Chicken S’mack Salad


This post is atonement for my last recipe. In fact, looking back on most of my recent posts, I realized they were not the healthiest. Perhaps unsurprising, given that it was the holidays, but still. Time to join the throngs who are fulfilling New Year’s resolutions and dieting!

I’ve been on the lookout for some time for a diet that is not a diet. Haven’t we all? What I mean, though, is a diet that is actually a lifestyle, not a fad. Something I could stick to and that wouldn’t deprive me of my favourite foods forever. Because forever is a long time and I do love my food.

The most important factor in any diet is that it suits you and your lifestyle. Otherwise, despite your best intentions, it just won’t stick. I knew that I had to take control of my carb intake and stabilize my blood sugars, because my early-afternoon slump had become a serious handicap. I’ve tried Atkins in the past and didn’t like it because it denied me a lot of the fruit and veg I think is good for me and said ‘ok’ to fat in all its forms, which just didn’t seem right.

So when I found the South Beach diet I was intrigued. After the initial two-week ‘boot camp’ called Phase One, you can eat fruit, veg and even limited starches, so long as they’re ‘good’ carbs. Whole-grain, unrefined, low GI. That’s reasonable. And it says ‘no’ to ‘bad’ fats, which just seems a lot healthier to me. Olive or rapeseed/canola oil instead of butter? I’m OK with that (most of the time anyway). If you’re interested, be sure to check out Kalyn’s Kitchen, a site full of fantastic South Beach recipes (and more)!

Phase One was a bit of a bear, I won’t lie. I have one day left and I admit I’m looking forward to having a Ryvita! Never thought I’d say that. But it did what it ‘says on the box’. It reduced my cravings for carbs and sugar and almost completely eliminated the desire to snack. I feel fuller more of the time. And I’ve lost all the weight I put on over the holidays. Brilliant.

But the other thing this diet has done is prove to me that we don’t need anywhere near the amount of carbs we used to consume with each meal. Rice was probably the biggest culprit, given that much of our home cooking is Middle Eastern. The following recipe was a way to demonstrate to myself, and Hubby, that I could take one of our favourite Arab dishes and remove the carbs without ruining it. Chicken M’Sakhan (chicken with sumac and grilled onions) is normally served on a bed of flat bread. Hubby likes it on rice, so that’s how I usually do it. But not anymore…

One way to successfully lower carbs is to boost flavour. That’s true of any diet. You’ll be happier eating less if each bite is packed with taste sensations. There’s a reason I call this ‘S’mack’, and not just the play on words. It’s addictive. The lemony sumac on the chicken, and fresh mint in the salad, just lift this grilled chicken salad to a new level. There’s also a nice combination of textures, from tender chicken to soft chickpeas to crunchy cucumber and peppers. And it looks pretty too with all those colours, doesn’t it? I especially love the way the chicken breast is roughly heart-shaped. So appropriate for a heart-healthy meal!

OK, so now am I forgiven for the Dulce de Leche?  ;-)

5.0 from 2 reviews
Chicken S'mack Salad
Serves: 4
  • 4 skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup sumac
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil, plus 3 Tbsp for salad
  • ½ cucumber, diced
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 bell pepper (any colour - I used ½ green and ½ orange), seeded and diced
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • Handful fresh mint, chopped
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  1. In a large bowl, toss chicken, onion, sumac, salt and 2 Tbsp olive oil until evenly coated.
  2. Grill over medium heat, turning chicken once and onions often, until chicken breasts are done.
  3. Remove chicken from grill and, if necessary, continue to cook onions until they're nicely carmelized, almost crispy.
  4. While chicken is resting, mix cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, chickpeas and mint in a salad bowl.
  5. Dress salad with lemon juice and olive oil; season to taste.
  6. Plate salad, then slice the chicken into diagonals and place on top.
  7. Garnish with onions and serve.
1. The defining spice in this recipe is sumac, a vivid red coloured, lemony powder found in Middle Eastern stores. If you can't find it, use the zest of 1 lemon. It won't be the same, but since the prevailing flavour of sumac is citrusy, you will get a similar result. 2. My original Chicken M'Sakhan post (incidentally my very first post ever) tells you how to make a more traditional version of this dish, if you're not on a diet. I said 'more' traditional because it's still not quite as grease-laden as the real deal such as you would find in Palestine. That stuff is awesome, but definitely more of a once-in-a-lifetime type thing. 3. That wine glass in the shot has water in it, just in case you were going to be a smarty-pants and say 'Hey Ruby, you can't have wine in Phase One'. But if you would like wine, a light and fruity white would do the trick.