins are super-handy in the kitchen. I use them for dips, sauces, mixing up a quick salad dressing, nuts, slices of lemon to squeeze on fish, and olives. Use one for the olives, and another to hold the pits (works for cherries too). Or, you can even use them for spare change.

Thrive Market Organic Za\'atar 1.7 oz pouchzaatar seasoning
Thrive Za’atar

If you want to try actual za’atar, make sure to look carefully at the ingredients. Some of them have wheat (?!?) in them, and others are just thyme (which is the English translation). You want a mixture of sesame seeds, thyme, oregano or marjoram, and sumac. This one delivers what it should. Use it for the yogurt sauce, add it to roasted vegetables or fish, or sprinkle it into olive oil and serve with pita bread.

ground sumac
USimplySeason Sumac

Sumac adds a pop of bright red color, as well as a citrusy, lemon flavor to food. It’s great with hummus, over fish, mixed in salads, or on potatoes. There’s no additives, salt, or other fillers in this jar, just sumac.

More Middle Eastern Recipes

shakshouka for oneShakshouka for One

Poached eggs layered over a tomato sauce punched up with spinach and sweet bell peppers.

 

israeli chopped saladChopped Israeli Salad for One Person

An easy, healthy side dish with no cooking required. Or, add olives, plain yogurt (or lebne) and pita and call it breakfast.

 

vegetarian eggplant sandwichVegetarian Eggplant Sandwich for One Person

See that Israeli salad above? Add some pita bread, fried eggplant, hummus, spinach, and a hard boiled egg, and it’s now a sandwich!

 

spicy lamb and lentils

Spicy Lamb and Lentils

Lamb and lentils are a classic Middle Eastern combination. This one is flavored with cumin, garlic, and just a pinch of red pepper flakes. It’s flavorful, but not spicy. And fast too.

 




Indian Royal Chicken Cooked in Yogurt

The beauty of this Indian royal chicken cooked in yogurt recipe is that it’s delicious and can be made fairly quickly.  You can just serve it with naan or make some rice to help soak up the sauce.  I have adapted this from Madhur Jaffrey’s Quick & Easy Indian Cooking, which is a great guide for making Indian meals that don’t require a lot of fuss. Plus, she wisely sticks to ingredients that are fairly easy to find outside of India. Her recipe is for four people, my version is dinner for one person.

I made a few other minor changes as well.  The original recipe calls for both dried and fresh coriander.  I don’t generally have fresh coriander (and if I did, it would spoil), so I used a bit more dried instead. 

Make sure to remove all of the whole spices before serving. You don’t want to crunch down on a clove or a cardamom pod!

She calls for slivered almonds, but all I had was ground almonds, so I used that.  I am a big believer in using what you have and not buying special ingredients for a single purpose.  You can substitute slivered, or blanched if that’s easier.  You might even use whole ones, or throw them in the mini-chopper to chop them up.

There’s also a fun bit of chemistry here.  When you add the raisins to the hot pan, they plump up and temporarily revert back to grapes!




Substitutions and Variations for Indian Royal Chicken Cooked in Yogurt

  • try it with ghee (clarified butter) instead of oil, sliced onions, and ginger paste (full recipe here)
  • add potatoes, curry leaves, tamarind paste, and coconut milk (recipe here)
  • make it Hyderabadi style with tomatoes, cashews, red chilis, saffron and turmeric

More Chicken Recipes for One Person

one person chicken curryEasy Chicken Curry Recipe

A super easy recipe largely with pantry staples. It’s got a rich, creamy sauce spiked with cumin, garam masala, and jalapeño peppers. Ready in about 15 minutes.

 

chili garlic chicken thighChili Garlic Chicken Thigh Recipe for One

Buffalo chicken with a lot less mess.  The garlic adds zest and the chili brings the heat. Cheaper than wings too!

 

crispy lemon chicken thighCrispy Lemon Chicken Thigh Recipe for One

“Fried” chicken without the splatter.  It’s got three kinds of lemon and a touch of brown sugar. Good hot or cold.

