My Mediterranean

“What’s your specialty?”  This is the most common question I get as a chef.  Hmmm, what is my specialty?  In the fall it would be anything pumpkin and definitely caramel corn. Winter – American comfort food, braised everything with a side of mashed something.  I guess it’s the caterer in me driven by the season or event at hand.  But if you backed me into the corner and I had to choose, I would be safe to say – Mediterranean. The Mediterranean reaches Spain, France, Italy, Greece, the Middle East and all the way to the North African Coast.  What’s so interesting about Mediterranean cooking is the wide span of overlapping flavors – Olive oil, tomatoes, capers, saffron, prosciutto, sumac, pomegranate, cous cous, lemon… The list goes on and on.  If you crave Italian food, there is a good chance you would savor French, Israeli and Spanish as well, which I am proud to say – I DO.
Today I wandered through the aisles of a fabulous  Middle Eastern market.  I find myself lost in thought in places like this, taking each aisle in like an exhibit at the Louvre.  The spice aisle is something to be marveled,  Za’atar, Sumac, pomegranate molasses, sour cherry syrups, rose waters … so many choices.  I started with an Italian imported dark cherry vinegar and this is where it took me;
Sumac Roasted Chicken Breasts
Chickpea Cous Cous with Apricots, Currants and Cherry Vinaigrette

Sumac is a reddish berry that has a sour fruity flavour, it’s typically used for sprinkling on kebabs, rice or vegetables.  It gives this simple roast chicken an added lemony zing.  The chickpea cous cous  is a mouthful of Mediterranean  flavor, tart-sour-creamy-salty-and sweet, it has a little of everything.

Sumac Chicken

6 medium chicken breasts with skin and rib meat attached
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 Tablespoon sumac
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  • Rub chicken with olive oil and season both sides with salt, pepper, sumac, and garlic powder
  • Place chicken on a lined baking sheet and bake skin side up 25- 30 minutes or until cooked through- rest 5 minutes, serve warm

Chickpea Cous Cous
1 –  10 oz box couscous
1 cup water
1 cup low sodium chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon olive oil
½ cup dried sour cherries-roughly chopped

 6-8 dried apricots- small dice

¼ cup dried currants
1 cup canned chickpeas drained and rinsed

 ½ cup flat leaf Italian parsley –finely chopped
 3 green onions-green parts only, finely chopped (reserve whites for dressing)
 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • In a medium sauce pot bring water, chicken broth, salt and olive oil to a boil
  •  Add in cous cous, stir, remove from heat and cover with a lid
  •  Allow to sit for 20 minutes, remove lid and lightly break apart cous cous with a fork-set aside
  •  Gently stir in cherries, apricots, currants, chickpeas, Italian parsley, green onion, and feta
  • Dress with 1/2 -3/4 cup of dressing – to taste
 Cherry Vinaigrette
1 Tablespoon green onion –white part only –finely chopped
1 Teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 Teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
2 Tablespoons honey
2 Tablespoon plain Greek Yogurt
¼ cup cherry balsamic vinegar (any fruit balsamic may be substituted)
½ cup extra virgin olive oil or grape seed oil

  • Combine all ingredients in a jar, shake well, and chill


5 comments… add one
  • Cooking with Kait June 4, 2010, 6:42 am

    Wonderful flavors and I love sumac. Thank you for sharing this recipe.

  • Anonymous September 19, 2010, 9:51 pm


  • Lisa Tsering August 24, 2012, 2:02 am

    The sumac is wonderful! And even though I didn’t have green onions for the couscous it was delicious. I served these with roasted beets & goat cheese on the side.

    • Chef Louise Mellor August 24, 2012, 2:09 am

      Thank you Lisa, so glad you liked it… I love sumac!

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