Ottolenghi’s (refashioned) Chicken with Sumac, Za’atar, and Lemon

There is a new man in my life, and I am crushing really hard.

He is imaginative, clever, talented, brilliant, passionate …and handsome (swoon). Everything he does makes me very happy…even when he pushes me beyond my cooking comfort zone.

His name is Chef Yotam Ottolenghi, and I am currently obsessed with him.

He is my inspiration and my guru.

He is why I am adding Middle Eastern recipes to my repertoire.

You may already know my philosophy about growing as a person and doing one thing every day that is scary (blah blah blah). Well, until last week, Middle Eastern spices and recipes intimidated me. But I am proud to say that I have overcome that fear and am now ready to conquer more recipes with za’atar, Baharat, fenugreek, shawarma, and  Ras El Hanout.

Unofficially (and unbeknownst to her), I was introduced to him by Lisa Goldfinger who writes the beautiful Panning the Globe: Food Blog with great recipes from around the world. (She is my muse–also unbeknownst to her.) It was on her blog that I first read the recipe OTTOLENGHI’S ROAST CHICKEN WITH ZA’ATAR AND SUMAC.

I have modified the recipe, adding my own flair. I substitute skinless breasts for thighs. I also grill them rather than bake them, almost in the fashion of tandoori. I recommend using smaller breasts and a short grilling time to keep them from drying out.


  • I made my own za’atar mix, but you can probably find it in any good market.
  • I insist you eat the grilled lemons. They are a piquant and pleasant surprise.
  • Save marinade to make a sauce for drizzling
  • Watch the pine nuts–they can burn quickly.
  • Couscous (cooked in chicken broth) is a nice complement to the chicken.

Pair with Chianti Classico or a sparkling wine (always a good option).






We enjoyed this marriage of flavors very much. I hope you do, too!  Please send me your feedback and tag your photos #nakedepciurean on Instagram.

Ottolenghi’s refashioned Chicken with Sumac, Za’atar, and Lemon



  • 4      small-ish skinless chicken breasts
  • 2      red onions, thinly sliced
  • 3      lemons–one halved, 2 thinly sliced
  • 4      large cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 5      tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-2   tablespoons za’atar, depending on your affinity for this spice blend
  • ½     tablespoon sumac
  • 1      teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1      cup chicken broth
  •        freshly ground S&P

garnish with

                  6     tablespoons pine nuts

                ¼     cup chopped flat-leaf parsley



  1. Lay breasts on paper towels on a flat surface. Rub both sides of chicken with one half of the lemon (then discard lemon) and sprinkle with S&P. Cut 2 small slits in the meatier topside of the breasts and coat with za’atar and sumac, massaging the spices into the meat. Dust the breasts with cinnamon.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the chicken broth and olive oil together. Pour liquid into a baking dish.
  3. Nestle the breasts in the dish, being mindful not to wash off spices. Add crushed garlic cloves to dish.
  4. Layer breasts with lemon slices, then onion.  Cover pan with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator 3 hours to overnight, occasionally spooning broth onto the breasts.
  5. When ready to prepare, preheat an outdoor grill for medium high heat and lightly oil grate.
  6. While the grill is waming, heat a small pan on the stove for roasting the pine nuts. Roast them over medium heat until golden brown and put in a small dish to cool.
  7. Pour marinade into a small pot and reduce over medium-high heat to make a succulent drizzling sauce.
  8. Place onions and lemon slices in a grilling basket. Remove them from heat when they start to become charred.
  9. Grill chicken without turning for about 6-10 minutes (depending on the size of the breast) until no longer pink and juices run clear.
  10. Plate with grilled onions and lemons. Take a tour of freshly ground pepper across the plate. Drizzle with marinade (the couscous will thank you) and garnish with parsley and pine nuts.

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