Not long after my husband and I were married, we moved to a new community. The area we relocated to was rich with ethnic heritage, boasting many European immigrants, particularly those from Germany, who’d settled in this region of the country. It didn’t take long to meet some of the lovely neighbors, and when we found a church it really began to feel like home.
One Sunday, a charming little white-haired woman with a strong German accent befriended us after the service. She wanted to know our names and what brought us to the area. When we mentioned our last name, Scheuer, she just about squealed with delight. “Scheuer! Vhat a vunderful German name!” she exclaimed.
The delight, however, was quickly transformed to dismay when she asked, “Now vhat vas your first name again?” “Scott,” my husband replied. “Scott?! Vhat?”, she sighed deeply and then proclaimed, “Vit a vunderful German name like Scheuer, you should be called Helmut, or Wolfgang or Sigfried, but not Scott!” My husband was quite a conundrum to this dear little Frau, and to this day we smile when we recall the conversation.
I’m a bit of a conundrum too, though it has more to do with my culinary style. You’d think “vit a vunderful German name like Scheuer”—and my maiden name is also quite German—I’d be turning out sauerkraut, schnitzels, bratwurst, and Black Forest cakes. Nope. Although I enjoy German specialties, I lean much more towards Asian, Italian, French, and Mediterranean culinary influences. If I had to pick a favorite, I’d probably acquiesce to the sunny, bright flavors of Mediterranean cuisine. Zesty lemon, fresh herbs, sun-ripened tomatoes, briny olives… oh, they’re all so wonderful to me.
As I prepared this Mediterranean Shrimp & Chicken w/ Lemon & Feta, I imagined savoring it on some far away sunny terrace overlooking a sparkling, azure sea. Yet it doesn’t take any fancy ingredients you can’t find at your local grocery. Olive oil, garlic, herbs, and good canned tomatoes comprise the sauce, which is simmered till it’s thick and richly flavored. Chicken, shrimp, feta cheese, Kalamata olives, and thinly sliced lemons are tucked in, and the whole thing is popped into the oven till bubbling hot and fragrant. An adornment of fresh basil and Italian parsley and a side of pasta complete this lovely dinner.
If you’re tired of wet, chilly weather, winter winds, snow and ice, you’ve got to try this delicious dish. Who knows? You just might find yourself joining me, as we hum an Italian aria on that summery Mediterranean terrace!
Mediterranean Shrimp & Chicken w/ Lemon & Feta
Mediterranean Chicken & Shrimp w/ Lemon & Feta:
- 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 4 medium boneless chicken breasts, with or without skin*
- 1 medium onion, finely diced
- 6 medium cloves garlic, finely minced
- 2 (28-oz) cans peeled San Marzano plum tomatoes**
- 1 Tbsp dried oregano
- 1 Tbsp dried basil
- 1½ tsp salt
- ½ cup fresh parsley
- ½ cup fresh basil
- ½ medium lemon, very thinly sliced
- ½ cup Kalamata olives, pitted
- 12 oz (26-30 count) raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 6 oz feta cheese, in a block, not crumbled
- 1 Tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped, for garnish
- 6-8 small leaves fresh basil, for garnish
Mediterranean Chicken & Shrimp w/ Lemon & Feta:
Season chicken with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper.
Place tomatoes in a food processor and pulse several times until mixture is chunky (not smooth) or break tomatoes into small pieces with your fingers. Set aside.
In a large, oven-proof skillet or sauté pan, heat olive oil until hot. Add chicken and cook for 2-3 minutes or until golden, then flip with tongs and cook the opposite side until golden. (Chicken will not be fully cooked at this point, but will be finished later in the oven.) Remove to a plate, cover and refrigerate until sauce is completed.
Add onions to pan and cook until soft and translucent, about 6-8 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another minute.
Add tomatoes, dried oregano, dried basil and salt, bring to a simmer, and cook 45-55 minutes until sauce is thick and fragrant. Add fresh parsley and basil, stir, and cook for another 5 minutes.
Heat oven to 450˚F.
Nestle chicken, shrimp and lemons into the sauce. Break off pieces of the feta cheese and tuck them between the the shrimp and chicken. Scatter the Kalamata olives over the top and place in the oven for 15 minutes or until sauce is bubbly hot and shrimp curl up a bit. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and basil leaves for garnish. Serve with pasta.
* I really like to use boneless chicken breasts with the skin on. We don’t generally eat the skin, but the chicken stays very moist and tender. If your grocery doesn’t sell chicken this way, you can ask the butcher to debone skin-on, bone-in breasts.
** San Marzano tomatoes are imported from Italy and are considered some of the best tomatoes in the world for sauces. Most larger groceries carry them now days though they are more expensive than regular canned tomatoes. In my opinion, they are worth the extra cost; they have wonderful flavor and a velvety smooth texture.