 

chicken mango stir fryQuick Chicken Mango Stir Fry Recipe

A bright and colorful tangle of veggies and chicken. If you don’t have fresh vegetables, a frozen stir fry mix will work just fine. Just cook them a bit less.

 




Greek Yogurt Chocolate Cake

This Greek Yogurt Chocolate Cake has got everything a cake needs: chocolate, chocolate chips, and a gooey chocolate center. I would have left it at that, but then I remembered my local bakery’s chocolate blackout cupcakes. Those cupcakes have chocolate cake, a chocolate icing center, and then more icing on top! Yes! If it’s good enough for cupcakes, it’s definitely good enough for cake.

I found this recipe on dessert for two.  Since it’s already a small portion, I didn’t change it much, but I did make a few tweaks.

Because I don’t use cooking spray, I prepared my mini baking pan with butter and a dusting of flour. 

Keep Your Cake From Sticking

Just rub the butter over the bottom and sides of the pan, then sprinkle flour over it and spread it around with a butter knife.




Also, I didn’t have chocolate chips, so I cut up part of a bar of chocolate with a large knife (a mini-chopper would work too). Since I was going to add the icing, I cut the amount of “chips” to 1/4 cup.  I don’t like espresso powder, particularly not with chocolate, so I left that out.

Finally, I topped it all with a ganache topping, which is simply equal parts chocolate bar and butter.  Just combine 2 oz. of chocolate with 2 oz. of butter and melt that gently in a small saucepan.  Let it cool for fifteen minutes (or it will just soak in to your cake and disappear) and then and spread it over the top of your cake. If you want, you can add a splash of vanilla extract to the mixture.

Since this is a small cake, you don’t need to use your mixer.  You can easily make the whole thing by hand in a single medium-size bowl.

Tools and Ingredients for Greek Yogurt Chocolate Cake

HIC Porcelain Square Baking Dish 6.5- by 6.5- by 1-inch

This dish is the perfect size for this cake, a small coffee cake, brownies, or apple bread.  It cleans up easily and you can put it in the dishwasher if you like. It’s also microwave safe.

Cadbury Bourneville Cocoa

This cocoa is far richer and more full-flavored than the usual American cocoa. It’s darker chocolate and has no added sugar or fillers. Just plain cocoa.


Silicone Spatula Set

It’s getting harder and harder to find these in the stores. They’re all too wide: fine for turning fish or an egg, but useless for scraping cake batter out of your mixing bowl or spreading icing. Since they are silicone, they’re more heat-resistant than rubber would be. They’re also dishwasher safe and have built-in holes for hanging.

More Chocolate Dessert Recipes

easy chocolate mousseEasy Chocolate Mousse

One of the very first things I learned to cook. Only five ingredients, and you don’t have to separate eggs or melt chocolate. Easy, delicious, and chocolate. What more could you want?

small batch brownies cocoa powderSmall Batch Brownies with Cocoa Powder

Just enough brownies for one person (because a full batch is just too much). These are made with cocoa powder, so you don’t have to melt chocolate to make them.

 

single serving double dark chocolate pudding recipeSingle Serving Double Dark Chocolate Pudding Recipe

Double dark chocolate pudding, in a single serving. This is actually two recipes in one. Cook it more, you get pudding. Cook it less and you get thick European hot chocolate.

 

chocolate banana breadMini Chocolate Banana Bread

Banana bread + chocolate! All downsized for one person.  Just mix everything together in a bowl, and bake.

 

 




Indian Fish Fillet in Yogurt Sauce

This week’s recipe was going to be something else, but then I realized I hadn’t defrosted it.  Oops. No matter, this  Indian fish fillet in yogurt sauce recipe will do quite nicely instead.  You’ll just have to wait for the other recipe!

This is adapted from The Wednesday Chef , who in turn adapted it from Madhur Joffrey.  Since the amounts are smaller, you don’t have to heat up the oven. You can make this in the toaster oven instead. It heats up more quickly and it’s easier to clean too!

All you have to do is lightly fry some onions, pour them onto a tray, season and mix the yogurt, and then pour all of that over the fish.

