In the Kitchen with Renee & Justin Bailey
Story by Lesley Harris Colvett
Photography by Mark O. Ramirez
You could say it was love at first sight - and bite! Renee made this delicious Mediterranean inspired dish while she was dating Justin, and the rest is history.
Justin and Renee got married May 7, 2019. The couple loves to travel and are self-proclaimed foodies, and Renee says they base a lot of their trip planning around if that country has good food. “We both really enjoy Mediterranean food, and one of the first big trips we took together was to Greece last year, and we spent our honeymoon in Italy - spending most of our time on the Amalfi coast,” Justin says. Other international places the couple have traveled are France, the Netherlands, Jamaica, the Bahamas and South Africa.
Renee’s enjoyment for cooking has grown since dating and marrying Justin, and she really enjoys meal planning for the week. “I could eat non-American food every day of the week, and the Mediterranean region is my favorite. I love the flavors, I love the fresh ingredients, and the healthy aspect to it. We try to do a lot of vegetables, chicken, fish, and use olive oil and lemon. On any given day of the week, a meal can easily be Mediterranean based,” Renee says.
While at home, these working professionals - Justin is an attorney and Renee is a CPA - enjoy being in the kitchen, watching Food Network, Memphis sports, or the news. “For our home the way it is set up, we spend the most awake time in the kitchen,” Renee says. She loves the whole theory of cooking for loved ones. “Meals bring people together, whether it is your neighbors, your friends, or family - can be an appetizer or a dessert - but food just brings people together,” Renee says.
Renee says this is a simple, mid-week dish that has special meaning to her and Justin. “This dish is reminiscent because it is one of the first things I cooked for Justin while we were dating, and it is just one of those happy meals that brings back a lot of memories of Greece and Italy, and you can’t beat it for being healthy,” Renee says.
Mid-Week Mediterranean Chicken
4 chicken thighs, boneless and skinless
1 shallot, peeled and sliced thinly
6 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
4 seedless English cucumbers,
cut into rounds
½ cup sliced Kalamata olives
10 ounces container petite tomatoes,
½ cup chicken broth
1 bunch parsley, chopped
1 cup uncooked orzo
¼ cup feta cheese
2 lemons, halved
3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive
Seasoning rub for the chicken:
½ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
Rub the seasoning for the chicken onto both sides of the chicken. In a large skillet, add 2-3
tablespoons of EVOO or enough to lightly coat the skillet. Cook the chicken in a single layer
on high heat for about 3-4 minutes on each side until it starts to brown. Remove the chicken
from the pan, and set aside on a plate. Reduce the heat to medium. In the same pan with the
remaining oil in the skillet, add the shallot and garlic, cooking for 1 minute until fragrant.
Next, add the cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, juice of 2 lemon halves, and chicken broth. Scrape
up any bits on the bottom of the pan, and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Return
chicken to the pan with half of the chopped parsley. Cover with a lid to finish cooking for
about 10-15 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and the sauce has thickened.
While the chicken is cooking, prepare the orzo according to package instructions. Once the
orzo is cooked according to desired texture, drain, but do not rinse the pasta. Next put the
cooked and drained orzo into a mixing bowl, add 1 tablespoon EVOO, the juice of 2 lemon
halves, remaining half of parsley (leaving a small amount for garnish), feta cheese, and gently
mix it all together.
Plate the orzo in an open circle toward the outer edge of the plate, next the vegetable mixture
from the pan as the second inner circle, and finally the chicken in the middle. Garnish the
chicken with a small amount of fresh parsley. Enjoy!
Optional Substitutions: Feta can be removed to make the recipe dairy-free. 4 tablespoons of
capers can be substituted for ½ cup of Kalamata olives.
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