Variety Herbed Chicken on Vegetables and Rice
The personality of any dish is largely dependent on the herbs and spices used. This recipe for Herbed Chicken on Vegetables and Rice is a perfect example. I have used oregano, which gives the dish an Italian overtone. You could make it seem more Greek by adding a little cinnamon to the herbs already called for. Or you could change the herbs and spices completely and make it taste French by using tarragon, Spanish with saffron, Asian with ginger and curry, Mexican with cumin and chili powder, or Thai by using basil and lemon grass.
1 2/3 cups fat-free chicken stock
1/4 teaspoon salt (omit if using salted stock)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 bay leaf
3/4 cup raw brown rice
2 small zucchini, cut into matchstick strips (2 cups)
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, all visible fat removed
1 teaspoon dried basil, crushed
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
8 plum tomatoes, peeled and diced or 1 (28-ounce) can ready-cut tomatoes
parsley sprig or fennel fern, for garnish (optional)
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh fennel, including fern (6 ounces)
1 medium-size onion, chopped (1 1/2 cups)
2 cloves garlic, halved
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon ground anise seed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 7×11-inch baking dish with nonstick vegetable spray.
Combine the stock, salt, pepper, and the bay leaf in a medium-size saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the rice, reduce heat to low, and cook, covered, until the rice is tender and all the liquid is absorbed, about 45 minutes.
Remove and discard the bay leaf. Spoon the rice into the prepared baking dish and spread it evenly over the bottom of the dish. Spread the zucchini pieces evenly over the rice. Lightly salt and pepper both sides of the chicken breasts and place them on top of the zucchini.
Sprinkle the herbs over the chicken. Spread the tomatoes evenly over the chicken. Sprinkle the parsley over the top.
Cover tightly with a lid or aluminum foil and bake in the preheated oven until the chicken is completely opaque, about 20 minutes. Do not overcook or the chicken will become tough.
While the chicken is cooking, make the sauce. Combine all the ingredients, except the olive oil, in a blender or food processor and purée. Pour the puréed mixture into a medium-size saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove from the heat and pour it through a strainer, pressing it with the back of a spoon to extract all the liquid. Pour back into the saucepan. Whisk in the olive