It was their last meal together but they didn’t know it.
They were celebrating. There was champagne chilling.
He knocked on the door as she set plates on the table. Usually they cooked together. And sometimes, he for her. This time, she for him.
They embraced with a familiar hey great to see you how’s it been what’s going on you look nice. Her hands were still warm from tossing the just-grilled chicken with herbs, her palms smooth with olive oil, her fingers scented with orange. He smelled like him.
They sat. They ate. They talked. They drank. They laughed.
There were moments of comfortable silence.
There were moments of palpable silence.
He sliced a mango over the crumb-littered table and handed her pieces.
They hugged au revoir talk later see you soon. She closed the door.
Saffron chicken and herb salad
Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s and Sami Tamimi’s Jerusalem. The bitter orange pith balances out the sweetness of the syrup’s honey and juice. I use a jalapeno instead of a hot red pepper, arugula instead of fennel, and mint instead of cilantro.
I prepared this salad over the summer for a photo shoot with the Boston Globe for their article on the popularity of the cookbook Jerusalem. If you want to see Yotam and Sami in action, here’s a video of them preparing this salad. They recommend you mix everything together with your hands.
- 1 orange
- 2 1/2 T honey
- 1 1/2 t saffron threads
- 1 T white wine vinegar
- 1 1/4 C water (or more)
- 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast
- 4 T olive oil, divided
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 2/3 C torn basil leaves
- 1/3 C torn mint leaves
- 3 scallions, thinly sliced
- 1 jalapeno, very thinly sliced
- several handfuls of arugula
- 2 T freshly-squeezed lemon juice
- salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 400ºF.
Simmer. Trim the top and tail off of the orange and cut into 12 wedges, keeping the skin on. Remove seeds. Place the wedges in a small saucepan with the honey, saffron, vinegar, and just enough water to cover the orange wedges. Bring to a boil and then simmer gently, uncovered, for about an hour. At the end, you’ll be left with a soft orange and about 2 tablespoons of thick syrup. If the liquid level gets very low during cooking, add some water.
Blitz. Use a food processor or immersion blender to blitz the syrup into a smooth, runny paste. Add a little water if needed to get it to a thick but pour-able consistency.
Grill. Mix the chicken breast with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and plenty of salt and pepper, and place on a very hot ridged grill pan (you can use a real outdoor grill if you have one). Sear for about 2 minutes on each side to get clear char marks all over. If you try to move the chicken too soon, it’ll stick – the meat releases when it’s ready. Transfer to a roasting pan and place in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until just cooked.
Mix. In a large serving bowl, mix together the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and crushed garlic. When the chicken is cool enough to handle but still warm, tear it with your hands into rough, large pieces and toss it in the bowl with the garlic and half of the orange puree. Mix in the rest of the ingredients with your hands. Taste, add salt and pepper, and, if needed, more olive oil, lemon juice, or orange.