Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Garlic and Rosemary Baked Chicken with Orzo, Spinach, Beets and Feta

The idea of rolling thinly cut chicken breast around fresh rosemary stalks and baking it came to me a few days ago, so I decided to try it out. The rosemary added fragrance and flavour to the chicken, as I knew it would. I balanced it by the addition of a  fresh garlic rub.

To serve with the simple chicken, I made a warm orzo salad, incorporating bits and pieces from the fridge...pomegranate seeds, a yellow tomato, fresh spinach, fresh parsley, feta cheese, a fresh lemon and some beets. I still have 2 of the beets to use, and plan to use them to make a sandwhich for lunch tomorrow.

I started off by cooking the beets, as they take a while. Once the chicken was rolled around the rosemary, the rest of the meal came together while the orzo cooked.

To cook the beets, place them into a saucepan, and add:

1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup apple juice
1 bayleaf
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns

Add enough water to cover the beets. Bring to a boil, turn the heat down and simmer, partially covered, until the beets are tender. Add more water if needed during cooking, as some of the liquid does evaporate.  Allow the beets to cool. Peel the beets and slice, chop or grate 2 of them to use for this salad. Store the remaining beets in the liquid, covered, for another use.

Turn the oven on to 350F.

Make the garlic rub for the chicken by combining:

3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

Divide the garlic  between the chicken, and rub into both sides of the meat.

I used 5 thin slices of chicken breast, each no more than 1/2" thickness.

Place a sprig of fresh rosemary onto each piece of chicken. Roll the chicken up around the rosemary, securing it with a toothpick.

Using a very hot pan, sear the chicken on all sides.

Place the pan into the oven and bake until the chicken is cooked through.

While the chicken is baking, cook 1 cup of orzo, drain and cool under cold running water. Cool the orzo just enough to stop it from overcooking; this is a room temperature salad. Place the orzo into a large bowl.


1 yellow tomato, cut into wedges
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
4 green onions, chopped
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese


2 handfuls fresh spinach, shredded

Dress the salad with olive oil and fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.

I served the salad topped with shredded beets, along with the chicken and some steamed asparagus.The salad was full of contrasting flavours, textures and colours, perfect with the hot rosemary infused chicken.

  • I made enough chicken for 4 people; the orzo salad was for two of us. The other two had a different salad. 1 cup of raw orzo will double in size during cooking, as most pasta does, giving two cups to use for the salad.
  • Any pasta shape can be used for salad. I try and match the size of the pasta to the size of the other ingredients being used, which is why I chose orzo...the pomegranates, parsley and feta cheese are all small. For larger pasta shapes vegetables such as cherry tomatoes, broccoli, olives or chunks or red pepper work well. In the end it comes down to personal preference or what you have available.
  • I dressed the salad with lemon juice and olive oil to enhance and allow the flavours of the other ingredients to shine. A more flavourful dressing could also lessen the impact of the rosemary.
  • The beets were placed on top of the salad after it was plated, as I didn't want pink orzo! Another option is to thinly slice the beets and place them on the plate as a base for the salad to sit on.
  • Purchased cooked beets can be used. You can buy them in jars or cans, pickled or not. They can also be bought in the produce section, already cooked and peeled, and vacuum sealed.
  • If you can, use yellow, orange and purple beets for contrast.
  • Other cheeses that go well with beets, tomato and pomegranate are goat cheese and blue cheese.
  • Yellow tomatoes are slightly sweeter than red, either can be used. Grape tomatoes can also be used, whole or cut in half.
  • I bought the chicken breast already thinly sliced. You can make your own thin slices by cutting a breast into two or three thin slices.
  • Other meats can be used...chicken, turkey, pork or veal scallopini; thinly sliced beef tenderloin; fish such as sole.
  • Rosemary works well as it is a woody herb and holds up well under heat. If you wish to use a different herb, try sage or thyme.

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