Take a break from the grill this week and have an Indian and Middle Eastern-inspired meal. Try a new spin on chicken salad by adding curry, or ditch your tired rice pilaf for a flavorful mujaddara. The spice combination in all of these dishes is sure to make you feel like you have just visited these regions all from the comfort of your kitchen.

Curry Chicken Salad

  • 4 precooked boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup mayonnaise (more to taste if needed)
  • 3 tablespoons curry powder
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 carrot (grated, about 1 cup)
  • ½ white onion, chopped finely
  • ½ Craisins (dried cranberries)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Mixed field greens (for serving)

Pull apart the chicken breasts with hands, or shred using 2 forks. Set aside. In a bowl combine the mayonnaise, red wine vinegar, curry powder, salt and black pepper and whisk until completely combined.  Should have a smooth, slightly lose consistency.

Add in chicken, grated carrots, chopped onions and Craisins. Fold all ingredients into the curry mayonnaise mixture. Refrigerate for at least an hour. Use an ice cream scoop to serve over a bed of mixed field greens. 

Mujaddara (Cooked Basmati Rice with Brown Lentils and Caramelized Onions)

  • 1 cup brown lentils (rinsed and sorted)
  • ¾ cup basmati rice
  • 3 shallots thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • ½ teaspoon cracked black peppercorns
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts or almond slivers
  • 1 lemon
  • Greek yogurt

In a saucepan, place lentils and fill with enough cold water to cover the beans. On high heat, bring to a boil. Turn down to low and let simmer until the lentils are tender, this will take about 20 minutes. Drain immediately and set aside.

In a large skillet, add olive oil and let it get hot over medium heat. Add in cumin seeds and cracked peppercorns. Shake the pan to avoid the seeds from burning. Once they have darkened, add in the shallots and a pinch of salt. Let the shallots caramelize for about 15 minutes. They should have a deep golden brown color.  Use a slotted spoon to remove half of the onions from the oil and put on a paper towel to drain the oil. These will be used at the end for garnish. To the remaining onions in the pot, at the ground cumin, cayenne pepper, cinnamon stick and sauté for about a minute.

Add in the rice and stir. Add the cooked lentils, 3 cups of water and 1 teaspoon salt; let this come to a boil. Turn the heat down to low and cover. Let simmer for 30 minutes.  The water should completely evaporate and the rice should be fork tender. Turn off the heat and let sit covered for another 5 minutes.

If using pine nuts or almonds, toast in a small skillet for 5 minutes, gently shaking around pan often to prevent burning. 

Taste the rice for seasoning, add more salt if needed. Top with the caramelized onions that were set aside and pine nuts or almonds. Cut lemon in half and squeeze juice from one half of lemon over top. Serve with dollop of cold Greek yogurt in the center. This dish can also be enjoyed cold.

Iced Chai Tea

  • 8 chai tea bags
  • 1 cup whole milk (can substitute for any type of milk)
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • Ice cubes

Bring 4 cups of water to boil, in a medium saucepan add tea bags and hot water. Let steep for 5-7 minutes. Remove the bags and stir in the milk and honey. Chill in a pitcher for at least one hour and serve over ice.

Samantha Davis is the owner of Savor by Sam Catering (www.savorbysam.com). Her Jamaican background, world travels and training in NYC have led her to have an appreciation for food of the world and a love of mixing them all together for the perfect meal.