Dinner Rush! Tandoori Spiced Chicken With Tahini Carrots

I do hope you’re sitting down for this one, because this post is so loaded with delicious, time-saving "do-ahead" ideas that it'll make you weak in the knees (please, hold your applause). I know that a cursory glance at this post may incline one to believe there’s a lot of work ahead just to get a simple chicken dinner on the table. Be not deceived — read on with empowered optimism.

One of my favorite spice blends available at my local market is billed simply as tandoori powder. Borrowing inspiration from the famous Indian chicken dish bearing the name tandoori, this creation is bright, aromatic, pleasantly spicy and seriously amazing on everything from meat to fish to tofu to vegetables. If your market doesn't have this available (or if you're one of these awesome people who'd rather get all DIY on it), make some of your own and keep it close by — you'll want to put it on everything. In a small bowl stir together 3 tablespoons ground coriander, 3 tablespoons ground cumin, 1 tablespoon smoked paprika, 1 tablespoon ground turmeric, 2 teaspoons chili powder, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 2 teaspoons garlic powder, 1 tablespoon kosher salt and 2 teaspoons garam masala or curry powder. Store the mixture in an airtight container at room temperature (makes about 3/4 cup; you won't need all of it for this recipe).

What pantry of sound being is complete without a staple salad dressing, too, right? I love having a hearty tahini dressing on hand to toss with shredded kale, grilled romaine or — in this case — a raw carrot salad. In a medium bowl whisk together 3 tablespoons tahini, juice of 1 lemon, 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 1 finely grated clove garlic, salt and pepper and 3 to 4 tablespoons warm water. Adjust the dressing's consistency with more or less water and store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 1 week (makes about 3/4 cup).

See, not so tough, right? Plus you're two steps ahead of the game for dinner the rest of the week! Alright, enough do-aheads — let's make this into a meal!

Tandoori Spiced Chicken With Tahini Carrots
Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Active Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

1 1/2 pounds chicken tenders (or boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into strips)

3 tablespoons tandoori powder (recipe above)
2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
4 to 5 medium carrots, peeled
1/4 cup tahini dressing (recipe above)
3 tablespoons roughly torn parsley and/or cilantro leaves
3 tablespoons toasted cashews, chopped (optional)

Preheat a gas grill to high (or prepare the coals for a charcoal grill). In a large mixing bowl, toss the chicken with the tandoori powder and oil to evenly coat the meat. Arrange the chicken on the grate and grill, turning as needed, until cooked through, about 8 minutes total. Move the chicken to a plate.

While the chicken is cooking, cut the carrots into ribbons by running a vegetable peeler straight down each carrot from stem to root. After you’ve cut about halfway through the carrot, flip it over to cut down the other side.

Divide the carrot ribbons between the serving plates and drizzle each with about 1 tablespoon tahini dressing. Garnish each salad with some herbs and cashews (if using) and serve with the grilled chicken.

NOTE: Tahini is a paste made from toasted sesame seeds that is commonly found in many Middle Eastern dishes, most notably hummus. Its earthy, hearty flavor (similar to miso in East Asian cuisine) makes it a great base for a variety of applications. When you buy it in the grocery store, it'll likely have separated into oil on top and sesame solids on the bottom (just like natural peanut butter). Give it a good stir when you first open it to mix it back together and then store it in the refrigerator between uses.

NOTE: We've got a cashew allergy in the house so I left them out for this picture. If your house is in the clear on them, adding a handful to each plate is a delicious choice.

Patrick W. Decker's life revolves around food. Always has, probably always will. As a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and past member of the culinary teams for Food Network stars Rachael Ray, Sandra Lee, Bobby Deen and Paula Deen, he now works as a food stylist and producer in NYC by day and a food writer and recipe developer at his home in New York’s Hudson Valley by night. You can see what he’s up to by following his latest tweets on Twitter at @patrickwdecker  or visiting his website at  patrickwdecker.com .

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