I had a moment while I was shopping at my local Whole Foods last week. I was perusing the aisles, alone. The kids were at home in bed, and the hubby graciously stayed behind so that I could shop by myself. This is, as I’ve mentioned before, is pretty much like spa day for me. But even better, on this particular night, were the sales at Whole Foods.
You’re mocking me right now, right? I can practically hear you shouting at me again. “There aren’t any sales at Whole Foods! Sales there just bring their ridiculously high prices down to regular store prices!”
I know. We all know. Whole Foods is expensive. And, while I do like a crusty St. Germain baguette or some fresh olives every now and again, I also see why Whole Foods is kind of a ridiculous place. Take, for example, the in-store made guacamole. I get really upset at that guacamole bar that advertises “freshly-made guacamole.” Come on, now. Guacamole is, like, the second easiest food in the world to make, just just one step above making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or boiling water. It’s made of mashed avocados, lime, garlic, tomatoes and red onion, folks! You can see all the ingredients laid out right there at the guacamole bar! In the time you stood there and watched that poor Whole Foods worker mix all the ingredients together, you could’ve bought everything to make it yourself! THIS IS NOT WORTH $7.99. Go home with a sack of avocados, put your big boy pants on, and mash your own avocados. It’s time to adult, my friend.
Anyway, the other night, the clouds must have parted, because Whole Foods was having a sale on chicken drumsticks for a mere $0.99 a pound. Of course, they were packaged in gigantic family packs of like 24 drumsticks, but who cares? That’s a lot of chicken nuggets for not a lot of money! I scooped up those drumsticks in a jiff along with an acorn squash and never looked back. Behold the product of my drumstick-a-palooza — harissa chicken drumsticks with roasted acorn squash.
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Harissa is a North African condiment made mostly of roasted red peppers, garlic, preserved lemon and coriander seed and caraway. It’s possible to make your own, but I’ve never tried to. In fact, I know very little about harissa except that the hubby loves it. He spent 3.5 years in Morocco before we met, and he talks all the time about the food, including the amazing flavor that harissa brings to marinated meats and vegetables. I finally had the chance to see what the fuss was all about last month when I visited one of my favorite gourmet food purveyors, Marx Foods in Seattle, Washington. Their store manager highly recommended Villa Jerada’s No. 1 Harissa paste several times to me. In fact, she returned to it in our chat so many times that I thought, “Geez, this stuff must be like liquid gold.”
Once I got home and popped my jar of harissa open, I understood. This harissa is warm and earthy, spicy and tart. It’s such a wonderful combination of flavors, and the texture — that of a thick tomato paste — is ideal for adding to a marinade without the risk of making it too watery. I ate more of that harissa paste straight from the jar than I’d like to admit (but less than I’m ashamed to say — so probably just the right amount). After reading up on various uses of harissa paste and how to best accentuate its many layered flavors, I decided on a yogurt marinade. Have you ever marinated meats in yogurt? It’s magical — the enzymes in the yogurt tenderize the meat and infuse juiciness, so much so that you’ll end up looking around your kitchen with crazy eyes, wondering what else you can marinate in yogurt to make this tasty (helpful tip: it is not more yogurt).
After I marinated my bargain basement chicken drumsticks in harissa yogurt, I peeled and cut an acorn squash into wedges, tossing them in olive oil, salt and pepper before taking a spatula to the wedges to smear more harissa all over them. The recipe I used was so super easy. I threw a pan of roasted chicken and squash into a preheated oven, and, just 35 minutes later, dinner was ready. During that 35 minute baking period I also spent a little time messing around with a Moroccan flavored rice pilaf, which the kids loved because there were raisins in it. Apparently, the key to winning over kids with new foods is to plop a bunch of golden raisins into rice and call it a treasure hunt.
They can have their treasure hunt as long as they keep eating my crazy dinners. After all, I had 24 chicken drumsticks for $0.99 a pound from Whole Foods. We all have our treasure.
Stay tuned for the Moroccan rice recipe that I served with this chicken!
- 1.5 pounds chicken drumsticks
- 1 cup low-fat Greek yogurt, plus more for serving
- 3 tablespoons harissa paste
- 1 red onion, peeled and sliced thinly
- 1 medium-sized acorn squash, peeled and cut into wedges
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Do ahead: peel and cut acorn squash into wedges and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Keep in refrigerator up to 1 day in advance. In a large gallon-sized Ziploc freezer bag, combine 2 tablespoons harissa paste and yogurt. Place drumsticks in bag, seal tightly and toss chicken inside to coat thoroughly. Refrigerate to marinate overnight.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. If you didn't do it the night before, follow the steps in step 1 to marinate the chicken drumsticks and set aside while you're doing the other steps.
- Remove acorn squash wedges from refrigerator and place in a large mixing bowl. Add olive oil, salt and pepper and toss to coat. Add 1 tablespoon harissa paste and toss again to coat thoroughly. Add onions and toss again.
- Pour onion and squash mixture into a large roasting pan. Place in oven and roast for 10 minutes. Remove the squash from the oven, add the chicken in a single layer, and return to the oven. Continue baking for 20-25 minutes until cooked through. Remove from oven and serve immediately with more yogurt on the side along with couscous or rice pilaf