It’s maybe ten minutes of prep, and 20 minutes of baking.  While it bakes, pour yourself a glass of wine or a beer or make some rice to go with it. Or both.

You end up with a rich, creamy sauce that tastes indulgent (but isn’t, since it’s yogurt, not cream).   So no need to feel guilty.

The garam masala, ginger, and cumin add a bit of bite, but not too much (unless you want it spicier, of course). It’s pretty easy and approachable for Indian food.




Substitutions and Variations for Indian Fish Fillet in Yogurt Sauce

  • Add some curry to the sauce for more kick
  • Try pan frying the fish (about three-five minutes per side); add the yogurt sauce at the end, off the heat so it doesn’t curdle
  • Add half a hot chile pepper

More Fish Recipes

easy canned tuna curryEasy Canned Tuna Curry

Turn a can of tuna into a full meal. Just add some pantry staples, heat it all up and you’re ready to eat in just a few minutes.

 

greek fish with lemon and tomatoesGreek Fish with Lemon and Tomatoes

Bring the flavors of the Mediterranean to your dinner plate with this quick, single pan fish recipe. Make a simple marinade, let it sit, and then pan fry.

 

pan-fried tilapia with lemon butter saucePan Fried Tilapia with Lemon Butter Sauce

A splash of citrus, a bit of mustard for bite, and a sprinkle of rosemary add a lot of flavor without much effort.

 

easy mediterranean fish stewEasy Mediterranean Fish Stew

Bring the warmth and sunshine of the Mediterranean to your dinner table, even on a cloudy spring day. This dish is full of flavor from fish, tomatoes, garlic, and citrus.

 

 




Greek Yogurt Coffee Cake Recipe for One

I was in the mood for something sweet with my morning coffee one weekend. After some thought, I settled on a Greek yogurt coffee cake.  The trouble was, I didn’t have a recipe I liked, and most of the small batch recipes for coffee cake I found were the sort of thing you make in a mug, which I didn’t want.

I have tried a few of those and did not like them. I wanted something made from scratch, in a real pan, in the oven.  That way, the flavors have time to meld, and the flour/sugar/fat can work their magic.

I found a great recipe for sour cream coffee cake muffins (for two), but that required a muffin pan. I got rid of mine because I never used it and it was taking up valuable kitchen space.  The funny thing is, she said she decided to make the recipe as muffins instead of a cake since most people have muffin tins. So, I had to revert to her original plan and make a single small batch dessert coffee cake instead!

I made a few other changes too.  The topping sounded delicious, but much too sweet for me, so I decided to cut the sugar she called for in half.




Next, since I have a Kitchenaid mixer, I only mixed the oil and sugar for two minutes, rather than four. Because I usually have Greek yogurt in the fridge, but not sour cream, or heavy cream, I used that instead. You can use the traditional sour cream if you prefer.

Because my mini baking pan is porcelain, and I didn’t want the batter to stick, buttered and floured it before I added the cake mixture.

Since I was baking a single, solid small cake instead of muffins, I also reduced the cooking temperature and increased the baking time slightly.

The result was a delicious, not too sweet, crumbly, cinnamony cake that was just perfect for a weekend treat.

Tools and Ingredients for Greek Yogurt Coffee Cake


Farberware Classic Stainless Steel 5/8-Quart Butter Warmer

This mini saucepan is great for melting butter, making a single cup of cocoa, or for filling in (in a pinch) when you’ve broken your French coffee press again (oy!).

 

HIC Porcelain Square Baking Dish 6.5- by 6.5- by 1-inch

I have been using this dish quite a lot. It’s great for this cake, for my small batch brownies, and a single serving of apple crisp. And, it’s dishwasher safe, if you have one. If there’s any leftover cake, the dish can also go in the microwave, if you want to reheat it.

More Small Batch Cake and Dessert Recipes

greek yogurt chocolate cakeGreek Yogurt Chocolate Cake

Triple chocolate (cake, chips, and ganache) cake that’s decadent, rich, but not too rich (it’s got yogurt!).  The ganache adds extra chocolatey oomph (and it’s easier than you might think).

chocolate banana breadMini Chocolate Banana Bread

Banana bread is good. This is even better. Serve as is, or topped with vanilla ice cream. Because you’re worth it.

