March is National Nutrition Month, when the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reminds everyone to return to the basics of healthy eating. It is also the time of year when the Academy celebrates expertise of registered dietitian nutritionists as the food and nutrition experts.
I grew up with cinnamon in savory dishes, not sweet. This savory recipe has gone through some changes over the years — it's now lighter, since it no longer has ground beef. My grandmother, straight from Lebanon, served the original version to my mother who was raised in Peoria, Ill., where a large Lebanese community still exists today. Now, in New York City, I serve it to my close friends. It's a comforting dish that always "takes me home."
4 bone-in chicken breast halves, skin removed
1 tablespoon sea salt
½ cinnamon stick
2 cups long-grain white rice, uncooked
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon white or black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ cup plus 2 teaspoons butter
1 large white or yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
⅛ teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
⅛ teaspoon white or black pepper, or to taste
¼ cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
¼ cup toasted pine nuts
¼ cup slivered toasted almonds
- Place the chicken breast halves in a stockpot. Add 6 cups cold water (or more, if needed to cover the chicken), the salt and the cinnamon stick. Over medium-high heat, bring just to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes, or until the chicken is firm and just cooked through. Remove the chicken. Strain the cooking liquid and set aside.
- When the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred it into large bite-size pieces. Discard the bones.
- In the same stockpot, place the chicken pieces, 4 cups of the strained cooking liquid, the rice, bay leaf, pepper, cinnamon and ¼ cup butter. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, in small skillet over medium-high heat, saute the onion in 2 teaspoons butter with the oil, salt and pepper.
- Mix the sauteed onion into the chicken and rice prior to garnishing. Remove the bay leaf. Adjust seasonings to taste. Serve on a large platter garnished with parsley, pine nuts and almonds.
- This recipe can easily be halved.
Serving size: 1¼ cups
Calories: 340; Total Fat: 13g; Saturated Fat: 5g; Cholesterol: 40mg; Sodium: 930mg; Total carbohydrate: 40g; Dietary fiber: 2g; Protein: 14g