This is a happy jumble of flavors in which there’s just enough cinnamon to perfume the dish rather than carry it in the direction of something sweet; the blend of red and black peppers gives it depth.
Cold leftovers make a nice lunch salad the next day. Serve with a green salad.
Tested size: 4 servings
1 cup dried orzo pasta
6 to 8 stems curly parsley
2 or 3 stems fresh dill
1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon ground Aleppo pepper (may substitute a fruity/mild ground red pepper or sweet paprika), plus more for optional garnish
1 medium onion
2/3 cup dried apricots
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
Heaping 1/3 cup blanched almonds
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cornstarch
Fill a deep saucepan with water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat; add a good pinch of the salt and the orzo. Cook according to the package directions.
Meanwhile, coarsely chop the parsley and dill fronds (both to taste; reserve the stems for stock, if desired). Cut the chicken crosswise into bite-size strips/planks.
Drain the orzo, reserving 3 tablespoons of the pasta cooking water, then return to the pan. Stir in the butter and a generous pinch of salt, then the fresh herbs and Aleppo pepper.
Cut the onion into small dice. Coarsely chop the apricots, or cut them into 1/4-inch slices.
Heat the oil in a large skillet, preferably nonstick, over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the chicken and stir-fry for 2 to 3 minutes, so it loses its raw look; the pieces may not all be cooked through. Add the onion and almonds; cook for about 6 minutes, stirring a few times, until the onion has softened and the chicken is cooked through.
While the chicken mixture is cooking, cut the lemons in half and squeeze their juice.
Reduce the heat to medium; add the lemon juice, cinnamon, black pepper and a generous pinch of salt. Add the reserved pasta cooking water and continue to cook for a minute or so. Add the cornstarch, stirring until slightly thickened.
Add the orzo mixture to the skillet, stirring gently to incorporate. Once it has warmed through, stir in the apricots and remove from the heat.
Serve warm, drizzled with a little oil and sprinkled a final pinch or two of salt and with more of the Aleppo pepper, if desired.
Adapted from “Turkish Delights: Stunning Regional Recipes from the Bosphorus to the Black Sea,” Kyle, 2016).
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.