 

cinnamon sugar apple breadSmall Batch Cinnamon Sugar Apple Bread

This is really snickerdoodle apple bread. Snickerdoodles are cinnamon sugar cookies. This recipe adds apples and transforms the cookies into a quick dessert bread. Much easier to make too.

Peach Crumble Recipe for One

Transform sweet, juicy summery peaches into a crumble dessert. You only need two bowls and the baking pan.

 

 




Salmon with Greek Yogurt Dill Sauce

Salmon with Greek yogurt dill sauce is a great combination.  The piquancy of the Greek yogurt complements the rich flavor of the fish beautifully. A pinch of mustard gives it a bit of a bite, without overwhelming the rest of the dish.

The other great thing about this dinner is that it’s quick and easy to make.  Just mix a few simple ingredients for the sauce (which uses ingredients you probably already have, so no need for a special trip to the grocery store), season the salmon, and put the fish in the oven while the sauce flavors combine.

I’ve written the recipe for a toaster oven (since I don’t want to heat up the whole apartment), but you can make this in a standard oven too. Or, if you’re really pressed for time (or very hungry), you can cook it in your microwave.  If you do, once the sauce is made and the fish is seasoned, you can have dinner in 6 minutes.

One of the great things about this salmon with Greek yogurt dill sauce is that it’s a quick meal that looks (and tastes) like you cooked for hours. And, it’s easy to scale this up and serve it when you have company.

If you have the time, do let the sauce sit for a while before you cook everything else.  It really does improve the flavor.

I served the salmon with some jasmine rice (which is my new favorite rice), the rest of the cucumber I used for the sauce (fresh from the farmer’s market), and some beautiful, ripe Jersey tomatoes.

It’s a great summer meal because it’s light, doesn’t require a lot of fussing, and it’s ready in a few minutes. And, since you’re cooking the dish in foil, there’s one less thing to wash when you’re finished (which is always a bonus, as far as I’m concerned).




More Salmon and Fish Recipes

salmon in foil packet with potatoesSalmon in Foil Packet with Potatoes

Zesty citrus, sweet tomatoes, and a bit of mellowed onion create a flavorful and aromatic dinner all in a single package. Plus, the foil keeps the salmon moist.

 

Smoked Salmon Pasta with Tomato Cream Saucesmoked salmon pasta with tomato cream sauce

Pasta with a creamy, velvety tomato sauce that’s elegant enough for company (though you’ll probably want to keep it for yourself). Use smoked salmon or leftover cooked salmon.

fish fillet with yogurt sauceIndian Fish Fillet in Yogurt Sauce

Maybe ten minutes of prep, but plenty of flavor from onion, garam masala, and a creamy yogurt sauce. Just put it together and bake.

 

pan-fried tilapia with lemon butter saucePan-Fried Tilapia with Lemon Butter Sauce

A touch of mustard and plenty of lemon add zest to this easy fish dinner. Just season and pan fry.

 




Chicken Salad with Greek Yogurt and Dried Currants

Making chicken salad with leftover chicken certainly isn’t a new idea, but this recipe is a bit different.  I usually follow (mostly) a chicken salad recipe from the Silver Palate Cookbook which calls for sour cream, walnuts, and tarragon. Incidentally, that is one of my favorite cookbooks.  I’m on my third copy!

The Silver Palate recipe is very good, but yesterday I felt like something different.  I didn’t have all of those ingredients, but I did have some Greek yogurt, black currants and a bit of leftover red  bell pepper.

It’s common to use celery in this sort of salad, but not being a big celery fan, I never have any in the fridge.  I thought that the currants would add sweetness and the bell pepper would give the salad a bit more color as well as some extra sweetness and a satisfying crunch (without any celery!).

This chicken salad is a bit lighter than most chicken salads because it uses Greek yogurt instead of mayo. Much as I love rich and creamy foods, I somehow happen to prefer chicken salad that’s a little less “mayonnaisy.”  The yogurt adds a bit of tanginess that contrasts with the creaminess of the mayonnaise. Use about three parts mayonnaise to one part yogurt.

