Friday, July 2, 2010

Chicken in Fig leaves

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Many people fail to adhere to their diets because they simply do not use their imagination. Even friends of mine who have been doing this for quite some time still stick to the same bland diet that never changes.

Brown rice or yams, chicken breast or fish, broccoli, all plain. Yuck! Sounds like hell to me.

I eat a "clean" diet almost year round and I will start posting more about that after my competition, so you can get an idea of great healthy dishes that the whole family can (will) eat.

For now though, my diet needs to be fairly simple, but that does not mean bland and tasteless.

I am making boneless, skinless chicken breasts and it's hot outside so I want to grill them and get a nice smokey flavor. The problem is that they will stick to the grill unless you oil it, or baste the chicken in something and I cannot have any condiments, no sauces, no oil, no butter, nada.

I am fortunate to have a wonderful old fig tree, my husband and I planted it in our backyard about 17 years ago. Figs are wonderful, but the leaves are magical! I learned this trick from my favorite restaurant in Berkeley, Chez Panisse. In fact, I already have lunch reservations there for Bastille Day, just a few days after my competition. Since this restaurant is "everything" Provencal, it is one of the few special events they celebrate. We will drink wine and eat lots of garlic, and probably sing a little too!

I pick some nice big leaves off my tree, then pepper the chicken and wrap the fig leaves around each breast. When you grill fig leaves they exude a very strong coconut scent and flavor the food they are wrapped around and keep it very moist.

The leaves start to char, protecting the chicken, and it forms a nice tight wrapping. You peel off the charred leaves, the chicken is moist, and tender and tastes of heaven, even my 16 year old son said it was really, really good.

If you are not pre-competition, you can top the chicken with all sorts of wonderful sauces, fresh herbs, olive oil, aioli, the list is endless.

If you live anywhere in the San Francisco Bay Area, or Central Valley, there are fig trees everywhere, you may not have noticed. Hit up your friends for some leaves, wash them and wrap them in plastic, and throw them in the freezer if you cannot use them right away. I guarantee you are in for a treat.