Recipe: Mediterranean Stuffed Chicken Breast

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, I have a tendency for nostalgia – especially as it relates to traveling.  While 2013 is going to be a great year for travel (I’ve already lined up trips to Bali, D.C., Edinburgh, Portland and Walla Walla), planning new trips always makes me miss the places I’ve been.  While it’s rarely as painful as homesickness, travel-sickness is no picnic: when suffering through it, I feel displaced and melancholy, like a foreigner in the neighborhood that I grew up in.

The best way to cure travel-sickness is to hop in a cab and purchase a one-way ticket to wherever will get you closest to wherever you feel like you belong.  The most reasonable way to cure travel-sickness is to head to the grocery store, pick up some regional ingredients and make a beeline for the kitchen.  This meal has become a go-to for me whenever I find myself longing for salty Mediterranean air, crisp white wine and the most delicious tomatoes on the planet.  I’ve been making it for years and have only had to modify it slightly to work for Paleo.  If you aren’t lactose-sensitive, I definitely urge you to add in 1/4 c. crumbled feta or sharp romano cheese.  Sometimes, I forget about being rigidly Paleo and just go for it because I’m the kind of nutritional therapist that thinks cheese makes everything better.

Mediterranean Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Ingredients:
1 red bell pepper (if you’re short on time, substitute a jar of roasted red bell peppers)
2 Tbsp. kalamata olives, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. fresh basil, minced
4 (6-ounce) chicken breasts (with or without skins)
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional: 1/4 c. crumbled feta or romano cheese

Method:
1. Roast the pepper.  Preheat your broiler.  Cut bell pepper in half lengthwise, discarding the seeds and membranes.  Place pepper, skin side up, on a foil-lined baking sheet and flatten with your hand.  Broil for 15 minutes, or until skin is black.  Place in a zip-lock bag and let stand for 15 minutes.  The skin should come right off – peel the pepper completely and finely chop it.

2. Prepare a grill to medium-high heat.  While the grill is heating, combine bell pepper, olives, basil and optional cheese.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Cut a horizontal slit through the thickest portion of each chicken breast to form a pocket.  Stuff 2 Tbsp. bell pepper mixture into each pocket and close the opening with a wooden pick.  Sprinkle chicken breasts lightly with salt and pepper.  Place chicken on a a grill rack, cooking each side for 6 minutes, or until done.  Remove from grill and let stand for 10 minutes before serving

Prep time: 7 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes
Serves: 4 people

Alternate, poor-weather method – with a twist!  I’ve added prosciutto to this baked version of the dish above to ramp up the savory, winter-weather factor.  Give it a try when rainy winter nights don’t allow for the grill to be used!
1. Follow step one and two from above.

2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Lay and overlap 3 pieces of prosciutto on a work surface.  Stuff 2 Tbsp. bell pepper mixture into each pocket.  Season chicken lightly with pepper and place on top of prosciutto that has been laid out.  Wrap the prosciutto around the chicken breasts and place into a baking dish, seam side down.  Repeat with the other chicken breasts.

3. Bake chicken until cooked through and golden in color, about 20-30 minutes.  Let chicken rest for 5 minutes prior to serving.

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