It was easy, quick, tasty, and great for a hot day when I didn’t feel like cooking or fussing in the kitchen.




Chicken Salad with Greek Yogurt and Dried Currants Substitutions and Variations

  • If you don’t have dried currants, use grapes or raisins instead; particularly a raisin mixture (Trader Joe’s has a great one)
  • Top with spinach or lettuce for extra color and crunch
  • If you don’t have yogurt, substitute sour cream
  • Try cranberries instead of the currants

More Chicken or Yogurt Recipes

Indian Royal Chicken Cooked in Yogurt

Easy Chicken Curry Recipe

Indian Fish Fillet in Yogurt Sauce

 




Cottage Cheese Yogurt and Fruit

Summer is in full swing. It’s hot, it’s sticky, and I really wasn’t terribly motivated to cook the other day (gasp). I wanted something quick, refreshing, and truly easy to make.  I looked in the fridge and saw that I had some cottage cheese yogurt and fruit (mango in this case).

Then I remembered that there used to be a store near me that sold fresh Greek yogurt with fruit, honey, and vanilla. They had all sorts of combinations: mango, blueberry, peach, and fig.  It was delicious.

Sadly. they’ve closed up and moved away from my neighborhood now, so I can’t get their yogurt without making a special trip.  While  I can’t recreate their yogurt exactly, I can use Fage plain yogurt instead.

Trying to recreate that yogurt salad sounded like a good idea, but I did want something just a bit more substantial than just yogurt and fruit, so I added cottage cheese as well to make a cottage cheese yogurt and fruit salad.

The proportions are about two parts cottage cheese to one part yogurt.




I’ve put this under “15 minute meals” but it isn’t even that much.  It’s closer to five minutes.  Just dump, mix, and drizzle.  Easy!

Cottage Cheese Yogurt and Fruit Substitutions and Variations

  • This works with strawberries, blueberries, peaches, figs, blackberries and raspberries.
  • Or use a combination of fruits instead.  It does not work well (in my opinion) with apples or grapes.

More Salad Recipes with Fruit

apple almond chicken saladApple Almond Chicken Salad

Sweetened with crisp/tart apples, crunchy nuts, and not too much mayo. An easy lunch for a summer’s day.

 

blueberry and spinach salad with fetaBlueberry Spinach Salad with Feta Cheese and Walnuts

No actual cooking required for this salad. Mix together your favorite greens, spinach, salty feta, and crunchy walnuts.

 

strawberry spinach salad balsamic dressing feta cheeseStrawberry Spinach Salad with Balsamic Dressing and Feta Cheese

Tangy balsamic dressing and sweet summer berries are an unbeatable combination. Just toss and serve.

 

 




Banana Smoothie Recipe for One

A banana smoothie certainly isn’t a complete meal, but this recipe makes a delicious, refreshing drink. It’s perfect with a crisp strawberry and spinach salad on a hot day (yes, we’re back to summer again).

The nice thing about smoothies is that they’re easy and quick to make.  It’s also a good way to use up extra bananas.  The bunches of bananas look so good in the store, but you get them home, eat a few, and then watch the rest turn brown if you don’t eat them quickly enough. In the winter, I make banana bread, but in the summer I really don’t want to run the oven that long.

So, I make smoothies instead.  This time I just used banana, but you could add strawberries or blueberries (it will turn purply though) if you want to.

Sometimes, I take the extra bananas, peel them, and pop them in a bag in the freezer.  When you want a quick smoothie,  just take out a frozen banana (and reduce the ice in the recipe a bit).

Or, take your banana and drizzle it with chocolate syrup.  Instant dessert!




More Banana Recipes and Smoothies

Watermelon Slush

Cinnamon Sugar Bananas with Brandy

This lemon mango banana yogurt recipe isn’t mine, but I’ve tried it and it’s delicious.  One thing, since I don’t have a food processor (only a mini-chopper), blending the frozen banana is a bit tough.  So I did it the other way around (blend first, then freeze).