Spice up your sandwiches with Lil Bird Sandwich Co. chef Nitzan Cohen’s Super Shawarma Chicken recipe.
Nitzan Cohen’s culinary career began 20 years, when he graduated top of his class in a top Tel Aviv culinary school. He worked and learned from some of Israel’s most famous chefs, and moved to Canada with his family 10 years ago. In Vancouver, he landed at several successful downtown restaurants before becoming chef at Kafka’s Coffee and founding Mensch Jewish Delicatessen, a roaming Jewish deli pop-up. He is now also head chef for Lil Bird Sandwich Co. at Kafka’s.
Q: What motivates and inspires you as a chef?
A: My environment, the people that I work with, and my family, especially my kids. They inspire me to get creative in making nutrition and delicious dishes for them to eat.
Q: How would you describe the type of food you like to cook?
A: Simple and honest with minimal ingredients. Not too complicated. I like to find the right combinations that create the perfect balance. In the end, I’m a true believer in less is more.
Q: What might diners not know about you?
A: I’m a huge fan of junk and fast food. I will trade any meal for a Five Guys double cheeseburger.
Q: Describe a couple of your most recent creations.
A: I made a great bolognese sauce with grass-fed beef and beautiful Italian sausage the other day, inspired by chef Jason Harper’s Instagram account. I’ve also recently made labneh cheese from scratch, a traditional Mediterranean soft cheese made out of yogurt that I really love and miss from my home country.
Q: What’s your favourite local product and how do you use it?
A: I love potatoes in almost anything. I think Canada has some of the best, and they make everything from great mashed potatoes to the perfect fries.
Q: Is there one important piece of advice you might have for home cooks?
A: Invest in a good chef’s knife and take care of it. It will definitely make your life so much easier. One of the most important tools in the kitchen.
Lil’ Bird’s Super Shawarma Chicken
2 lb (907 g) boneless skinless chicken thighs
3 tbsp (45 mL) extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp (30 mL) cumin
2 tsp (10 mL) paprika
1 tsp (5 mL) turmeric
1 tsp (5 mL) coriander
1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) cinnamon
1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) cardamom
1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) cayenne
2 tsp (10 mL) salt
Preheat the oven to 375 F (190 C). Place the chicken thighs in a large bowl, add the olive oil. In a separate bowl mix all the spice mix ingredients together. Add the spice mix into the chicken bowl and mix it all together until all the thighs are fully coated. Place on a baking tray covered with a baking sheet in one layer. Bake for 25-30 minutes.
Serve on sourdough bread with Lemon Aioli.
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup (60 mL) lemon juice
1 minced garlic clove
1 tsp (5 mL) smooth Dijon mustard
3/4 cup (180 mL) olive or neutral tasting oil
Salt and pepper (to taste)
Mix all ingredients except the oil in a food processor. Slowly drizzle the oil while continuing to mix until the aioli is in the right texture and all ingredients are fully emulsified. Add salt and pepper to taste as needed.
Makes 6 servings.
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