Tabouleh-Stuffed Tomatoes with Chicken Skewers

Dessert, dessert, dessert! It seems around these parts all I do is show you pictures of my attempts at cakes, cookies, cupcakes, and other confectionery concoctions. Despite all of these baking excursions (of which I do, admit, have more to share), I had a goal to cook dinner at least once a week this summer. I have utterly and miserably failed so far, but do have some actual meals to share with you in spite of that. Maybe I'll get back into the swing of things and really cook dinner at least once a week, but having a summer class that leaves me out of the house until around 5 or 5:30 Monday-Thursday makes things difficult. It's like I have a job or something. What am I going to do when I'm shoved into the real world, with real schedules and real responsibilities? My mom doesn't get home some nights until 7:30, and dinner is always on the table by 8. How do all of you do it?

This tomato and tabouleh salad with lemon chicken skewers is not proof of my attempt at juggling a late class with cooking. I did this on an off-day, so I had plenty of time to prep. I cheated. However, I could have easily done this upon walking in the door at 5:30 on a weekend - it's that simple. After tasting it, I have a few tweaks, so I'm posting the original recipe with - of course - my changes in parentheses and italics. It came from Rachael Ray's Classic 30 Minute Meals cookbook that I have and have referenced here several times already. It's a pretty safe collection of recipes, and please note that safe is no euphemism for boring or bland. I have been able to branch out (who would have pegged my family for trying bulgur?!), while still delivering delicious, simple, and crowd-pleasing meals.

I should get some kind of compensation for this kind of positive advertising, don't you think? Anyway, here's what everyone really cares about: the recipe.

Tabouleh-Stuffed Tomatoes and Lemon Pepper Chicken Tenders, courtesy of Rachael Ray's Classic 30 Minute Meals cookbook
Yield: 4 servings (though there were plenty of tomatoes leftover for us, since not many people took a full tomato for themselves)
The Ingredients
3/4 C bulgur wheat (available in the rice section)
1 C boiling water
The juice of 2 lemons (change: I used one, and the lemon flavor was very present)
1 C or 1 bunch chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (change: roughly 2 Tbsp. dried, as my mom won't always buy all of the fresh herbs called for in a recipe to cut back on cost)
1/2 C or 1/2 bunch chopped mint leaves (change: I used roughly that amount fresh from my garden, and I honestly did not like what it brought to the table. It was over-powering and the grittiness of the leaf, despite being chopped, did not work well with the rest of the dish. Everyone else pretty much agreed, though perhaps less vehemently.)
1 plum tomato, seeded and diced
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste (omitted)
4 large vine ripe tomatoes or beefsteak tomatoes

1 lemon, grated and juiced
Approx. 1/4 C extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb. or 20 pieces chicken breast tenders (change: I used skinless, boneless chicken breast that I cubed and skewered. Although my family doesn't buy organic meats, nor do I purchase full chickens to bone and split into different sections of the bird, I cannot justify buying a package of chicken breast tenders. They are so marked up due to the process by which they obtain them, and the fact that there are only two per full chicken. And you know what they say about the more hands that touch your food from farm to table...)
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste (omitted the salt - I never salt my meat before cooking, I don't care what all of the top chefs in the world do.)
10 bamboo skewers, roughly

The Method*
1. In a medium bowl, cover bulgur wheat with boiling water and stir. Cover the bowl and place it in the refrigerator to rest and soften 20 minutes.
2. While that is working, start on the chicken. In a shallow dish (I use a pie plate - yes, the very same ones I bake pies in! The sanitation board would have my head for such a confession; I'd lose my ServSafe certification, for sure), combine the lemon zest, juice and olive oil.
3. Season the chicken with (salt and) pepper, and pour half of the marinade over the chicken. Turn the chicken in the marinade to coat lightly, and either set aside if ready to cook immediately, or cover to refrigerate for later use.
4. Cook the tenders (or cubes) in a large nonstick skilled, grill pan, indoor grill or, if you're me, outdoor grill, for "3 minutes on each side." Mine cooked for roughly 7 per side and came out plenty juicy, though maybe that's the difference between cubes and tenders, which are admittedly much thinner. Use the reserved marinade to occasionally baste the tenders as they cook (or, if you're me, throw it all in at the beginning and don't bother with sporadic lemon juice baths).
5. While the tenders are cooking, add lemon juice, parsley, mint, scallions, and chopped plum tomato to the tabouleh and toss to combine. Dress the salad with olive oil, (salt) and pepper.
6. To serve, cut a large, ripe tomato into quarters, leaving the skin intact on the bottom so that the tomato resembles an open flower (or butterfly, I think). (Season with salt and pepper - is it just me, or do the salt and pepper get a lot of action in this recipe?) Pile a generous amount of tabouleh salad over the wedges of tomato (spillage is perfectly acceptable), and place 2 chicken skewers on top. I put everything on one serving dish and it fell to pieces when serving, so if you have the patience to plate everyone's for them, it makes for a prettier process.

All in all, I really enjoyed the meal. I think the tabouleh was better the next day heated along with the chicken instead of cool, but it was certainly excellent chilled/room temperature. The only real complaint I have is the overbearing nature of the mint, which I will omit next time completely.

*note: I didn't make the bulgur this way. I had never made it before, so I got a little worried and just followed the package instructions for making it. Essentially, you boil together 1 part bulgur to 2 parts water and cook for almost 15 minutes, then drain all that hasn't been absorbed and continue on with the recipe. I'm still not sure about the necessity of presoaking, which the instructions didn't call for but a recipe on the bag did. Does anyone know more about this? I'm pretty sure it's not like non-prepped Quinoa or dried beans, and my family and I certainly survived without the preliminary soak, so I get the nagging feeling that it isn't essential for all bulgur recipes.

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